A democratic government should always inform and maintain a two-way communication with the public. To do so public affairs programs are often structured around actions and special events. The most essential activities in public affairs programming include fact finding, direct lobbying, coalition building, grassroots activities, the use of political action committees and political education activities.

Fact Finding: As a public information officer for government relations, one of your primary functions will be to gather and disseminate information. Research for public affairs concentrates on problem assessment through issues management. Generally, you will attend and monitor hearings scheduled by the legislative and executive branches of government when considering legislation or regulations. In addition, you will often exchange information with government officials, representatives of trade associations or interest groups, and other sources of reliable data. You will need to report the data and findings and supply recommendations of appropriate responses.

Direct Lobbying: As a lobbyist, you will regularly contact legislators or officials who can influence the passage or defeat of a bill or proposed regulation. You will exchange information with them by presenting your interests and its effect to the proposed legislation or regulation.

Coalition Building: You should organize groups or individuals with a common interest in the passage or defeat of the legislation or regulation. This can help you attain your goals more effectively since you have the support of others. Working together for a common purpose is better than working alone.

Grassroots Activities: The use of interpersonal communication and the preparation of effective campaigns can put pressures on legislatures and officials. This may include targeting key groups of opinion leaders in the home districts of legislators and getting expert and highly credible representatives of your organization's viewpoint by inviting them to meetings, conferences or conventions as guest speakers. You also need to use the media to publicize your position. Your objective in delivering your message to the media should entail gaining support from its audience by demonstrating that this position will be beneficial to them.

Political Action Committees (PAC): This group is established for the purpose of contributing an organization's money toward the election of political candidates. PAC money can be used collectively for candidates who support legislation favorable to your organization and the entire industry. The use of such funds to support the campaigns of elected officials guarantees access to those officials.

Political Education Activities: To educate key publics on major political issues affecting your organization or the industry, you will need to develop newsletters, issue press releases to the media, visit legislators, invite elected officials and candidates to make presentations and meet groups of employees. Secondly, involve your key publics. For example, you can instruct employees to write letters to legislators or advise them to take action through membership groups.

Copywright 2001, Sheila E. Fridman, Gainesville, Fla.
This site was last updated Wednesday, April 19, 2001.
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