As public affairs practitioners and their clients throughout the world know – the intersection of government and business is vitally important to companies doing business in national, regional and local marketplaces. As Bill Black, co-chair of Fleishman Hillard’s Global Public Affairs Practice recently highlighted – government decisions can make or break a companies hopes to do business in a specific jurisdiction. He cited specifically the vastly different receptions the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, received in Washington and London.
For companies seeking to do business in overseas markets, or within regions domestically – like a US state – the counsel of public affairs practitioners is essential to effective market entry - and a continued profitable presence.
Why is social media important for public affairs professionals?
Social Media Influence (SMI) recently underscored the rapid acceleration of new business generated by engagement on social media, citing a “study conducted by Austin-based PulsePoint Group and the Economist Intelligence Unit, which indicates companies that fully embrace social media are seeing ‘four times greater business impact’ than their less socially engaged peers.”
And a Kevin McKeown, President of LexBlog, noted recently: “Lee Frederiksen, Ph.D. and managing partner of Hinge Marketing has published research based on 500 professional services firms which “…demonstrates that firms with a higher proportion of online new business leads grow faster and are more profitable.”
Why is blogging of particular importance?
“According to the American Bar Association’s 2012 Legal Technology Survey…50 percent of responding small law firms (2-9 attorneys) and 53.3 percent of surveyed solo practitioners that are blogging reported retaining clients directly or via referral as a result of their legal-topic blogging, based on the recently released survey”, as reported by Samantha Miller in LexisNexis. Importantly, as the study indicates: “That’s not just attracting website visitors or fielding phone calls for free consultations, but landing actual new business.”
Seventy-six percent of [corporate general counsels] say they attribute some level of importance to a lawyer’s blog when deciding which law firms to retain, as Kevin O’Keefe, CEO and Publisher of LexBlog, Inc., a Seattle-based company providing blogging services to over 6,000 lawyers and legal sector professionals, reported recently. As LexBlog outlines: “Functioning as a practice development tool, a blog amplifies and extends your networking with clients, prospective clients and referral sources. Typical brochure-style…websites are quickly outdated, static, neutral and passive. Blogs are timely, dynamic, personal and interactive – an agile practice development tool that focuses directly on your target audience.”
Clearly, senior executives in ideal potential client companies and organizations for professional services providers including public affairs professionals – are increasingly turning to blogs for news and information of importance to them - and basing favorable hiring decisions on whose blogs they are reading.
What topics to lead with?
Public affairs professionals should align their services and their business development efforts associated with those services – with the commercial objectives of potential clients.
The global marketplace for government contracts – is a very lucrative one and an ideal “tip-of-the-spear” business development focus for public affairs professionals. According to Harvard University’s Center for International Development — in their Government Procurement Survey, worldwide Government Procurement of goods and services typically accounts for 10-15% of GDP for developed countries, and up to as much as 20% of GDP for developing countries. As I have outlined before, the US, EU, Brazil, Canada and other public procurement regimes are enormous, offering both domestic and overseas companies extraordinary opportunities. A government contracts services offer is both an ideal fit for a public affairs practice as well as any business development effort aimed at building such a practice.
Rarefied public affairs practice areas can also benefit
As I have outlined before, based on my experience, the same principle of aligning public affairs business development initiatives with the commercial interests of companies – can and should also extend to identifying and securing foreign sovereign governments, national trade associations, non-governmental organizations, and other non-corporate clients on behalf of rarefied public affairs niche practice areas.
US state government advocacy markets rival national markets
The California economy is the 9th largest economy in the world, just behind Brazil in 8th, Italy in 7th and Great Britain in 6th place, as reported in the Sacramento Bee in an article by Dan Walters. California ranks just ahead of India – and the Los Angeles area alone ranks 16th largest in the world – just behind Australia – and just ahead of the Netherlands. State government focused public affairs professionals should be as engaged in blogging as any national public affairs focused practice is – as the economies you operate in are oftentimes larger than many foreign economies. And as international trade continues to increase (the EU-US trade relationship increases tenfold each decade, for example) – the potential client base from overseas continues to grow with it.
Who is already doing this?
- In the EU, Fleishman-Hillard in Brussels maintains PublicAffairs2point0 Blog and APCO Worldwide maintain the EU policy focused APCO Forum blog
- In Washington, DC, the Beekeeper Group maintains a blog focused on US federal public policy issues.
- In London, Grayling and College Public Policy both maintain UK-focused public affairs blogs.
- In Asia, Weber Shandwick maintains a blog focused on region-specific issues.
- And in a US state, American law and public policy hybrid law firm Womble Carlyle recently announced the addition of a blog focused on North Carolina state government affairs.
Digital entrepreneurs may upend the profession
I recently outlined a business development initiative which has been undertaken by a Southern California Corporate lawyer employing blogging about India-US cross-border trade as a centerpiece. This is an ideal business development initiative for individual professional services providers to undertake. It emulates another hybrid law and public policy initiative undertaken by Seattle-based attorney Dan Harris of China Law Blog, which focuses on US-China cross-border trade.
It is initiatives like these that are empowering individual professional services practitioners to build portable practices that will transcend and perhaps one day supplant traditional law and public affairs firms. Indeed, should firms that are now market leaders not embrace social media – I believe they will in time be overtaken by today’s emerging professional services digital entrepreneurs.
Entering the digital economy is essential for growth
In a modern and more interconnected world — where companies, governments and others require increasingly sophisticated public affairs counsel — the value of public policy experts is more important and valuable than ever before.
Public affairs practitioners from Brussels to Washington, Brasilia to Beijing, Sacramento to London and everywhere in between - are well placed to expand their client base should they put in place a comprehensive business development initiative, a vital component of which is blogging.