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Public Affairs Content Marketing

public affairs content marketing

Virtually every brand, politician, trade association, NGO and average citizen produces and consumes content across a wide range of digital channels. We're all trying to get our messages to the right people at the right time but fighting the sheer deluge of information online is a serious challenge - especially when you're communicating niche policy issues that don't get a lot of air time.

How policy people can use an online content strategy to get noticed

The internet is an incredibly noisy place.

Virtually every brand, politician, trade association, NGO and average citizen produces and consumes content across a wide range of digital channels. We’re all trying to get our messages to the right people at the right time but fighting the sheer deluge of information online is a serious challenge – especially when you’re communicating niche policy issues that don’t get a lot of air time.

If you’re struggling with this, you are not alone!

The World Bank is one of the most well-known and highly regarded organisations out there and even they struggle. In 2014, they announced that 31% of their policy reports are never downloaded. Not once. And almost 87% of policy reports were never cited1.

In this crowded digital landscape, it’s very easy to be ignored.

Recent research by Dr Homero Gil de Zúñiga at the Universidad Europea de Madrid shows that audiences now expect news and opinion to work its way in front of them as they browse the web or use their phones. People no longer feel the need to actively seek out news or public affairs information – known as the ‘News Finds Me’ perception.

And this is a widespread opinion2: 36% of people in the US feel it; 40% in New Zealand; 50% in South Korea; 50% in Germany; 59% in Italy; 72% in Ukraine and a massive 85% in Spain.

Audiences today are so bombarded by information from millions of different sources that they expect it to reach them wherever they are, whatever platform they’re using and at any time of day.

Policy audiences are not different when it comes to this challenge.

People are spending an average of 6 hours 42 minutes online everyday3. The information they’re getting can come from anyone. Close family, high-school friends, old co-workers, niche blogs, forums – the list is endless. Not only are those sources potentially crowding you out, they also might be the delivery mechanism for your messaging.

It’s a vital point for public affairs professionals to remember: our audiences probably don’t get public affairs information directly from a brand, journalist or expert.

Four steps to build your public affairs content marketing strategy

public affairs content marketing
All too often, digital campaigns focus on one circle or the other.

This can seem like an overwhelming problem.

I have a lot of conversations with Brussels public affairs teams who are inclined to completely disengage from online channels because being seen and heard seems far too time intensive.

The good news is we have a methodology that speeds things up and ensures your online content is arriving on time and pushes your target audiences back to you.

Public Affairs Content Marketing: It’s a four step process

1.Know your campaign goal.
It’s surprising how often this one gets forgotten. Make sure your campaign is striving to reach something tangible and realistic, all the better if you have a KPI attached to it. The more focused the goal is, the easier it is to design a content strategy that works towards it.

2. Choose your audience.
Who is vital for reaching this goal? Can you reach them directly or do you need to go via their constituents, staff members or colleagues? Think long and hard about the policy tunnel which starts with the general population and then ladders through the “connected policy community” of NGOs, Think Tanks and key influencers, through into the “direct policy community.” Which of these audiences do you need to engage and at what point with your content to reach your campaign goal? After running a lot of audience analyses, we’ve found that even the most supposedly niche topics have an audience they can tap into.

3. Understand who they are and what they care about.
Look at what they talk about, which channels they use, who they follow, which brands they prefer, relevant demographic info – learn your audience inside-out. If you don’t understand them you won’t be able to create content they want to read, watch and share.

4. Match your needs with their needs.
Where is the overlap in interest between your campaign goals and what your audience cares about? That’s where you focus your content.

If you’re like most of our clients, you probably don’t have just one audience for your campaign. You’ll need to repeat the process above several times and produce a range of content, tailored in tone, format and delivery based on what you’ve learned about your target audiences.

Even if you have just one audience, that doesn’t mean they want the same thing all the time.

public affairs content marketing
Don’t treat your audience like a monolithic block – they’re real people.

This chart showing six different audience needs comes from a very insightful piece of research by the BBC World Service4. Their digital team found that when they focused on one type of content too much, they drove audience engagement down.

This makes a lot of sense. When I go online, I have different reasons. Sometimes I’m trying to find more information, sometimes I want to connect to family and friends, sometimes I’m just a little bored.

If you can get into the head of your reader you’ll start seeing those reach and engagement numbers rising.

Test, analyze, iterate, repeat

public affairs content marketing

That first audience analysis isn’t going to solve all your issues.

The great thing about digital communications platforms is that everything is live and editable. Every time you post something online, you create data that can help you improve the next post.

There is a wide range of factors that have an impact on how your messages will be received. The same message can be delivered in different forms, using different headlines, fonts and letter sizes, colour-schemes or different calls to action – generating different results. Therefore, testing these variations on a smaller segment of your audience (test audience) before settling for the winner, is a good way forward.

The devil is in the detail and rigorous analysis can help you make the most of it.

There are hundreds of tests you can run but they generally fall under one of four categories: topic, messaging, production and promotion.

If you did the four step process above than your topics should be aligned with your audience already, however you might be able to find a way to talk about your topic in relation to another area – for instance, using the World Cup to talk about how the insurance sector estimates economic value5.

Messaging is likely to be the most fruitful area of testing. That’s all about finessing your content to suit your audience and figuring out how to make your point land. Production is where you think about the myriad of formats available online – a blog, a tweet thread, an interactive quiz etc…

Lastly, did you simply promote the content in the wrong way at the wrong time? Use Google Analytics, for example, to figure out when most people are clicking through to your website – that’s the best time to post links to your content on social media.

We actually advise spending 20% of your time creating content and 80% promoting it.

TAKEAWAY: If you want your content to work for you, be obsessed with your audience

Ultimately, this is the key lesson.

Figuring out what your audience wants and delivering that is difficult and time consuming – but worth it.

As public affairs professionals, we can only arrange so many face-to-face meetings in a month. You need to give yourself alternative ways to reach your target audience and a public platform to build support for your point of view.

The modern political landscape is more chaotic and competitive than ever before. Building a public affairs content marketing strategy will set you apart.

public affairs digital content strategy

Written by Rowan Emslie

Head of Digital, Edelman Brussels

Ask me about…
Thought leadership, influencer engagement, stakeholder mapping, competitor analysis or digital event support.

1. That report can be found here – ironically it has been downloaded almost 10,000 times.
2. The figures listed here come from a paper that is as yet unpublished but you can hear Dr de Zúñiga discuss it on the Social Media & Politics Podcast.
3. According to the Digital in 2019 report from We Are Social.
4. This study was presented at the GNI Innovation Forum in 2018.
5. Lloyd’s have actually done this twice, both times predicting the winner correctly.

Edelman Brussels Trust Summit 2019 [Event]

Brussels Trust Summit 2019

Brussels Trust Summit 2019 - the event you've been waiting for! Join us for the European cut of the Edelman Trust Barometer as well as insightful discussion about the EU in 2019 and beyond.

Brussels Trust Summit 2019

19 March 2018, 13:30-17:00 | Brussels

We are pleased to announce that registration is now open for the third annual Edelman Brussels Trust Summit 2019.

As political unrest and unbridled advances in automation threaten job security and the vitality of global supply chains, people are increasingly expecting business to ease their fears and lead the way forward. 

The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer examines how well CEOs and employers are addressing their employees’ concerns about the changing world of work, preparing workforces — and society — for the future, and taking actions that build trust inside and outside their organizations.

At this half day event, our General Manager, Gurpreet Brar, will present the findings of the 19th annual Edelman Trust Barometer, the world’s most robust exploration of trust in business, government, NGOs and media, surveying more than 33,000 respondents in 27 markets.

Two panel discussions will explore the implications of the findings.



The Hotel — 27th Floor
Boulevard de Waterloo 38,


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2019 Edelman Trust Barometer

Edelman Brussels Trust Event 2019

The global trust results are here and ready to be downloaded. Please stay tuned for the Brussels Trust event in March where we will present the EU specific findings ahead of the European Elections.

Ahead of the Edelman Brussels Trust Event 2019 in March, please take a look at the Global Results below.

The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that trust has changed profoundly in the past year—people have shifted their trust to the relationships within their control, most notably their employers. Globally, 75 percent of people trust “my employer” to do what is right, significantly more than NGOs (57 percent), business (56 percent) and media (47 percent).

Divided by trust

There is a 16-point gap between the more trusting informed public and the far-more-skeptical mass population, marking a return to record highs of trust inequality. The phenomenon fueling this divide was a pronounced rise in trust among the informed public. Markets such as the U.S., UK, Canada, South Korea and Hong Kong saw trust gains of 12 points or more among the informed public. In 18 markets, there is now a double-digit trust gap between the informed public and the mass population.

Edelman Brussels Trust event 2019

An urgent desire for change

Despite the divergence in trust between the informed public and mass population the world is united on one front—all share an urgent desire for change. Only one in five feels that the system is working for them, with nearly half of the mass population believing that the system is failing them.

In conjunction with pessimism and worry, there is a growing move toward engagement and action. In 2019, engagement with the news surged by 22 points; 40 percent not only consume news once a week or more, but they also routinely amplify it. But people are encountering roadblocks in their quest for facts, with 73 percent worried about fake news being used as a weapon.

Edelman Brussels Trust event 2019

The New Employer-Employee Contract

Despite a high lack of faith in the system, there is one relationship that remains strong: “my employer.” Fifty-eight percent of general population employees say they look to their employer to be a trustworthy source of information about contentious societal issues.

Employees are ready and willing to trust their employers, but the trust must be earned through more than “business as usual.” Employees’ expectation that prospective employers will join them in taking action on societal issues (67 percent) is nearly as high as their expectations of personal empowerment (74 percent) and job opportunity (80 percent).

The rewards of meeting these expectations and building trust are great. Employees who have trust in their employer are far more likely to engage in beneficial actions on their behalf—they will advocate for the organization (a 39-point trust advantage), are more engaged (33 points), and remain far more loyal (38 points) and committed (31 points) than their more skeptical counterparts.

In addition, 71 percent of employees believe it’s critically important for “my CEO” to respond to challenging times. More than three-quarters (76 percent) of the general population concur—they say they want CEOs to take the lead on change instead of waiting for government to impose it.

Introducing Edelman Trust Management

Over the last 19 years, the Edelman Trust Barometer has detected and documented some of the largest opinion shifts shaping the world. We have observed that the state and dynamic of trust in institutions was in many ways predictive of larger societal, economic and political changes to come.

This year we broke new ground. A collaboration with leading academics in the field of trust and reputation, including Professor Daniel Diermeier of the University of Chicago, resulted in considerable progress in our understanding of what makes trust such a powerful asset for organizations, how to measure it accurately and how to demonstrate the true value it brings.

Edelman Trust Management is a suite of powerful, flexible analytical tools and consulting services that help a business or organization best manage its trust capital among its audiences, stakeholders and shareholders.

Edelman Brussels Trust event 2019

2019 Edelman Brussels Trust Event

Contact us for more information about the Edelman Trust Barometer and Edelman Trust Management.

How to Survive a Trade War [Event]

Survive a Trade War

With the United States and China matching each other tariff for tariff, Europe finds itself at the center of a global trade conflict. In a world where uncertainty is the new normal, representatives from the...

With the United States and China matching each other tariff for tariff, Europe finds itself at the center of a global trade conflict. In a world where uncertainty is the new normal, representatives from the business, industrial, and government sectors find themselves without a clear direction of how to navigate current and future trade deals.

On October 16th, Edelman Brussels hosted a forum titled How to Survive a Trade War: Successfully Navigating EU-US Trade and Tariff Policy. This forum brought together representatives from business and the public sector to discuss the different elements of the trade war. The panelists included:

  • John Clarke, Director of International Affairs, DG Agriculture & Rural Development, European Commission
  • Ambassador Darci Vetter, former Chief Negotiator, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and Vice Chair for Trade, Edelman Washington D.C.
  • Karl Tachelet, Director of Trade and External Relations, EUROFER
  • Marie Audren, Director, International Trade and Economic Affairs, spiritsEUROPE

Moderated by Lisa Ross, President of Edelman DC, the panelists debated what a successful outcome of the trade war would look like, and how each individual sector could establish a plan to achieve that success.

From the collected US and European perspectives on offer, a common consensus drove the dialogue for most of the discussion: this is a trade war instigated and perpetuated by China and the US.

The EU, rather than being an active member of the trade war, stands in the middle. The Commission engages in a daily balancing act between the US and China, while simultaneously attempting to protect the consumers and businesses of the European Union.

Because China is the root cause of the trade war, there is an urgency for countries with similar trade goals to unite their actions in an attempt to bring China back to the table and back to market behavior.


>> Look back: we gathered some initial reactions on the trade war in June 2018. Read them here <<


Nonetheless, there was general agreement that the WTO rulebook needs to be modernized to make the sort of behavior China is engaged in illegal. There are no rules around that China can be accused of directly flouting, rather they skirt on the edges of the accepted rules-based trading framework.

Participants note that the goal of the WTO is to ensure that trade flows efficiently and predictably throughout the world, and therefore is the platform through which most trading countries negotiate their agreements. The panelists debated the necessity for the WTO to play a strong role in creating solutions during this period of trade uncertainty. They agreed that the organization could not be successful without the presence of the US, but the current trajectory of US trade policy fundamentally undermines the institution.

In the long term, the panelists agreed that the WTO still offers the best solution to creating unity in the midst of the trade war, and that the US needs to be convinced of its power to create any kind of agreement with the EU and China. The ongoing trade wars are about far more than one country’s actions against another. The true concern is the destruction of an entire rules-based system of global trade.

survive a trade war welcome desk

Some noted that trade is now depicted as a zero-sum game with winners and losers, a stark contrast to the depiction of mutually beneficial trade for much of the previous three decades. As governments continue with this rhetoric, some panelists suggested that businesses should speak up to protect for themselves and their consumers – but, so far, the private sector has mostly kept quiet.

The panelists warned that if this complacency continues, businesses will find themselves left to handle the tariffs being installed with no input into the process nor resistance. Businesses have a clear opportunity to lead the way in trade agreements, but this can happen only if and when they decide to speak up.

The forum brought different perspectives of the trade war together to discuss how different parties should be thinking about how to be successful in the coming months and years. At the end of the discussion, one point remained clear: the trade war cannot be fought without all sectors included.

Want advice on how to survive a trade war?

Contact Edelman Brussels to learn more.

AI in Europe

Gurpreet Brar, General Manager, Brussels

Europe Seeks its Place in the Global AI Race

global AI race

Artificial intelligence (AI) has taken centre stage in the EU’s policy agenda. In April 2018, the European Commission (EC) published its blueprint strategy for AI. The plan sets out a timeline for an R&D and...

Artificial intelligence (AI) has taken centre stage in the EU’s policy agenda.

In April 2018, the European Commission (EC) published its blueprint strategy for AI. The plan sets out a timeline for an R&D and regulatory effort that will dominate the agenda of European decision makers in the months ahead. With Europe’s competitiveness, growth and jobs at stake, Member States such as France and Germany are devising their own national AI strategies. Despite lagging behind the US and China in AI investments, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made it clear: ‘We also want to compete and be in the forefront’.

The transformative power of AI is already shifting our healthcare systems, driving efficiencies and pushing the boundaries of our industries and everyday lives. But it is also having profound implications for the broader economy, sparking concerns among policy makers about the social and ethical issues arising from its application. As Europe seeks its path to AI development, its penchant for high data privacy standards and ethics-first approach is poised to have an impact beyond its boundaries, as demonstrated by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Businesses are faced with significant challenges to realise the full potential of AI. These range from financial pressures to skills gap or lack of public trust in AI systems. The three core pillars underpinning Europe’s AI strategy aim to address some of these challenges. The three pillars are:

1) Boosting capacity and investments;

2) Preparing for the socio-economic changes;

3) Ensuring “an appropriate ethical and legal framework” for AI.

The strategy sets out the goal to increase public and private R&D investments in AI to at least €20 billion by the end of 2020 from an estimated total of €4-5 billion last year. Beyond these goals, it remains to be seen whether the EU will manage to secure the required scale of investments to compete with the US and China in the AI economy.

Read the full briefing here


Interested in understanding the European debate on AI and gaining insight how it may impact you and your business?

Contact Edelman Brussels to learn more.

AI in Europe

Gurpreet Brar, General Manager, Brussels

Reactions to US Steel and Aluminium Tariffs from the European Union, Canada and Mexico

Reactions to US Steel and Aluminium Tariffs

Edelman has gathered reactions to the new US steel and aluminium tariffs from all the key players. This briefing note contains relevant market data and regulatory updates as well as initial analysis on changes likely...

Edelman has gathered reactions to the new US steel and aluminium tariffs from all the key players. This briefing note contains relevant market data and regulatory updates as well as initial analysis on changes likely to come in the following days and weeks.

On March 7, 2018, president Donald Trump moved to place a 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports from all nations, with temporary exemptions for Canada and Mexico. This measure was grounded on a seldom-used law from the 1960s that was designed to protect key domestic industries deemed vital to national defense. It should be noted that Canada is the largest steel and aluminum exporter to the US, while Mexico holds the fourth place in steel exports.

This move triggered negative reactions within the Republican Party, with Paul Ryan, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Gary Cohn, former director of the National Economic Council, and Ben Sasse, Republican Senator for the state of Nebraska, utterly opposing the tax reform law3. Meanwhile, companies like U.S. Steel and Century Aluminum applauded this decision by announcing investment plans and projects to reactivate idled smelters.

Furthermore, this measure has aggravated tensions on NAFTA negotiations. While the US sees this measure as a factor to push forward negotiations, Mexico and Canada have declared that they will not yield to US pressure.

On Thursday, May 31 commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, announced the imposition of a 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports from the European Union, Canada, and Mexico.

Read all the reactions here


Interested in tracking the European debate and gaining insight how it may impact you and your business?

Contact Edelman Brussels to learn more.

Reactions to US Steel and Aluminium Tariffs

Gurpreet Brar, General Manager, Brussels

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