Advocacy is one of the most natural things we do, as human beings. Advocacy is an inherent part of human interaction. We all want a ‘better deal’ – for ourselves, our families and those who matter to us. Organisations and companies are no different. Their need for advocacy is unquestionable because they need to create an operating environment that enables them to be successful. And to be successful these days, they need to work constantly to re-earn their license to operate.
Horizontal and vertical integration
Developing sustainable and effective engagement strategies requires an internal alignment of all externally facing functions of an organisation. That’s easier said than done. Traditionally, the external relations and communications functions have been organised around the channels of communication and influence.
Yet there is no clear distinction between audiences using respective channels. They reach multiple audiences which leads to a growing requirement for alignment of the messages and content. The content becomes more relevant for organisational structure than the delivery channels. This requires a convergence of the functions for omni-advocacy.
Think about sustainability as a subject. To drive the agenda, it has to be integrated into the business; behaviors need to follow internally; external communications needs to build relationships with relevant media; the initiative needs to be communicated to customers; and finally key political stakeholders need to acknowledge the organisation’s efforts.
Communications, public affairs, marketing, HR: all these functions (and many more) need to work together — and consistently — in order to harness the potential opportunities emerging from direct stakeholder engagement.
What does it all mean for advocacy:
- Without advocacy, organisations can’t operate. They need support in order to be able to deliver on their organisational and business objectives.
- Advocacy strategy and business strategy need to be fully aligned. The influence has to be based on the actual work of an organisation.
- There is a need for internal buy-in from multiple stakeholders in the organisation. Effective programmes are run horizontally but included in the vertical management structures.