10 key steps to designing a lobbying and public affairs strategy

Not everyone has the budget to hire an expensive public affairs consultancy — or the technical insight to analyse the value of their recommendations. Luckily, whether you’re charting out a multi-jurisdiction government relations strategy or a small-scale campaign to influence local policy, the same 10 steps should form a sound foundation.

Step 1: Understand your local environment

Look at the media, track social media and talk to contacts in the industry to understand what’s happening. It’s much better that you know about potential issues before they happen, rather than when it’s too late and a law or bill has already been passed.

Step 2: What’s your story?

If your organisation does need to lobby officials, what is your story and how does it affect you and your stakeholders?

Step 3: Create your key messages

Identify what key messages you need to convey when lobbying officials. Messages should focus around key areas such as:

  • What is right?
  • What is wrong?
  • What are the consequences of the potential actions taken by policy makers?
  • What do you want – what’s your call to action?

Step 4: Develop a stakeholder map

The map should identify which decision-makers you need to lobby, those who are directly impacted by your lobbying initiative and your supporters. Also don’t forget the media, when used correctly they can be a powerful tool to influence stakeholders. What do they think now, and what do you want them to think in the future?

Step 5: Pull together research and background information to bolster lobbying efforts

Accumulate as much third party research or information together as you can. This can include research papers by academics, polls done by independent research companies, case studies showing the impact on every day people or communities, etc.

Step 6: Create lobbying materials

Whenever you meet with an official, you’ll be asked to provide background information on the issue. Do you have this? Is it clear, simple and easy to understand? Remember the people you’ll be lobbying will likely not want the amount of technical detail that you might be used to – even if they sit on a transportation sub-committee, they likely won’t be a transportation specialist.

Step 7: Create a plan of action

Now that you’ve done all of these steps, how are you going to engage with your identified policy makers? Create a lobbying plan that is realistic and possible to achieve. Who will you meet when? What are the messages and information you want to convey? What would you like them to do? What will determine success? Ensure that you’ve got a mechanism built in to follow-up, monitor and track your successes and failures.

Step 8: Look for lobbying opportunities

Meeting and lobbying policy makers is just one option for a lobbying effort. You can also look at other opportunities such as engaging with the media; building awareness over social media; possibly creating a petition, or having a third-party generate one (if relevant); publishing research; speaking at conferences, events, town hall or public meetings; or event create a third-party advocate programme where you have other supporters speak on your behalf. There are plenty of creative opportunities to consider.

Step 9: Implement your lobbying activities

Plenty of organisations spend lots of time creating a lobbying strategy, but aren’t always effective in implementing it. Ensure that those activities you plan actually get implemented and you’ve got a mechanism in place to evaluate if it’s working.

Step 10: Evaluate, measure, review and refine

This says it all – make sure that you are evaluating the success of your initiatives. Are they working? If not, why not? What changes do you need to make to have more success?

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This article draws on the knowledge base from ISOC courses on communication strategy and public affairs.