Noble Strategic Partners and UT PRSSA: public affairs and selling ideas

By James Egger

With Texas Legislature in session, it’s hard to ignore the importance of knowledge in the political spectrum. But how do we, the people, get to be part of this conversation? This is where public affairs comes into play.

On Tuesday, Feb. 26, Bill Noble, president and CEO of Noble Strategic Partners, Inc., a full-service public affairs firm in Austin, Tex., spoke to UT PRSSA. Noble relates public affairs directly with public relations, with one distinction: ideas.

“Public affairs is all about the selling of ideas, not products or brands, whether they be laws, candidates or campaigns,” said Noble, who has 23 years of public affairs, corporate communications strategy and political campaign experience under his belt.

In public affairs, it is essential to build coalitions to garner support. Noble explains that to gain support for, say, an anti-smoking bill, this requires a support group of many politicians who would publically endorse the bill.

UT PRSSA Leadership Team with speakers Emily Songy and Bill Noble.
UT PRSSA Leadership Team with speakers Emily Songy and Bill Noble.

“To make your cause’s voice louder, find friends that will coalesce around your ideas to form a coalition,” said Noble. For the firm’s Smoke-Free Texas campaign to pass a statewide indoor smoking ban, finding friends in organizations like the American Lung Association, American Heart Association, LIVESTRONG and the American Cancer Society has proven to be beneficial.

To succeed in public affairs it takes a great interest in public policy. If following politics outside of the election season is boring to someone, they wouldn’t find much enjoyment in public affairs. It is a different story for those reading Politico daily.

An important aspect of any job, whether it is in the public relations sphere or not, is writing skills. Noble recommends everyone who wants to improve their writing should read “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser. He also recommends “Ogilvy on Advertising” to understand basic communication trends.

Emily Songy, account supervisor and right-hand woman for Noble Strategic, presented a session on email marketing. The campaign she helped lead won PR Daily’s Best Email Marketing Campaign award in early 2013.

“Because so much of a successful campaign is reaching out to supporters at their convenience, email action alerts and newsletters are important to keep supporters in the know,” said Songy, who helped lead the award-winning email marketing campaign for the Smoke Free Texas initiative.

“The idea is to be innovative with alerts. Individuals are hesitant to open up an email, so at the very least have a great subject line,” said Songy. “Supporters need to be kept in-the-know so they’ll care about your campaign months down the line.”

The meeting concluded with a public affairs competition led by Songy and Noble. Teams of members had five minutes to come up with an email action alert that would persuade recipients to contact their legislators about an upcoming nonsmoking bill vote.

The winning subject line was “The lungs of Texas are upon you.” It’s creative and compelling messages like this that are essential to garnering support for a cause online. Thanks for the lesson, Noble Strategic Partners!

The winning email marketing competition team brainstorming subject lines.
The winning email marketing competition team brainstorming subject lines.


About the contributor: James “Jay” Egger is a junior pursuing degrees in public relations and political communication at the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Communication. He currently interns with Great Communicate, a local communications firm and is also the associate copy desk chief for the University’s newspaper, The Daily Texan. Egger is a contributor for Ouch, My Ego!, a Rio Grande Valley zine and cultural project. Tweet him!