What Is Public Affairs, and How Does It Work?

Whether you’re affiliated with a business or a nonprofit, you operate within an ecosystem where multiple entities—such as lawmakers, stakeholders, and, to some degree, the public—play vital roles. You do not, in other words, operate in a vacuum. 

And in that ecosystem, public relations, utilizing marketing and advertising techniques, helps to promote your brand or cause. But it’s public affairs that provides you with the means to communicate in nuanced ways with your various constituents and, in turn, to shape public debate around issues that directly impact your work.

“Nuanced” is key here, as public affairs, practiced effectively, is a long-term, multi-pronged effort. But before we get into details, it’s good to know what we mean, exactly, by “public affairs.”

What Public Affairs Is and Isn’t

Three terms that often get confused with each other are public relations, government relations and public affairs. This is, of course, understandable, so it’s worth distinguishing between the three.

The aim of public relations is to generate positive publicity, to help build loyalty for a company or organization and promote its brand. Government relations, meanwhile, serves as a branch of public relations, facilitating, in particular, communication between an organization and government officials. It’s the process of influencing public policy on various levels, from local to global, depending on the issue and who’s doing the influencing. The goal is to persuade government officials to change or maintain a policy, usually one that fits the needs of your organization.  

Public affairs extends far beyond the government. It’s a service that helps you interact with your stakeholders, legislators, and the media. Focused primarily on policy issues, public affairs experts, like those at CiviClick, concentrate on finding solutions to problems. They serve as a liaison between you and your community, the government, and the media, mostly by disseminating information intended to influence public policy and build support for your organization’s agenda.

One example of public affairs is the ways in which Walmart supports policies that positively impact not only its business, but the interests of its customers and other stakeholders. Among its activities are advocating for policies at various government levels; encouraging its employees to vote; and working with trade associations to advance issues that affect its stakeholders and business.

Why Public Affairs is So Important

Public affairs applies to trade associations and nonprofits as well. It provides a framework for guiding key advocacy activities with stakeholders, including allies, policy influencers, lawmakers, and government officials. These are people whose policy decisions extend far beyond business, affecting people, charities, and multiple organizations as well. By making stakeholders aware of your agenda, and your key “asks,” you ensure that your stand on issues are understood and help influence policy change.

Local and state governments throughout the country pass regulations and laws that touch multiple industries and communities. The way businesses are licensed to operate, the distribution of food and utilities—these are just a few examples of decisions made by governments at various levels. With this in mind, it’s imperative that the voices of an organization and its stakeholders are heard on regulations directly impacting day-to-day operations. Public affairs teams, employing a formal strategy, ensure that those voices are heard in the halls of power.

Public Affairs Strategies

Because what and who shapes policy is so important to organizations, government relations and public affairs often work hand-in-hand, providing a one-two punch, if you will. Ideally, teams working in both areas can craft a strategy that, first, defines an organization’s goals, then identifies important legislation and leverages relationships with stakeholders and decision-makers to achieve optimal results.

Here’s how it works. When proposed legislation is set to impact an organization, government relations specialists meet with and discuss the legislation with the appropriate decision-making parties while the public affairs team shares information about it with stakeholders, the media, and, if applicable, the general public. 

It can also work the other way. If a specific community expresses concern over an issue, one for which there is no existing rule or regulation, it’s the responsibility of the public affairs team to come up with possible solutions and, with help from the government relations team, convince government officials to act in a way that addresses the community’s concerns.

Advocacy: a Key Component

Public affairs, therefore, entails many responsibilities and demands that its experts specialize in a number of areas, including:

  • Lobbying local, state and national lawmakers on specific policies or legislation
  • Providing stakeholders with pertinent information, either directly or through the media
  • Monitoring political activity and information
  • Advising an organization’s leaders
  • Advocacy

The last one is especially important. As we’ve noted in previous posts, advocacy campaigns—whether legislative, grassroots or nonprofit in nature—are often vital to achieving the specific or overall goals of an organization, making advocacy a key aspect of a successful public affairs strategy. Developing and maintaining relationships that will benefit your industry or cause are vital to influencing government actions, including lawmaking.

For similar reasons, lobbying is important as well. Lobbyists, whose role is to take part in an organized attempt to influence legislators, are professional advocates for individuals and organizations. Any advocacy efforts they participate in can help introduce, shape, and support laws and regulations crucial to an organization’s cause.

Finally, public affairs teams must cultivate fruitful relationships with the media. All forms of media, from print to digital to social, serve not only as a means of sharing important information and issues with your stakeholders; they have the power to sway the general public as well. So building a healthy relationship with the media is key.


To reiterate, an effective public affairs strategy provides a business, trade association or nonprofit with a solid framework for guiding key advocacy activities. It combines stakeholder outreach with expertly handled government and media relations aimed at achieving an organization’s short- and long-term goals.

The most adroit public affairs experts, many of whom are employed by CiviClick, perform a variety of all-important tasks, including: maintaining ongoing relationships with lawmakers and government regulators; informing and reassuring stakeholders; monitoring policies relevant to a client’s industry; and leveraging media to help influence public policy.

If it sounds like a bit of a balancing act, it is. But the payoff—both protecting and bolstering a client’s work and well-being—is a huge one. 


8 Reasons CiviClick is Different From Its Competitors

In today’s world—with the many ways we communicate, share information, and push for causes and campaigns—one major way to serve a client is by leveraging the latest technology in ways once unimaginable. 

While other advocacy technology platforms continue to operate pre-pandemic systems, CiviClick leverages modern AI to improve on advocacy campaign content and delivers more customization options to advocacy professionals.

We’re a company of former campaign veterans, political consultants, and public affairs practitioners with decades of experience at the intersection of politics and technology. We engage in product design with direct input from those on the frontlines: Hill staffers, political campaign operatives, lobbyists, and grassroots advocacy professionals.

CiviClick’s core objectives include:

  • Use ground-breaking AI, machine learning, and gamification technology to modernize how advocates communicate with lawmakers.
  • Make advocacy fun, engaging, and highly interactive, applying the Octalysis Framework. (More on that later.)
  • Enable companies and organizations to grow their advocate communities via technology, surveys, social listening, community-building activities, and access to CiviClick’s 58-million-person owned audience database of online activists.

What distinguishes us from our competitors in the use of technology is a bit more complicated, and worth digging into. Below, you’ll find eight reasons why CiviClick is different from its competitors, and most likely a great fit for your organization’s needs.  

QR Codes and Video Messages

These days, we rely on our phones for just about everything. That should include advocacy. CiviClick’s technology allows our clients to create custom quick response, or QR, codes linking advocacy actions to any and all related materials.

Think about it. Your organization has just launched a campaign, and you’re looking for advocates, people who can join and promote the cause. A QR code—one that links to a membership sign-up—can easily be displayed on any number of promotional tools: yard signs, posters, table and tent placards, even T-shirts, all in an effort to solicit engagement.

But a QR code has the potential to serve many other purposes. For example, it can be used to: link to a donation form; sign up for text alerts and direct mail; add a name to a petition; and access information on laws, policies, lawmakers, and voter registration. It can also be used to facilitate conversations between advocates, who can exchange stories, videos, and information.

Just as QR codes can play a vital role in your advocacy efforts, the same goes for video messaging, which often packs more of a punch than anything written down. A truly effective video, featuring a speaker or speakers sharing their passion for a cause, can go a long way in convincing a lawmaker or a potential advocate or donor that a cause is worthy.

With this in mind, CiviClick has developed a robust system enabling advocates to record short video messages, then easily share them with appropriate elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels. For a variety of reasons, our biggest competitors do not allow for video messages to be recorded by advocates and sent to elected officials. But our system ensures that tastefully produced videos end up in the right hands.

Built-In Advertising Database

When it comes to trying to change a law or a policy, we need to be honest. No matter how important, even earth-shattering, your cause is, if you can’t get lawmakers to listen, you’re not going to have much of an impact. But because we have a massive database, CiviClick can market your policy initiatives to tens of millions of people in various ways.

We offer “pay-for-performance” data and advertising solutions, which help expand your reach by attracting the right advocates to generate momentum for your campaign. With an owned audience of 85 million-plus activists in the United States and Canada, we can advertise an advocacy campaign to a vast pool of potential advocates with interest tags for over 40 policy issues.

We also give clients the opportunity to build custom audiences and target supporters through emails, text messages, live operator phone calls, direct mail, social media ads, display ads, and hundreds of web properties within our partner network.


Perhaps you’ve heard the term before but aren’t quite sure what it means. “Gamification” is an interactive design approach that focuses less on functionality and more on what motivates human behavior. It takes elements from video and handheld games and applies them to real-life activities, including healthcare, education and, in our case, advocacy.

We base our design on what’s known as the Octalysis Framework. Created by veteran game designer Yu-Kai Chou, the framework revolves around eight “core drives”: epic meaning, accomplishment, empowerment, ownership, social influence, scarcity, unpredictability, and avoidance. With CiviClick’s state-of-the-art technology and gamification modules, clients are able to create custom advocate segments that engage their users by actively rewarding participation and increasing engagement.

AI-Generated Email Content

In a digitally-fueled universe, email marketing is a critical tool for connecting with customers, members, and advocates. But with so many organizations vying for attention in recipients’ inboxes, how do you stand out? AI-generated content is quickly becoming a way to create personalized, engaging email content at scale. 

CiviClick’s technology is the first AI-powered stakeholder mobilization platform of its kind in the advocacy space. Integrating a proprietary blend of cutting-edge AI technologies, we’re able to generate email content for action alerts that can help increase conversion rates and move towards a successful outcome. This offers an unparalleled level of content variation that truly sets us apart.

For example, prompted with a default message or document, CiviClick’s AI determines the most appropriate messaging strategy based on campaign targets. Our AI also generates customized lawmaker content based on their voting histories. And our system prompts the AI to generate content that mimics a client’s tone of voice or background, taking even regional dialects into account.

Automated Thank Yous and Email Throttling

Our competitors typically say “so long” to advocates after they’ve completed a desired task. But with CiviClick’s technology, our clients are able to send automated thank you texts and emails to advocates. This achieves two goals: keeps the advocates engaged and lets them know that their dedication to a cause and our client’s ongoing work is greatly appreciated.  

Other advocacy firms also tend to send emails off to advocates as soon as they press “send now.” But through a process known as email throttling, or the regulation of deliveries during high-traffic periods, CiviClick enables its clients to control the cadence of message delivery. This crucial feature allows companies and organizations to create a steady drumbeat of support to help accomplish their goals.

Professional Services

Most advocacy companies provide their clients with an account manager, to answer basic technical and product inquiries. But winning advocacy campaigns require data, planning, strong messaging, and omni-channel engagement with a focus on both grassroots and grasstops.

So, at CiviClick, we provide an extra layer of support via our professional services team. These are seasoned advocacy professionals who are also digital advocacy practitioners. They can assist your team with services such as: copywriting, messaging, strategy, audience segmentation, campaign planning and execution, and legislative research. They can also guide you through the advocacy process from start to finish, from budgeting to hiring vendors to deploying data solutions.


We know it’s not easy to choose from among the many public affairs advocacy firms in business today. But at CiviClick, we not only offer advocacy expertise; we have the tech savvy to help you successfully navigate a digital landscape that is so important to advocacy efforts. And it’s a landscape that’s continually changing, thanks, in no small part, to the fast-paced evolution of AI.

For the eight reasons mentioned above, CiviClick leads the pack in helping clients engage in digital advocacy efforts and campaigns. If you need even more reasons, we invite you to schedule a no-obligations demo with us. That way, we can decide together whether CiviClick is the right fit for your organization.