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Win, lose or draw on 31 October – make your government relations strategy a winner!

Election season is well and truly underway in Queensland with major parties vying for an inaugural fixed four year term in office. Whilst in times of crisis or uncertainty, voters tend to stick with incumbent administrations, Queenslanders never fail to shake thing up and this time around any result is possible with unprecedent postal and early voting levels predicted.

Despite the ongoing global pandemic, economic recovery is high on the agenda and voters will be looking for policies that drive job creation that will bring some confidence as they try to navigate a post COVID-19 world.

What does this mean for you?

Whether there is a change of government, the current government is returned or a minor party balance of power occurs, there is no doubt that organisations need effective strategic communication with whichever government ultimately comes to power. It is important to be very well prepared and concise when you finally get in front of a key decision maker to ensure that your message cuts through the white noise.

Successful advocacy is about creating a plan that outlines your objectives, strategy, tactics and key messages to guide the conversation with government opinion leaders.

Here are the six foundations of a winning government relations strategy:

  1. Don’t despair if you’ve missed the election window – The pre-election phase is just one period in time when it’s important to communicate with government. While the media may focus on politics and policy in the weeks leading into a poll, it’s the months and even years in the lead up to or after an election which are just as important. Once the dust settles after October 31, 2020, there will be good opportunities to bring new ideas and proposals for policy adjustments to whichever government wins power. Patience and persistence is key.
  2. Research – Know the direction and priorities of the government, identify the appropriate Ministers or government officials who are key decision makers. Do your homework on what has been publicly committed to, specific projects or interests that relate to their portfolio or electorate. Finding a way to align your organisation’s objectives with government priorities helps to get you through the door, builds positive interactions and improves public policy outcomes.
  3. Know what you want to achieve – Don’t approach interactions with government with a long line of grievances or extensive wish list. Being thoughtful and succinct. Proposing opportunities or solutions with tangible outcomes shows intent to work collaboratively and prioritise reasonable outcomes.
  4. Tailor your message – Filter your message to convey key points that are appropriate for the audience. Adapt your message to reflect their needs, issues and priorities. How you would approach a senior public servant is different to how you would interact with a Minister, for example Be consistent in your material and conversations to make sure the right message sticks.
  5. Create advocates – Never underestimate the power of a third party advocate to champion your cause. Use your government relations strategy to build trust, buy-in and identify the mutual incentive to create momentum from government. Identify a Member of Parliament who has a shared interest in your organisation’s objectives, either at a grassroots or portfolio level. Alternatively, find similar organisations or individual advocates with whom to form alliances. This is an effective and strategic way to make your message stronger and accelerate your impact.
  6. Have reasonable expectations about timeframes – Be mindful of the time required to effect change. Building trust, respect and awareness takes time. It is also important to understand the machinery of government, that is the mechanics of how government works including reporting lines, the distinction between the operations of the Ministerial offices and the public service Legislative change takes time. Be patient with the process and keep open lines of communication to the appropriate stakeholders.

Effective government relations builds relationships based on trust, mutual respect, exchange of information and ideas that make a lasting impact. Regardless of how the cards fall on 31October, use the remainder of 2020 to reframe your government communications approach for 2021.