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Public Affairs and PR

Communications are strategic when they are based on solid research, regardless whether you are pitching public policy or soda pop.There is a difference between public affairs and public relations, but not much, or certainly not as much as some would say.

A recent blog by Paige Hawin contrasted the two, saying public affairs is associated with legislation and public policy, while public relations is aimed at connecting with the public to implement a marketing plan. She said PR is often regarded as an extension of advertising. 

We disagree. All forms of strategic communications are at their core marketing, or should be. The marketing discipline demands solid research to inform communications strategies, choices of spokespersons, mix of tactics and preferred channels — regardless whether your objective is to change public policy or sell deodorant.

Storytelling as Your Elevator Speech

You need to be able to make your pitch in 30 seconds. Just as important, your elevator speech needs to focus on why what you do is important to your customers or clients. 

The elevator speech has taken on added importance as more people realize you have only one, fast-moving moment to make a memorable first impression.

But the last thing you want is a first impression just about you. That first impression needs to center on how your work uniquely benefits your customers or clients.

This difference parallels the evolution from advertising to content marketing. Instead of shouting a message, you deliver useful, relevant information. The elevator speech, in its slim 30-second format, needs to follow the same pattern. Don't shout, solve a problem.

So instead of rattling off your list of services or products, your elevator speech should focus on a simple story about how you helped a client or customer. You only have 30 seconds, so offer just enough detail to showcase your value.

People have a hard time remembering lists of things or key messages without a lot of repetition. They can and do retain the essence of a good story. And stories are a tried-and-true way for people to absorb complex information, put it into context and coat it with a positive feeling.

Staff meetings and marketing retreats often stress the need for a solid elevator speech that everyone in an organization can use to underline a brand promise or identity. Too often, the elevator speech exercise in a staff meeting or retreat is just that — an exercise, not a new habit.

Rarely can a group write concise prose that conforms to the way different people actually talk. And elevator speeches need to be more than a glib tagline. A story with the right stuff can be told in various ways to the same effect. It is a perfect answer for a widely accepted and commonly used "elevator speech" in your organization.