One of the primary dictums of any profession that deals with large numbers of people is to know your audience. It is common for groups in charge of essential social structures to change suddenly and drastically. Although there are important surface differences that may occur in any “changing of the guard,” the structural similarities often overwhelm the disparities. By careful attention to what changes and the nature of what stays the same, it is possible to direct a message to an important audience with great specificity.
The recent turnover in the United States Congress is a wonderful example. There is no need to dissect the specific ideological differences between this Congress and the last one, although they are very significant. It is more important, from a public relations perspective, to note that this has occurred before and will again. For reasons that are poorly understood, the party of practically every two-term President has lost control of the Congress in the second midterms. The only exception known occurred in 1946, under Harry Truman. This fact is so well known in American and other two-party political systems that it is almost axiomatic.
This demonstrates that in the case of Congress, change is the only constant. Therefore, one of the first tasks for any public relations strategist is to eschew excessive identification with any one faction. Although they may sometimes ascend, it is virtually certain that they will fall out of favor. As pilots say, “Takeoff is optional, landing is mandatory.” Therefore, any excessive allegiance to one temporal faction has the possibility to severely damage all efforts in the future. This is as equally true in politics as it is in the business world.
It is also wise to address public relations attempts to the structure of the job, instead of the particular inhabitants of a particular position. Democrats, Republicans and Independent politicians all have very different worldviews and ways of processing information. However, it is almost universally true that they are ambitious, organized people with an interest in understanding the world around them and a job that puts them in contact with the public on a regular basis. This means that, no matter what the political persuasion of the specific person in question, they will want practical information, hard facts and polls that show what percentages of people hold a particular opinion. They will want to hear about things that have direct application to the problems before them. Within that framework it is possible to convey a great deal of public relations information.
Interest groups may benefit from studying the language of the incoming group. It is often helpful to note key terms and phrases and try to work them into presentations. There are always ongoing dialogues within any given social group, and people who speak to the specific concerns of that group in language they find comfortable and familiar will almost always find a more receptive audience. However, people find it easy to detect when someone tries to use unfamiliar jargon in order to fit in. It behooves anyone with interest in lobbying or delivering public relations information to discuss the concerns of their audience, but in their own terms and with their own authentic voice.
The most important principle that can be conveyed is the importance of research. Knowledge and familiarity will unfailingly open communications between disparate sets of people. The better that a lobbyist knows the people that they need to talk to, the better they will be able to talk to them. Knowledge will allow them to prepare information more fully, to anticipate specific concerns and to have intelligent answers ready for pertinent questions. Their message will be amplified by their ability to speak more clearly.