Advocacy: Lessons from PoliticiansSep 05, 2023
What resonates with politicians, whether advocating for added resources or better policies? The best place to start is to ask. Here are some of the responses we received.
Of course, it starts with a relationship. You need to know them, and they need to know you. They also need to know that you like them and appreciate that they are doing their best for their constituents. We have written often of the importance of influence and relationships. And then…
Be clear. Who are you? What do you do? How does it support government interests? Who supports you and has your confidence? What public support do you have? Who are the principals? Who do we know and deal with?
Articulate the issue on one page. Know precisely what your issue is, what your desired outcome might be. And get your priorities in order. Come with one or two clear asks.
Government is incremental, not revolutionary. You are not likely to get it all, so think about what you can achieve, step by step.
Use a three to four-word slogan to articulate your issue. For example, if your issue is eliminating child poverty, “reduce and eliminate poverty” is a campaign worth adopting. But don’t start with raising welfare rates – it doesn’t resonate with the public. You can, however, build a campaign around child poverty – it is emotional and real. A slogan might be “$10 a day childcare.”
Always remember your audience. What’s in it for the government.
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Connect with the appropriate pubic servants. Start with the Executive Directors and assistant deputy ministers. You need them to champion you. Never assume that the bureaucrats and elected representatives are necessarily aware of your issues or needs. Take the time to inform them, even without making an ask.
If you don’t succeed with the bureaucracy, go to your elected representatives. Connect with politicians from all sides of the political spectrum. Be on good terms with and have a first-name relationship with your representatives on all sides.
Understanding how government works. Just as you and your Chief Executive Officer have a partnership so too do the Minister and Deputy Minister and it is critical to their and your success. The Minister can close the deal, the bureaucracy gets you in the door. Connect with the cabinet minister and the finance minister (by whatever name).
Work with others with the same or similar agenda. There is room for partnerships, and government does best when it works in partnership. Your challenge is to figure out how…
Engage the public about the cause. Recognize that the media can be supportive but generally won’t lead.
Remember, it may take years…
Be patient, resilient, persistent. And positive.
You can do this!
What are your main “pain points” dealing with government relations?
What advice would be most helpful to you?
And we always assume that you are asking for a friend!
Get in touch. We’ll address your questions and concerns in an upcoming blog post.
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