The Power of the Advocate

As public relations professionals, we are tasked with producing outcomes for our clients. We arm ourselves with market research. We study the competition, analyze trends, and develop and execute campaigns to inform and inspire our target audiences. In many ways, we are advocates. More specifically, and with a few exceptions, we are outside advocates who are skilled at understanding and communicating on behalf of those on the inside.

Sometimes, our outsider standing creates challenges as we seek to understand the needs and goals of our clients. At those times, we would do well to seek the advice and support of advocates who are aligned with our clients’ interests. Among the most informed, passionate, and fearless champions for their cause, advocates possess knowledge of the everyday experiences, hopes, and frustrations of the communities they serve.

What makes an advocate so powerful, and why should we seek their counsel?

  • KNOWLEDGE: Advocates are subject matter experts, always consuming information–from scientific studies to news and commentary–that can further their cause. Their knowledge can supplement, validate, and sometimes challenge the information we gather in our own research.
  • TRUST: Advocates work tirelessly to earn and maintain the confidence of the communities they serve. They understand the nuances driving the beliefs and behavior of their communities.
  • RELEVANCE: Advocates are well connected, from the halls of Congress to local support groups. They understand and are respected within the political and social climate affecting their communities, and they know how to effect change.
  • DEDICATION: Advocates are driven by a sense of calling, often borne from personal experience, that motivates them to go well beyond the requirements of their official duties.
  • ALTRUISM: Advocates believe the right kind of change is possible — change that leads to the betterment of the world around them.

In my role, supporting a nonprofit cancer research organization, I interact with advocates who represent a wide variety of groups – from well-established, amply funded national organizations to local independent groups fueled by the vision of a few people, or even one individual. I am learning never to take their perspectives for granted.

-Randy Dillinger


Randy Dillinger is director of public relations and communications for Hoosier Cancer Research Network, a nonprofit contract research organization in Indianapolis that specializes in early phase, multi-center, investigator-initiated oncology clinical trials offered through a network of more than 300 clinical sites nationwide.