Thought Leadership

Rethinking the National-Local Divide in Public Affairs: New Approaches for Successful Grassroots Advocacy

May 18, 2023
Amy Cloessner

Last week, Direct Impact, BCW, and Prime Policy Group hosted an hour-long discussion panel on creating public affairs programs that move the needle in an increasingly divided—and stagnated—Washington.

Why It Matters:

From the largest corporations to the leanest industry associations, limited resources, siloed staff and unique constraints make it difficult to create dynamic strategies that ensure local and national operations sing from the same songbook.

What We Learned:

Make It Personal. Make It Brief.
Former Congressman Tom Reed, Vice Chairman, Prime Policy Group, shared the view from Capitol Hill noting that Members’ time is broken into five-or ten-minute increments, and can quickly lose focus thinking about what’s next in their day. “You’ve got to make that connection,” he said. “You’ve got two minutes to go in there and make your pitch, so talk about your presence in the district.”

Corporate Level Messaging Needs to Be Localized
Julie Mosley, CEO of J Strategies and formerly Regional Director for Senator Chuck Schumer underscored how a local grassroots partner provides the nuanced messaging that will elevate advocacy and mitigate crises in a way that hyper polished enterprise level materials meant for broad consumption cannot. “We know what messaging will work with the audiences we’re targeting and how to tweak it,” she said.

Local Media Goes Further
Dag Vega, Executive Vice President and Managing Director for BCW, joined Tom Reed in underscoring how critical local media presence is inbuilding consensus across America. “Local TV does a good job of slicing and dicing [earned media] into their digital and social platforms, so when we do national campaigns, a major part of our strategy is, ‘how do we penetrate certain markets when it comes to our paid and earned media?’”

Outside the Box ≠ Outside the District
Stephanie Kundert, Senior Vice President at Direct Impact reminded attendees to approach a district’s unique challenges as a chance to be creative, rather than discouraged. Calling on a time when advocating for defense priorities in her home state of Wisconsin—which she readily admits isn’t known for its military bases—Stephanie discussed working with a client to pivot from their expected messaging to channel local veterans’ concerns on defense broadly. “They’ll come to us and say, ‘Here’s our target,’ and we’ll say, ‘Have you thought about this target audience instead?’”

Bringing It Home:

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to public affairs. Direct Impact, BCW, and Prime Policy Group work together to pair hyper local relationships with connections and knowhow across the Beltway to create unique solutions that support organizations of any size.

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