Friday, December 11, 2009

How Association Executives can Maintain and Track Networks of Contacts for better Lobbying

As 2009 comes to an end and Parliament prepares to recess, it's time to take stalk of your network of contacts and process for monitoring the legislative and regulatory process. There are 312 Members of Parliament in Ottawa and 105 Senators. With anywhere from 10 to 20 different committees meeting each day referring through hundreds of testimonials and background materials, even the most seasoned association public affairs professionals can find themselves encountering challenges. Add on the need for media monitoring to put a contextual and political analysis of affairs and the process becomes all the more challenging.

At Action Strategies, we have been able to maintain a consistent level of contacts through a number of techniques that include:

Attendance at political fundraisers: also a social opportunity, political fundraisers can be a great opportunity to not only demonstrate one's tacit support for a politician, it also positions my clients in a favourable light when we respectfully disagree on a point of order or want something changed. Also, if you are so inclined, volunteering in political parties can also help your cause.

By mixing our public relations activities with our government relations services, we multiply our contact base: It amazes me each day that as we serve our association and non-profit clients in their social media, public relations and marketing communications needs, inevitably we we often find ourselves undertaking initiatives or attending networking events that put us in contact with other professionals who share their contacts with us. Also interesting is that in many instances, legislators themselves often take part in these events offering an opportunity to relay my clients concerns onto them in a social atmosphere.

Find Other Opportunities to Maintain Contacts – Local organizations often have their Senators and Members of Parliament speak at luncheons and other gatherings. Many MPs also frequently schedule “Town Hall Meetings” where any area citizens can talk with them. Look for such events in your area and go, or have someone from your company attend, and talk with the Member, mentioning your company. Send a follow-up letter to them after any personal discussion. Also, send them a letter at least several times a year commending them for some position they have taken, even if it does not relate specifically to your business. Members need to know that you are paying attention to what they are doing and that you care.

Maintaining and monitoring legislative and political digests - To be an effective practitioner, you really do need to have a grasp on a number of different subscriptions, publications, and media sources to monitor committee meetings, upcoming legislation, and who said what. Keeping on top of this information can be a challenge but it also provides us the chance to identify up-and-comers.

By implementing these strategies and maintaining my contacts from the time of when I worked as a Legislative Assistant to Jason Kenney, MP, I have been able to open doors in many corners of government.

Finally, I cannot stress enough the value of putting in place a system of monitoring the progress of legislation and identifying the possibilities of regulations that can come about regularly. Each year, hundreds if not thousands, of regulations and bills go through the system. While many associations stay on top of the issues of importance to their membership, it can be a tall order to fill expecting them to know of every possible politician's quote affecting their issue, Private Member's/Senator's Bill, upcoming committee hearing date, or regulation. For this reason, I believe the value of engaging legislative monitoring into your advocacy efforts cannot be overlooked.

Addressing this point, Action Strategies has launched it's newest GR service: Legislative Monitoring. Are you on top of everything occurring on Parliament Hill and in the Provincial capitals? What have been your experiences in developing networks of contacts in the legislative system?

Mark Buzan is Principal of Action Strategies, a GR Consultancy for non-profits. If you have questions on how you feel your organization could benefit from legislative monitoring services or even undertaking a grassroots advocacy initiative. Subscribe now to his Lobbying tips newsletter at www.actionstrategies.ca

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