Sunday, August 13, 2006

Solid Research Builds Success in Government Relations

Background research really is the foundation in lobbying success. However, before beginning any campaign, the savvy lobbyist puts their efforts behind solid research.

Some of the most common themes I include in environmental scans prior to beginning a government relations campaign include:

Section 1: Current Substantive Goals
Although your organization may have formulated and ratified its goals explicitly, restating them briefly in priority order is important because they constitute the audit's base. It is very important that any misunderstandings or differences of opinion about the goals be brought out. "Substantive" refers to tangible action - specific behaviors - that are sought.

Section 2: Target Publics And Desired Behavior
Elicitation of specific behavior is the key behind any government relations’ strategy. Rigorously defined and listed in priority order, those groups of policy influencers who can help the organization achieve its substantive goals, and the precise actions that the organization wants these people - both internal and external - to take (or to NOT take).

Section 3: Attitudes/Opinions/Beliefs of Target Publics
This section reviews what is currently known of an organization and what is currently being undertaken in the policy arena of interest. It is likely that available information will be insufficient, and the good amount of work in research by interview will be required.

Section 4: Messages To Be Conveyed To Target Publics
This section discusses the organization's present and prospective government relations’ messages for its ability to produce an effect, and its acceptability by the target publics. It also identifies which targets in government apparatus are most open to a given message.

Section 5: Overall policy environment review and other notices
This section identifies the coming trends to watch. It may also go into the specific pieces of legislation, private members’ bills, and various departments that are on the leading edge of the issue at hand.

Section 6: Measuring And Reporting Results
This section recommends any baseline research deemed important, so that an organization can measure the results of any coming government relations’ efforts. Recommend ways to report both the results and the measurements to its management and leadership.

Section 7: Budget
This section estimates the costs of the programs discussed in the preceeding sections, and compares them to the organization's present and prospective government relations’ budgets. If necessary, it suggests ways in which the two can be reconciled.

Section 8: Staffing and Other Implementation (optional)
This section recommends possible avenues of implementing the plans discussed in the previous sections - including the existing arrangement, possible staff additions, reliance on out-sources, and working relationships between any proposed communications staff and the rest of the organization.

Depending on the needs of a given campaign, this study can be shorter or even include other items. So the question remains; where are you positioned? Let me know your opinions by leaving your comments here. Do you think this plan serves the basis for good government relations?


Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting www.action-strategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

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