My Three Cents

Today’s “New Order” in Advocacy (Part 1)

A few weeks ago I had the honor of speaking to senior communications professionals at the annual PRSA International Conference in San Diego, on a topic near and dear to my heart: “The New Order in Advocacy: Changing Strategies for a Changing Time.” It was about how the digital age is transforming how we advocate for our clients – coping with new issues and new crises (as well as opportunities) to serve clients. Whether we work in-house at a corporation, or on the agency or solo practitioner side, the fundamental task of advocacy today is harder than anything ever before in the history of our business.

Why is this so? Because new challenges to advocacy have emerged making life as a communications professional more … interesting. The question is how we deal with those challenges in a digital age – challenges which can disrupt a company’s ability to tell its own truthful story, and thereby negatively impact its reputation.

I’ve spent about half-a-century advocating for clients, four decades of them as founder and president of Makovsky & Co. I spent my college years in Arts + Sciences and law school at Washington University in St. Louis. Going to law school was driven by my interest in advocacy. But in law school, I learned that my passion was not to advocate from a legal perspective.

Rather, I found out my passion was to advocate for a cause – influencing the court of public opinion rather than the court of law. Confronting new challenges created by change are something I am used to. During my career I have lived – and succeeded – for my clients despite several waves of change in how our work is performed. In the process, I have learned a lot about managing in changing times and changing strategies.

So we’re on the same page; let me put forward a definition of advocacy. The Merriam Webster dictionary calls it “the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal.” While this is a sound definition, in order to align this with our profession, I am defining advocacy as the championing of a point of view, message or cause, on behalf of a client.

Over the next few weeks I’ll address what I consider to be five critical challenges we must master to succeed in today’s communications environment, and our role in advising our clients and employers on being ready for them). They include:

  1. Fake News, best described by Webwise as news, stories or hoaxes created to deliberate misinform or deceive readers.
  2. Deepfakes, which are like fake news, but are fake news on steroids.
  3. Employees publicly challenging and publicizing management policies or positions.
  4. Privacy and the lack thereof.
  5. PR Skills for the future that enable advocacy to have impact.

Stay tuned!

thought leadership


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