We at Rasky Partners are proud of our talented public relations and public affairs experts across the firm’s practice areas. In our ongoing Meet the Expert series, we sit down with a different agency leader on Mondays to get their thoughts on several important and timely questions and gain a greater sense of their industry expertise and experiences. This week we sit down with managing director for our public affairs practice, George Cronin.
What interests you most about public affairs?
Certainly the fast-paced nature of the work and the fact that there are a lot of similarities between traditional political campaigns and corporate public affairs campaigns.
With public affairs being such a constantly evolving field, where do you see the industry headed and what can professionals do to keep up?
The first trend I see focuses on the pronounced need to deliver your message from external resources and not just put all of your resources in the inside lobbying element of the overall strategy. The development of a winning narrative, and the use of external allies and voices to carry that message are critical. The second trend we’ve seen over the past few years is an increasing number of clients that have a revenue agenda as opposed to just a policy agency, which has resulted in more business development opportunities and more opportunities to help corporate clients sell their product into the public sector.
To keep up with all of this, you need to be able to spot the trends and identify opportunities for your clients. Many of the opportunities for our clients will come as a result of policy initiatives. Whether it’s on the revenue side or the policy side, reacting and getting ahead of public policy is the way that we can stay ahead of the curve.
You served as a senior advisor and New England political director for Vice President Biden during his 2008 presidential campaign. How did this experience help shape your work today?
This experience provided a great perspective in that it allowed me to see how political campaign tactics and strategies can be used in corporate public affairs settings and how important it is to organize and mobilize around a particular cause or candidate.
Your extensive local and state public affairs experience includes working with clients from a variety of different industries. How do you and your team remain nimble so you can quickly learn and represent the interests of each of your clients?
It starts with understanding public policy and the politics behind public policy. When you can figure out how to let your clients achieve their business objectives and simultaneously allow the policymakers to achieve their policy objectives, that’s a dynamic that typically results in great success. In terms of remaining nimble, it’s constantly anticipating the news that drives the politics that drives the policy.
Rasky Partners has a fantastic record when it comes to ballot measure campaigns and other lobbying and policy efforts, including the passage of Question 3 in Massachusetts in 2016. What in your mind sets the firm apart from the rest when it comes to its approach to public affairs?
I think what sets us apart is our methodical approach. Our proven track record of success ties back directly to the formulas that we have developed that line up underneath our client service models for the different vertical categories in our practice. Whether it’s state government relations, grassroots campaigns, business development or ballot questions, we have the formulas that line up underneath each one of those categories. What we’ve found over the years is that if we are disciplined in our approach and stick to tried and true formulas, more often than not we’ll have success.
What do you see as the key components to executing a successful ballot campaign?
Research dictates the overall strategic direction. Other important tactical elements that make up the overall effort include message development, coalition building, earned media, paid media, digital strategies and mobilization.
How have digital and technological advances played a role in shaping ballot campaigns in recent years?
Similar to candidate campaigns, digital advances play a critical role in helping to disseminate and amplify a messaging platform and in organizing allies. For example, the culminating mobilization effort that leads up to Election Day includes an incredible reliance on digital and electronic platforms.
What do you see as the most effective mediums to deliver a campaign’s messaging?
What I see as most effective is a coordinated group of surrogates using a combination of traditional earned media and paid advertising, direct mail, TV and radio, and social media.
As we look ahead to the 2018 ballot questions in Massachusetts, how do you anticipate this year’s landscape differing from years past?
I actually think the ballot question landscape will be similar to what we’ve seen in previous years in that the traditional categories of tax and revenue, workers’ rights and healthcare will all be part of the debate.
Which measures should we expect to see on the 2018 ballot in Massachusetts?
There will be proposed tax increases and proposed tax decreases as well as provisions dealing with a minimum wage increase and earned sick time. We’ll also see a proposal regarding nurse staff ratios and a proposed repeal of the transgender law.
What has been the most memorable ballot question campaign you worked on during your time at Rasky?
All the victories are special, but the 2006 retail alcohol sales and 2012 physician-assisted suicide campaigns stand out.
If you could offer clients one piece of advice, what would it be?
Trust data over your instincts.
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