Monday, April 09, 2007

Is there a right or wrong time to launch a GR campaign?

Recent discussions I held with a client of mine helped me put this question into perspective. As for many association executives, resources are limited and any effort put forward needs to be assured a reasonable chance of success. As a result, I began thinking of the five criteria an executive should consider as indicators of true opportunities for change in government policy:

1. The most obvious to identify is where a sitting government has established its priorities. For example, what has the most recent budget or Speech from the Throne stated? Listing through the government priorities provides an organization the chance to do some very positive introspection.

2. Where does public opinion stand? When the tories came to power last year, few expected the environment to be as hot a subject as it is now. Their platform addressed the subject but it was clear that they had other priorities. Now that the environment has become a bigger priority for Canadians, government funding initiatives for the environment have taken a much bigger priority. In turn, the issues and concerns of the environmental lobby have also been heeded.

3.Honestly, are your expectations reasonable? Given what you know of your issue and the possible complexities involved, it's important to understand whether your position will fit with the government or carry any weight with complementary stake holders. For example, in an age where subsidies to public advocacy groups are on the decline, is it reasonable to set your benchmarks of success at $1 million of funding when the likelihood of receiving several thousand dollars will be challenging enough?

4. Who currently has the ear of policy makers? This is where the importance of a government relations audit is so crucial. Have opposing pressures or groups made gains ahead of yours, producing a situation wherein they are better positioned to have the ear of parliamentarians, legislators, and bureaucrats? If they have, are there alternative routes your organization can take? If not, when will the next best opportunity come?

5. Timing, timing, timing! Many factors can play into the success of a government relations campaign. Few however, have such a prominent role as timing. Examples of knowing when to launch a campaign include:
-The announcement of a coming commission or consultation process
-In advance of any budget, provincial or federal, committee hearings take place. Make sure to pay attention and participate. In last month's entry, I touched on the how-to's of presenting to committees.
-Opinion polls and media attention. If trends seem to be taking a direction different from the current government's, offering your solution to bridge the gap dramatically increases your chances.

Take these points to heart. They provide a unique opportunity for you to audit your government relations chances. Investing in an audit with an experienced GR consultant can save your organization time, effort and money down the road. Let me know if I can help,

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.actionstrategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

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