Election season is upon us, whether you’re affected by the upcoming Federal election or the in-progress NSW election. So is it too late to do anything in this space? The short answer is no – start today with a long term vision for engagement with government. There’s still time and worthwhile endeavours you can begin to direct your effort toward to get your government relations strategy up and running.
Below are some suggestions for what you can do right now to boost your profile among political candidates or elected representatives. Depending on where you are in your government relations journey these will range from easy to more difficult; pick the actions that are low-hanging fruit for your organisation and make a start! And remember – you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
Strategic priorities. What does your organisation want from government? How can this be translated into mutual benefit, i.e. what’s in it for them if they engage with you? You need each other, but it’s your opportunity to take. Once you know this send a letter to let them know, which leads us to…
Write to your minister(s). There will be at least one key minister your organisation needs to engage with. When was the last time you wrote to them? Send them a letter rehashing your organisation’s purpose, the value you create for the community, how your objectives align with that of government, and wish them well in their endeavour for re-election. If you have specific asks that align with your strategic priorities, make them and ask for a response as soon as possible, noting that you’ll share this with your network. While you’re at it draft a letter of congratulations and commiserations to keep in your back pocket to send to the incoming/outgoing minister – it’s important to get this sent to them within 48 hours of announcement of the election results.
Write to your local member. Your office and your facilities are all located in electorates. Who’s your local MP? You probably have more than one. Have you written to them to tell them about your presence and place in their electorate? Look at what your shared values are and how, if re-elected, you could work together to support the community within the electorate. Then wish them luck. And remember – ministers are MPs too, so have a congratulation and commiseration letter ready to go!
Be in with the outs. An election can be a time for significant change – the opposition were the outs at the start of the election but may become the government by the time it’s over. When did you last write to the shadow minister? It’s important to be in with the outs – write to the shadow minister(s) relevant to your organisation using the suggestions made in point two. If you’ve got your organisation’s asks well defined and down pat, put them to the shadow minister and ask for a response you can push to your network before election day.
You’ve got (a little) more time. But don’t wait for “the right time”; now is the right time. Look at who your ministers are, who your MPs are and make a connection. First-time contact should be letters of introduction, seeking a meeting between your CEO and the MP or minister. Be prepared to provide an agenda and a clear rationale for why you need to meet.
“Pose, pose, pose!”. Does your organisation host events? Celebrate milestones and achievements? Maybe your organisation is turning 1 or 10 or 25? Invite your local member to one of these events to show them the great work you do. Think ahead – how will you extend the life of this event? Can you use your social media channels to promote the attendance of the MP if they come? The idea is to introduce the MP to your organisation and provide a platform for them to engage with the community in a visible way which lifts their and your profile. Take pictures and get ready to share them far and wide.
Priorities help drive your performance. Everyone operates in a world of scarcity; in the same way you may have to choose between a shiny new flat screen TV or a holiday so to do you need to decide what’s most important to your organisation. Establish your priorities for engaging with government or your local MPs, setting them down on paper with actionable and timebound steps and what your ideal outcome would be. Then go about bringing these to life – reach out and connect!
Remember – you’ve got competition. Our elected representatives are busy people with many individuals and organisations competing for their attention. Help them out by tailoring your message to their needs. Keep it short, make it direct while remaining polite, and use all appropriate titles. These are our stateswomen and statesmen and they did the work of getting elected. Acknowledge that work and tell them a compelling story about the great work you do in their patch of the world. Demonstrate your capabilities and position yourself as a thought leader who could become a trusted advisor for them in your field of expertise.
Are you in interested in more government engagement insights and ideas? Or have a thorny government relations problem that you’d like to brainstorm? If so, we’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also download our free government engagement whitepaper here.