Government communications in 2021 – Preparing for a political playground
28 January 2021 at 7:00 am
Jo Scard shares some quick and effective tips for engaging and influencing the government in 2021 and showcases how her team at Fifty Acres is taking advantage of the dints 2020 left on politics.
As we all emerge from the many challenges, pitfalls and setbacks of 2020, it is time for the social impact space to properly prepare for the new year. We know that 2021 will see the continued development of our “new normal”, making it necessary for us to find ways to adapt accordingly.
From January’s events alone, 2021 is undeniably going to be a unique year in politics. Last year, as we experienced key shifts in government funding and responsibilities, we also saw major shifts in public thinking. The significance of government engagement was more obvious than ever as COVID-19 catapulted us into out-of-the-box thinking.
Typical government engagement plans were canned, PR strategists were forced to identify immediate opportunities and act on the spot, organisations were required to change their approach and, importantly, we all had to consider the long-term implications of the pandemic.
This dynamic climate isn’t showing any signs of abatement, with the residues of 2020 continuing to bring ongoing political tension. Pair this with a volatile political climate and whispers of a 2021 federal election, and it is crucial to re-think your government engagement model.
How do we influence the people that matter? How do we involve the people that count? And, above all else: how do we adequately and successfully position our purpose to leaders?
1. Build sustainable relationships and keep them
It is not enough to only lobby when you need to – this is not how you get results.
From the get-go, you need to start networking and involving the relevant people in your discourse. Set up frequent meetings, circulate consistent communications, request feedback for future opportunities and find ways to leave a mark that is memorable.
Whether you send out thought-leadership pieces to your networks, deliver infographics and leaflets to the right ministers, or schedule catchups for transparent and authentic discussions, do it well and do it often.
2. Hit with hard facts and support yourself with data
In a pile of organisations just like yours hoping to be seen, you need to ensure that you are relevant, well-researched and even better prepared.
While sending out personalised letters to ministers or broader media alerts to your network, come to the party with clear and concise messaging, data that evokes both an emotional and swift response, polished communication materials and insights that tie in directly to the change you are hoping to influence.
Refined communication materials are particularly important when it comes to leaving a lasting impression on government bodies and ministers. For example, a sophisticated leave-behind flyer or infographic that gets to point shows that you are ready, serious and passionate.
3. Be tactical with your timing
With murmurs of a 2021 election looming, it’s a clever idea to flesh out a government engagement calendar that secures your chance of nailing down a meeting.
Reach out for meetings as early as possible. In the lead up to an election, the ministers and leaders that you are likely wanting to speak to are going to have their hands tied and it can be incredibly difficult to diarise a meeting. The earlier you can get a foot in the door, the better.
Reminder: there is a caretaker period before an election where the government isn’t working so a pre-election commitment is vital.
4. Keep refining and restructuring
If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that we have to be flexible with our engagement strategies and this means that we can’t stop moving.
Particularly in a climate like this, adapting to political events and shifts is key. Keep on top of everything that’s happening – what could be happening internally for our ministers that might diminish the chance of a meeting? When is the best time to shoot your shot?
When the political space is as active as it is, you need to be equally dynamic and vigorous. In 2021, stagnant organisations will be left behind.