The One Public Affairs Question To Focus On: What Needs To Change To Make An Impact?

Posted by: on May 19, 2023 | No Comments

There can be a lot of consider when writing a public affairs strategy. It needs to think about the policy context, stakeholders, their timetables and much else. But sometimes thinking at a more granular, micro level can help focus and drive action. Always ask what needs to change to get the outcome you want.

The focus is writing a strategy can be on the endpoint without giving sufficient thought to all the necessary steps to get there. In other words, we do not unpick all the external and internal considerations needed to achieve the outcome. In other cases, assumptions are made about the need to raise the profile of an issue.

A useful approach is to focus what needs to change if you are to be successful.

Types of change

To create an effective strategy, it is crucial to identify the specific type of change required. Consider the following categories:

  • Policy-based change – look for the opportunities to engage in the policy-making process whilst also building stakeholder support for your ideas. Policy change will not be agreed without political buy-in. But it also requires a good evidence base as well as being to demonstrate why the current arrangements do not work or are inadequate.
  • Legislative change – this could be the long-term aim or the focus of immediate action if the legislation is already going through a Parliament. The reality is that once a measure is being considered by a Parliament it is very difficult to change. If you have been fighting for that legislation for some time that should provide some reassurance. But getting a legislative slot involves a mix of departmental acceptance and reassurance and political support.
  • Knowledge improvement – there may be significant gaps in knowledge and understanding of an issue. Some good ‘political PR’ can help to turn the corner. But never ignore the role that reputation can play as well – for good or ill. All stakeholders always look for ‘shortcuts’ when thinking about an issue, an individual, organisation or sector. Some of that may be under your direct control but much will not be. Reputations impact on knowledge.
  • Change in approach – the approach to date may not be the one you support. That requires a shift to secure a change in approach. You may have to think of ways to secure that shift. Does it mean bringing a spotlight? Do you need to involve others, building partnerships and alliance? Could it be about shaming a government? However high risk that might be…?
  • Increased support – sometimes a sheer weight of numbers can prove really effective, especially if a government is in a precarious position. That often means considering ways, over a period of time, to motivate supporters and to broader support amongst the public. That may mean greater reliance on online tools and even advertising to amass support.


To be in a position to answer the fundamental question about the change required needs information and systems. It is crucial to have the following foundations in place:

  • An understanding of the policy environment and background to development of your issue
  • A clear, prioritised stakeholder list
  • A monitoring system so you can be pro-active in your approach across politics and the media
  • As much insight as possible drawn together formally and informally
  • A team that collaborates and draws in skills and experiences
  • A clear understanding of the all the resources available


By placing the focus on the question of change, we can pave the way for impactful strategies. Thinking about the question of change opens your path and allows full consideration of the measures to be outlined in your strategy. Focusing on the change question is a good basis to work from. Remember, change is the driving force behind progress, and by centring our strategies on it, we set ourselves on a path to impactful and transformative outcomes.