International actors have discovered different routes for collaboration as a new generation of leaders has come to the fore.

A couple of weeks ago a Kuala Lumpur based ex-colleague of mine shared via Linkedin a case study that is a perfect example of the different stages an advocacy campaign can take today. The main components of this case study: the internet (YouTube, Vimeo), two actors (Greenpeace, Nestlé), a global issue (Bio-diversity/tropical rainforest), an emotional theme (Orangutans), a visible consumer product (Kitkat), a creative campaign (video), consumer activation (social media), a new business model (Nestlé: “Creating Shared Value”), a reputable NGO (the Forest Trust) a global public private partnership (Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil), an open mind for dialogue, discussion of solutions and – ultimately – mutual decisions. (Financial Times).

This example demonstrates how the approach towards dialogue and issues resolution has changed, both from an international NGO’s and a globally operating corporation’s point of view. What in the past used to end in a confrontational deadlock between an NGO and a multi-national now culminated in a corporate decision with the support and input of another NGO, staged by a public private partnership (PPP) all to the sustainable benefit of the environment, the animals, the corporate reputation and the involved brand.

Back in 2009/10 the chain of events was triggered by a Greenpeace campaign against unsustainable forest clearing for palm oil production – and it was very confrontational. Today we see increasing collaboration between multi-nationals, International Governmental Organizations (IGOs), the donor community and NGOs that was originally initiated by the private sector.

YUM!Brands’ (KFC, Pizza Hut) annual World Hunger Relief campaign is the world’s largest private sector hunger relief effort, spanning more than 120 countries, nearly 38,000 KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell restaurants and over one million employees, to raise awareness, volunteerism and funds for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and other hunger relief agencies. Multi-Grammy Award winner and international superstar, Christina Aguilera serves as the global spokesperson for World Hunger Relief.

General Electric launched – in the context of their strategic initiative “Healthimagination” – a multi-million USD campaign to fight breast cancer in cooperation with governmental bodies, NGOs, patient groups and the medical community. These are only a few examples from a plethora of recent advocacy campaigns and initiatives on a global, national or even local level that aim at resolving (global) issues with the support of strategically planned advocacy campaigns.

In January 2012, the renowned Geneva based “Graduate Institute” launched an executive certificate programme “Advocacy in International Affairs ( A clear signal that the academic world has also been looking at the changing climate in which decision making processes are influenced in the public domain. And a signal that professionals are trying to acquire knowledge and skills to meet the increased strategic and communicative requirements of advocacy.

What has triggered this – I would say – is progress in terms of how international actors set priorities and interact; how they plan and implement their advocacy campaigns.

To read the whole essay, please visit International Public Relations Thought Leadership December 2012

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