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Opinion: How to improve your government relationships strategy

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As a former senior federal government ministerial adviser and lobbyist for various not-for-profit organisations and in my current role, I’m often asked how organisations can get on the front foot with their government relations strategy to engage the government and influence policy and programs. So, as we near the federal election (and with campaigning in full swing) here are some basic guidelines for associations whether business, trade, charity or professional.

Government relations is about ‘building relationships’. This doesn’t mean contacting them once or sending one tweet, it means proactively reaching out and following up. The following will help in your relationship building.

  1. Provide relevant research
    Give ministers and departments examples of facts and figures that relate to their area of work and your industry. Help them understand the industry or community they are developing policy and programs for and just don’t assume they know the same information that you know. The secret to effective long-term communication is ‘knowing’ what level of knowledge your audience has, what further knowledge they need.
  2. Provide updates and briefings
    Start by offering informal and formal briefings on your industry and key issues – perhaps an Issues of Concern Invite ministers, advisors or government officials to relevant events and send them email updates. Be sure to make every update relevant and informative
  3. Organise events
    If you’re holding an event that is designed to engage ministers, consider holding the event in Parliament House during a sitting week. Make it as easy for ministers to attend as possible.
  4. Who’s who
    Find out in government the people who work on matters affecting your industry and make sure you are engaging directly with the people you need to, not simply through an ‘info’ email address. Don’t simply demand information from bureaucrats. Have a conversation and express your appreciation for their time. Like you, they are time driven.
  5. Relationship building
    Building a relationship based on information sharing which will help you when a policy matter that affects your members or industry comes out. Having a relationship means you can pick up the phone and express your concerns to a Minister’s office or government department. Also, send positive notes acknowledging their great work in providing benefit to your industry and members when necessary.
  6. Use external consultants
    Consider engaging a consultant to help you develop and review your strategy when governments or ministers change, or key issues arise. Having a consultant can help you develop a robust strategy and plan that can get you the relationships and results you need. I am happy to refer anyone interested to some very effective consultants.

Article written by: Greg Bondar, NSW State Director, FamilyVoice Australia.

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