Effective Government Relations: Five Tips for Success

If you had five minutes today with the Prime Minister or the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, would you know what to say to them to properly position your business? Would you find the right words to have an impact and be memorable? And if you were granted more than five minutes, would you know how to conduct government relations strategically to support your business objectives?

What re effective government relations?

Successful government relations facilitate the exchange of information and ideas between an organization and key decision makers in municipal, provincial and federal governments. They aim to influence and improve public policies. But to be effective, they must not be improvised. A plan outlining your objectives, strategy, tactics and messages is the best tool to guide you. You can either develop it in-house if you have a public affairs team or use a communications firm such as CASACOM to help you.

Here are five tips for a strategic and effective GR plan:

1)     Do the Research

Without knowing the direction and priorities of the government and without identifying the important players, conducting government relations has as much chance of success as throwing a bottle into the sea. Instead, start by doing research on the commitments, policies, strategies, and action plans in the areas that concern your business. Next, identify decision makers and influencers in the government, at both the political and administrative levels, as well as the structures and processes in place.

In short, it is important to understand the political environment in which you navigate in order to be effective. The key to success lies in the right alignment with government objectives and a good approach strategy. For example, if your company is commercializing new clean technology in transportation, it will be important to identify government priorities in transportation, green energy, and climate change, among others.

2)    Set Goals

Before writing a letter or making an appointment for a meeting, set clear and realistic goals in the short, medium and long term. And above all, prioritize. There is no point in arriving with a long wish list or a series of grievances. It will be much more profitable in the long run to act as a partner by proposing thoughtful and concrete solutions that will be beneficial for all.

3)    Adapt Your Message

As with any public communication, the secret of influence and relevance is to put yourself in the shoes of your listener to fully understand their needs, issues, and reality. It is also important to adapt your message to your interlocutor. You will not approach an elected official in the same manner as you approach a civil servant and you will not make the same request, or at least not in the same way.

In many cases, you will first want to present your file to departmental officials and the minister’s political advisor before presenting it to the minister.

4)   Create Alliances

People will pay more attention to our project or solution if you manage to rally other players to your cause. If you are a solar panel company and you want to make the government aware of the importance of supporting the development of new renewable energies through tax incentives, for example, you could partner with other solar panel manufacturers or with wind turbine manufacturers – the message will only be stronger.

You could also identify a Member of Parliament (MP) who will bring the message to his caucus and the government. Again, you will have to do your homework to identify the local MP, who will be interested in your case.

5)    Be Patient

Effective government relations have nothing to do with influence peddling or partisanship. On the contrary, relations are the key word. GR is all about building relationships based on trust and mutual respect and finding solutions together to move public policy forward.

Lobbying is a perfectly legitimate activity in a democratic society, conducted not only by companies with business interests, but also by community organizations and environmental groups.

However, lobbying must be practiced in an open and transparent fashion.  If part of your paid work involves influencing an elected official or a decision maker in a government, you must register on the appropriate Registry of Lobbyists:  in Quebec (lobby.gouv.qc.ca) or Canada (lobbycanada. qc.ca).

Do not hesitate to contact us, should you need guidance or counsel   to navigate the world of   government relations.

Gabrielle Collu About the author
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