Managing Director of Keene Communications, Jake Rigg, presented a whistle-stop tour of Social Lobbying at Keene’s recent Social Media Week event. This is part two, of three posts.
Public affairs is about influencing decision makers, not amassing numbers. So how can the metric filled world of social media help do that?
In the case of a big visible campaign clearly numbers of people can make a difference. However, in many cases campaigns are run on smaller issues, with less public interest. Clearly in these scenarios social media is more difficult to bring to bear. Moreover, some would say that public affairs and broad digital campaigns are not the same thing at all.
At Keene Communications we’ve been working for several years on network theory and how it can help us to map online influence. This is an incredibly powerful theory, continuously evolving. What it has allowed us to do is figure out the deep dark – which groups of people are influencing decision makers.
Network theory resolves the tension between big digital campaigns, which are similar to B2C campaigns, and traditional public affairs. What is happening alongside this is that campaign groups are becoming increasingly savvy about using online to leverage not just raw numbers of supporters but their own networks to persuade decision makers.
How do companies and campaign groups respond to this new(ish) world? By taking the advice of Lord Baden Powell and being prepared. People understand issues and companies and the standing of individuals through prior experience. What are their preconceptions of your organisation?
In my view companies are too passive. At the level of the C-suite communications directors, social media or public affairs, everyone is treated as light weights. Companies are there to make money not communicate. That is based on a world-view that worked for a long time. The historians Cain and Hopkins identified this worldview as based upon networks of gentlemanly capitalism which transcended the public and private sector. Now the internet has given a greater sense of democracy to debate companies. This requires a shift of thinking.
The social problems that touch on them are board level issues and require a cultural shift for corporates. This is beginning to happen. Look at Pearson group, they have begun to recognise their social purpose as being core to corporate ethics. Theirs is to expand knowledge through publishing. They have committed to doing nothing without ensuring first that it meets their social purpose.
In conclusion, boards must navigate politics, social networks, NGO and advocacy networks in order to rationalise their social purpose. Social media’s influence has accelerated shifts that had taken seed already but public affairs can benefit from these changes. We help organisations engage in public debate – what social media practitioners call engagement. The next trick is how this can be used to prevent a race to the bottom, a dialogue of the deaf; and instead promote a richer, more informed, discourse.
He was formerly Head of Policy at the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). With degrees in history and economics from the Universities of Oxford and London, Jake is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a trustee of the European Association of Philanthropy and Giving and advises several governments on public policy. He also advises clients on CSR and philanthropy activities.
Latest posts by Jake Rigg (see all)
- Keene responds to the Budget - July 8, 2015
- The Northern Powerhouse & Pre-Budget Briefing - July 6, 2015
- The emergence of a green superpower on the back of G7 climate deal - June 16, 2015