A CONVERSATION WITH AMERICAN AGENCY AGENDA
Bijl PR’s work often transcends national borders: from international projects such as Euregiorail to internationally active clients such as Thalys. To be able to tell our client’s story outside of the Netherlands, we gladly rely on the help of our international colleagues from the Global Communications Alliance. A worldwide network of like-minded, independent agencies that have many years of combined experience in the field of communication, PR and public affairs. Today, we present a new part in our ‘Partners Abroad’ series. We talk to Doug Turner, CEO and owner of the American public affairs agency Agenda.
Washington D.C. is the homebase of Agenda. As the capital of the United States and also the political heart of the country, it is a logical choice to reside as a public affairs agency. But public affairs is not their only expertise. They also specialize in strategic and crisis communication, advocacy, citizen participation, and social/digital design.
The agencies of the Global Communications Alliance share local and international knowledge with each other. We are proud that Bijl PR is part of this network, along with 15 other agencies spread across Europe, Asia, North America, South America and Africa. Including Agenda Global!
“It’s not about whether you can survive – it’s about whether you can navigate the rocks and crevices and dominate no matter what.” This statement can be found on Agenda’s website. They help customers to monitor their message and as a result get people talking, thinking and feeling differently.
Accuracy and dedication in the fight against false information
Fake news is not a new phenomenon that agencies or organizations have to deal with. According to Doug, the main challenge is the number of channels that spread false information and stories and the nature of the news associated with them. He continues: “Dealing with the spread of false information requires more resources and a commitment from clients and their agencies. First of all, it is important to be able to guarantee a continuous flow of accurate information and, secondly, to continue to pay attention to the environment where that information can be found. This is good for agencies, but at the same time frustrating for clients, as solving this problem costs time and money.”
Valuable development if used properly
We asked Doug about the trends and developments he expects for the field over the next two years. Doug, like Grace from Credo Advisory, also sees that AI tools will play a greater role: ”Although these tools have received a lot of criticism, if used properly, they can be successful. Creating content is faster and easier. In addition, productivity improves because agencies can create more with fewer resources. But they are not standalone tools. The content still needs to be factually checked and adjusted where necessary. If these tools are used properly, they can be valuable.”
A case with significant impact
As communication professionals, we do special and valuable work every day, but sometimes a certain project stands out that makes an impression on you. Because of the story, the impact, the response or because you learned a lot from it. Doug is most proud of campaigning for the Navajo Nation, the largest Native American tribe in the United States. Agenda represents a number of companies owned by them. A few years ago, a bill known as “Proposition 127” was developed in the state of Arizona to stop the growing flow of Navajo Nation businesses. A measure that would lead to the loss of many Navajo jobs, income for the Navajo Nation, and most of all damage to the Native American families. Influencing public opinion was extremely important in getting this proposal abolished and helping this community.
Doug talks about the approach and the result: “We developed a campaign strategy to raise awareness among Arizona voters on the impact it would have on the Navajo nation and Native American families if this proposal were passed. We created TV commercials that aired widely across Arizona on both traditional and digital platforms. The campaign message was broadcast daily until Election Day on radio stations in Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff and the Navajo Nation (in the Navajo language) and shared through paid social media promotions. Successfully! As a result 69% of voters voted against the measure – a huge shift in support for the opposition.” The work earned Agenda the Reed Award in the category of Campaigns & Elections for best use of radio targeting and for best TV ad of 60 seconds for an independent campaign.
Today’s supporters may be tomorrow’s opponents
The United States is a country that is always moving and never sleeps. But what about the communications field? According to Doug, the field is very fluid and dynamic. He explains: ”Today’s supporters can be tomorrow’s opponents, political relations are always in flux. But I think this applies to agencies all over the world, as well as the work that is involved. We need to respond to any crisis and develop media strategies in order to best assist clients in times of political pressure and other challenges.”
Acknowledge your mistakes
As always, we end the blog with the question: what’s the best advice you’ve received from a fellow professional? Doug shares the advice he once received: “Acknowledge your mistakes.” As far as we are concerned, a basic rule, in work, but also in life. As communications professionals, we often tell clients to tell the truth and be transparent in everything they do, even when things sometimes go wrong. We can only advise this if we comply with it ourselves. We thank Doug for his contribution and insight into his work and country!