How Digitalization is Transforming Lobbying and Advocacy

Understanding the trends taking place in the world of lobbying and advocacy means that the fact that digital technologies also impact Public Affairs can no longer be questioned. From non-profit staffs to corporate lobbyists and everyone in between, the adoption of digital tools and strategies have proved valuable in influencing policy and regulation. According to International Data Corporation, businesses worldwide will be investing nearly $2 trillion on digital transformation by 2022, which also offers a huge opportunity for Public Affairs teams to step up their game.

Online grassroots advocacy continues to be on the rise while traditional forms of government relations – although still important today – may decline in the near future. Public affairs professionals are now applying data analytical methods to a field once left to hoping a meeting ‘went well’. Non-profits, associations, and government-relations professionals can not only understand where their supporters stand, but also get a sense of the number, the sentiment, and the tone of the messages that legislators are targeted with.   

Analytics is becoming a fundamental component to executing a successful advocacy campaign. Many public affairs agencies are offering services using data to predict how likely a legislator is to vote in a certain way or even determine the number of supporters an organization has in a specific district. Online software allows arguments and messages to be tested for their effectiveness and can complement the use of focus groups and other traditional methods. As technology capabilities grow, new ways to interpret and use data will also keep evolving.

Artificial intelligence can translate large chunks of information into easy-to-understand visuals that are better suited to interpret past events and predict future societal and regulatory trends. The use of digital tools in Public Affairs also allows the use of consumer data – those typically gathered and employed by Marketing and Sales units – for purposes of addressing policy and advocacy messages to consumers.

Measuring the return on investment in Public Affairs activities has been debated for far too long – but it may no longer be. Digital tools can be utilized to illustrate the impact Public Affairs can have on the business, not just in terms of favorable regulation, but also of crisis prevention.

While digitalization started years ago, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a tremendous accelerator of the transfer of activities from offline to online. While physical gatherings have been and still are restricted, online campaigning has increased. One of the consequences of COVID will be a renewed attention to social issues such as the gender gap, inclusion of minorities, economic inequalities, and sustainability. We can expect that lobbying on these issues will intensify and will legitimately be a major focus for political leadership. Through digital listening tools, these discussions can be monitored and translated into actionable insights for Public Affairs.

For a long time, ‘obscure’, ‘discreet’, ‘non-public’ were words often used to describe political advocacy at its core. Digitalization is changing this paradigm, giving Public Affairs a more public and transparent dimension that is here to stay.