This post is being published on behalf of Andrew Kovalcin, the principal of Advanced Advocacy. Advanced Advocacy is a boutique integrated advocacy & public affairs firm located in Washington, DC.
The digital age has set up a paradox for many think tanks, companies and non-profits: While the barriers to sharing a message are breaking down, gaining traction in a saturated marketplace of ideas is increasingly challenging.
In a world where anyone with a phone and thumbs can send their ideas to the masses, how do established institutions keep their voices relevant?
The answer is simple: by competing less – and partnering more.
Few have mastered this concept as well as Meridian International Center, which brings together organizations with separate but parallel missions to multiply their impacts. Its partnerships span government agencies, multinational corporations and NGOs.
The value of this approach was displayed at an event last month, where the Meridian Corporate Council partnered with a major corporation, Caterpillar, and a major trade association, PhRMA, to host a leading government official, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Christopher Wilson. The topic was business expansion in South and Central Asia, which would not have received proper treatment without a broad group of stakeholders in attendance.
Meridian also understands how to maximize its partnerships by leveraging the unique capacities and specializations of each partner. Consider the example of Next Level, a cultural exchange program Meridian hosts along with three unique partners:
- The University of North Carolina, which specializes in education;
- The U.S. Department of State, which specializes in facilitating exchange with foreign countries;
- A different group of artists each year, which provide the cultural expertise.
By leveraging the individual expertise of each of these partners, this year Meridian will send 28 American hip hop artists to Mongolia, Russia, Ethiopia, Peru, Bolivia and Nepal to help create a richer understanding and appreciation for U.S. culture.
I often cite examples of Meridian partnerships to my clients. My company, Advanced Advocacy, specializes in forging partnerships and uniting similar and diverse voices together to deliver a message.
Consider these recent examples of powerful partnerships we were involved in:
- On World IP Day (April 26, 2019), over 70 groups united to run an advertising campaign touting the importance of intellectual property to job creation. By combining their voices and resources, they expanded their audience exponentially.
- In March of 2019, The European Resource Bank (the largest annual free market think tank conference in Europe) gathered dozens of European and American think tank leaders together with academics, policy experts and elected officials to discuss how to preserve and expand the future of individual liberty in Europe in an ever-changing political landscape.
- The 12th Annual Free Market Road Show, which took place over the last two months, toured 40 capitals in Europe and the Caucasus. It brought together leading business people, outstanding scholars and students, opinion leaders, policy experts, elected officials and diplomats from across Europe to discuss core values around innovation and entrepreneurship that are too often neglected.
It is possible that through these partnerships, Advanced Advocacy was able to reach millions across multiple countries with our free market messages.
In the digital age, all organizations should know, no matter their mission, they don’t have to go at it alone. They can cross promote content, build joint campaigns and engage in coalitions to leave a larger footprint and constitute a profound impact. As such, they can specialize in narrower disciplines while still maintaining broad influence.
In the old era, what mattered most was who you were: your clout, experience and resources. Now what matters most is who you’re with.
Meridian knows this better than most, and the proof is in their steadily growing influence in global leadership and non-partisan public diplomacy— even after more than a half century of leadership.
In an era driven by the power of partnerships, others would do well to follow the Meridian way.