Collaboration is the key to campaigning for change, says public affairs expert

For communication professionals advocating for change or lobbying the government for reform, the value of collaborating with stakeholders shouldn’t be overlooked, the national public affairs manager of the Australian Veterinary Association has told an audience.


Marcia Balzer: Advocacy campaigns need to bring stakeholders, voters and the media together on an issue

Speaking at today’s PRIA conference in Sydney, Marcia Balzer said reform campaigns that have fallen over failed to bring stakeholders, voters and media to the table as well as effective consultation with the wider industry.

“As I think about this political climate, I’m increasingly realising an awful lot of what I do is exactly this type of work: bringing people and organisations together to achieve change,” Balzer said.

Balzer did admit that working together “can be tricky” but said communicators “have a way of bringing people together because we understand the similarities and differences between diverse groups of people”.

Providing some tips on how communicators can successfully collaborate on advocacy campaigns, Balzer said the first mission is to have a clear goal.

“If you want to change the world, have a simple, clear goal. This applies to advocacy in any context,” she said.

“It has some particular benefits when you’re trying to enlist collaborators to a project. A clear and simple goal will make it easier to get the people in organisations on board that you need and your message is going to be more powerful when you use your collective voice as well.”

Balzer said having a goal will minimise the risk of conflict amongst the collaborators.

“If there’s no doubt about the goal and no deviation from that agreed strategy to achieve it, any disagreements become about less important things like the colour of a logo or other tactical considerations,” she said.

australian-veterinary-association-logoBalzer also emphasised the need to put this in writing.

“Put anything important in writing – right at the beginning of the process,” she said.

“Not every project will need to be this meticulous, but some will. If goals and big picture strategy are in writing at the outset, you can go back and check in if things get problematic along the way.”

She also highlighted the need to have a solid evidence base behind your advocacy campaign to highlight to government why the reform is needed.

“If you don’t have a solid goal evidence base like a Productivity Commission Report you could still commission your own economic analysis or even crunch your own numbers; it’ll all help,” Balzer said.

Balzer also warned about the risk of an advocacy campaign falling over on political disagreements between the groups involved.

“Many an alliance or collaboration has faltered on political fallings-out amongst allies, and establishing some neutral political ground will stand you in good stead,” she said.

Her final point was to target “a few key influencers” as it helps to get key stakeholders on board.

“Any good communicator can walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and if there’s one skill you need to make and maintain a successful collaboration,” Balzer said.

“You also need a fair bit of innovation and creativity, quite a bit of diplomacy is a must and keeping everyone focused and organised is also important.”


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.