Last month, I published a book “Advocacy and Organizational Engagement” which looks at different aspects of the management of influence in organizations and companies. This book was born out of my frustration about the discourse around advocacy, lobbying and influence. It seemed to me that there has long been a glaring lack of a reference point to define strategic approaches to advocacy. As a result, advocacy has become a synonym for corporate influence, or just a glorified new name for lobbying. My book is an attempt to provide some definitions and start discussion about the real impact advocacy has on organizations and individuals.
When looking at the different models and aspects of advocacy, five things become apparent:
- Duality of advocacy means there is a permanent need to reaffirm who our stakeholders are. On the one hand, advocacy is the desired outcome of campaigning (third party endorsement). On the other hand advocacy is the process of influencing stakeholders with a direct approach. It means that we need to constantly question who our key stakeholders are as the landscape is dynamic and new participants are constantly joining the fray, each with a new and different position.
- New influence is not that new as it is still based on social capital. That social capital might be gained through grass-roots engagement, but influencing policy and credibility comes more usually with a presence on established forums. Think here about Greta Thunberg’s presence at the United Nations General Assembly or the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum.
- Horizontal and vertical integration means that at strategic level there is a need to design one’s organization in such a way as to drive the advocacy agenda with multiple touch points (ex. sustainability management). Tactically, it requires channel agnostic implementation where the content drives campaigns as opposed to the channel management.
- Narratives have a transformative effect on organizations. Defining a strategic narrative often means defining or redefining an organization so we can see that narrative development can have a holistic impact on the business strategy and approach.
- Communications is at the edge of a new paradigm shift (something of a paradox as it is experience and emotion driven yet data and evidence based). VR and AR applications allow people to connect directly with the brand experiences. At the same time, big data and analytics support the creation and tailoring of these experiences. The role of communication therefore becomes much more immersive.