In public affairs we are often called upon to work with and broaden a client’s perspective in order to align that perspective with broader public interests. In other words, for communication and advocacy purposes, our job often involves helping our client find, create or attach themselves to a message and a voice bigger than themselves.
For example, we have done much work in the healthcare space. Our healthcare clients have specific challenges or opportunities that directly affect outcomes, operations and ultimate success. Yet due to the dizzyingly complex and bifurcated nature of American healthcare, our client’s public messages could easily be lost in the mix without a little extra punch or appeal. This is where coalitions and work with allies, even non-traditional allies, becomes so important.
At Hubbell Communications, we have made our mark by creating and building diverse coalitions in direct support of issue advocacy and, directly or indirectly, a client’s overall objective. To be effective, coalitions in support of issue advocacy must be well-organized, diverse, flexible and genuinely authentic. Temporary or fake “Astroturf” coalition efforts will not only be unsuccessful, but ultimately risk damaging a client’s objectives or brand. A winning coalition will address real issues with real people. Sticking with the healthcare example, a successful coalition must align its goals and objectives with the interests of patients. Ultimately, patients are the ones impacted by healthcare policies; and patient interests – not commercial, political or bureaucratic interests – are the ones that will best galvanize public and media support.
Issue advocacy through coalition building is an ongoing learning and discovery process. The place you end up is never where you started and is seldom where you may have initially thought you would be. Sometimes you push, other times you’re pulled. Not only is this okay, but it’s entirely appropriate for issue advocacy and usually quite fun. This also lends itself to the authenticity that is vital in support of a client’s goals and objectives.