Ben Blackburn, of Freshwater’s Public Affairs team, looks at the evolution of ‘integrated’ communication and its importance in delivering political campaigns.
If you follow communications industry goings-on, you will know ‘integration’ and ‘multi-channel’ are the buzz words everyone uses.
At Freshwater, we like to think we were among the first to switch on to the always-on digital media environment.
In 2008, we decided to style ourselves as ‘a modern, multi-media communications business’. Unusually, for what was mainly a PR agency, we already employed web developers and video producers. And, that year, we also forged a joint venture with TV news provider ITN to pitch for a contract to launch an online TV channel for a major healthcare organisation.
In the end, the TV channel came to nothing for funding reasons, but our thinking was right. We saw the paradox that the multiplication of media channels would require communicators to converge.
We also spotted the opportunity for our clients, saying at the time ‘it is now possible for relatively small organisations to reach large audiences by creating their own mass media or producing high quality content for external media’ (Fresh Thinking, July 2008).
Like other large agencies with several offices, we suffered to a degree from a silo culture in which separate teams had their own client base and operated semi-autonomously.
But we were tuned into the fast-changing media environment and were soon delivering creative campaigns that exploited multiple channels in an integrated way.
This was recognised in the 2011 CIPR Excellence Awards when we won ‘best integrated campaign’ for Invisible Death Row, a project highlighting the need for organ donors in Wales (about which there is more on this website).
Further success came at the 2014 PRCA Public Affairs Awards, where Freshwater won Best In-House Agency Collaboration with client, the League Against Cruel Sports.
#WhatTheFox? brought expertise from across the agency together to produce a truly integrated, multi-channel campaign and helped to quash a proposed amendment to the Hunting Act 2004.
The Public Affairs team provided political intelligence and communicated directly with politicians from all sides of the House of Commons, while other Freshwater specialists worked closely with the League to develop and deliver a compelling campaign using social media, advertising and media relations.
Giant global marketing groups have struggled with integration as their different subsidiary agencies and disciplines fight for leadership and control of key accounts.
But, as an independent media and communications consultancy, Freshwater can be more nimble. For us, integration has now long been central to our philosophy and has become the norm in our work day-to-day with clients.
Our Public Affairs team will always bring something special to the table in terms of knowledge and experience in public policy and the legislative process, not to mention our ability to keep a finger on the pulse of Westminster, the Senedd, Holyrood and Stormont.
Because we are embedded in the world of politics and policy, Public Affairs practitioners see problems from a different angle and can prescribe solutions that will take account of their impact on political audiences. Our Public Affairs team benefits the group’s clients with its understanding of how ‘lobbying’ operates and how to ‘do’ public affairs in an effective and ethical way.
At the same time, by delivering an integrated model of communications, a client will also benefit from Freshwater’s broad expertise and wide range of integrated services, when needed.
Any Public Affairs client can therefore rest assured that it will get the best of all worlds: expert political communications consultancy and all the benefits of a full-service communications firm.
Freshwater’s Public Affairs team provides specialist political communications and intelligence for a diverse client base. Whether you need campaign advice, crisis communications support, stakeholder engagement guidance or are interested in registering for our daily and weekly parliamentary and media monitoring reports, feel free to contact us on 0207 067 1595.