In recent years an overwhelming amount of tools have become available for making the life of marketing and sales professionals easier. But when it comes to Public Affairs, the field of choices is more limited. Tools and technology usually account for less than 10% of a Public Affairs team’s budget - a clear contrast to the marketing department where 20-30% on average of a CMO’s budget is used on tools and technology. But the times are changing and in recent years more relevant Public Affairs tools have become available, but the budget for technology hasn't necessarily followed that development. Therefore it is very important to prioritize what tools are ‘need to have’ and which ones are ‘nice to have’. We therefore present the three need-to-have tools we have identified through talks with Ulobby’s many Public Affairs clients
Handling and maintaining an overview of your stakeholders is the main pillar of effective Public Affairs work. Especially when it comes to organizations where several entities are in contact with the same stakeholders. Who spoke last with stakeholder X? When did they do it and what did they discuss? Not keeping an overview of these simple interactions can have a huge negative impact on your efforts if a stakeholder is neglected or contacted so often that it presents the organization as unorganized and unprofessional. For many organizations the stakeholder relations management has been maintained through endless spreadsheets which are updated manually. But in this age of automation there are several tools available that can automate the process and tracking of stakeholders. And these systems are central in storing, managing and enriching your interactions with both current and potential stakeholders. They also have the potential to drastically reduce the costs of communication and coordination while increasing the political knowledge of the users in the organization. And lastly, in a time where transparency and documentation is popular among executives, the right SRM system can help you to present and document your Public Affairs efforts to those higher up in the organization.
It is an absolute minimum requirement in every Public Affairs effort to monitor your stakeholders’ activities on Social Media and traditional media. And as soon you reach 100+ stakeholders it becomes very difficult to do this without the help of a tool - especially if your stakeholders are spread across continents and time zones. When it comes to monitoring tools there are a wide array of options and before surveying the market it is important to have the following in mind: 1) Political monitoring is not the same as media monitoring. In Public Affairs work you are often more interested in the few important articles or SoMe posts and not a complete overview of the 50+ syndicated stories in local media - something that PR professionals often are interested in, in order to document their results. 2) Always be aware of too much focus on one specific channel. Twitter is for example important for many PA professionals but it is not the only place to monitor - and even in this digital day and age, traditional media still holds a huge position of influence. 3) Technology matters, so if you sign up for a tool based only on keywords (with no machine learning) the results will be misleading over time - and agenda keywords can be hijacked.
The third pillar of ‘need to have’ tools is of course legislation tracking, as keeping up with legislative developments are at the core of Public Affairs work. There are many digital tools available which provide an overview of legislative processes, voting records and proposed legislation. But their overview is very often aimed at internal reporting. And not a lot of PA professionals spend their time keeping track of these processes on a daily basis. Therefore you should have in mind when surveying for a legislation tracking tool whether for example specific parliaments’ websites are actually fulfilling your needs or if it is more interpretation, benchmarking and assessment you are looking for compared to a comprehensive but bland overview of all legislation.
Which of these three tools are most relevant to your Public Affairs team is impossible to say, as they each represent core tasks. If you are in a position where you need to prioritize a good advice is to ask yourself: Which part of our PA efforts gives me and my team the biggest headache? Maybe your monitoring is on point and your legislative tracking can be satisfied manually but your stakeholder management is both time consuming and unmanageable. It all depends on your organization's priorities and the capabilities within your team.