5 Tips on How to Repurpose a Public-Service Message


The PR battle is probably just beginning.

Just hours before it was to go into effect New York City’s ban on big sugary beverages was struck down by New York State Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling. He called the rules “arbitrary and capricious."

After New York proposed the ban last year, a group led by the American Beverage Association sued the city.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who proposed the ground-breaking rule, has vowed to continue the fight. But so, too, will soda manufacturers and restaurants owners who argue that the ban encroaches on freedom of choice.

Michael W. Robinson, a senior VP at Levick Strategic Communications and chair of the firm’s Corporate & Public Affairs practice, provided several tips on how communicators can regroup when it comes to issues management.

1. On-the-ground resources are essential. Whether they are parents, small business owners or community leaders, your partners on the ground remain your best source of intelligence and the access point by which you have the ability to reach larger audiences. Cultivate relationships with influential locals who can act as your eyes, ears and mouth.

2. Inject SEM into your paid media strategy. Today’s audiences turn first to the search engines for information. Search engine marketing (SEM) that ranks your messages above adversaries’ is imperative and can be applied immediately. What people read first creates a perception against which contradictory messages must swim upstream.

3. Traditional media still matter. People still watch TV and they still listen to radio. Even better, as these media compete with the instant nature of the Internet, they are looking to fill scheduling holes—ones that you can fill.

4. Remember the regulators. With Congress and statehouses increasingly mired in political gridlock, regulators’ influence and ability to take decisive action grows—and they are just as susceptible to grassroots advocacy as their legislative counterparts.

5. There is still no substitute for a rally on the statehouse steps. While 1,000 e-mails in a legislator’s inbox certainly send a message, it pales in comparison to 1,000 constituents lined up outside his or her office. While we live in a digital world, digital outreach alone won’t get you across the finish line. Policy makers need to be shown, not just told, how their decisions impact constituents’ lives. A show of force accomplishes that goal, generating earned media in the process.  

Follow Matthew Schwartz: @mpsjourno1