Blog Archives

The Story You Sell To Government

story_timeWhen you are asking something of Government – a decision, a non-decision, a policy change, that your bid win a tender process, whatever it might be – there’s a right way and a wrong way to ask it.  Earlier articles identified the things you need to say, how to say them, and the things you need to avoid saying.

All of those considerations needs to be packaged up into a neat, concise, persuasive Narrative.  Once you’ve got your Narrative, every single thing you say and do needs to be directed at persuading Government to accept the truth and necessity of your Narrative.  Nothing should stray from or undermine the Narrative.

Many, passionate fanatics in support of their own proposition to Government, find it really hard to understand how to develop a short and focussed Narrative, but when you’re communicating with Government, you have a very small opportunity to get your message across, so you can’t spend time on the things that make your heart burst with pride – unless you already know those things do the same for Government.

In this circumstance, a Narrative:

  • is never off the cuff – must be thoroughly prepared;
  • must be structured like a story;
  • encapsulates and summarises the main facts around the issue;
  • encapsulates and summarises your proposal;
  • persuades the audience your idea is the best solution to a pressing problem;
  • rebuts major alternatives by making clear their inferiority;
  • is focussed entirely on the audience’s needs and motivations, not yours;
  • resonates with the audience – usually emotionally;
  • contains an unambiguous and feasible request; and
  • is short – as short as is possible while meeting all of these criteria – you might have only 2 minutes or 250 words, to make your case – our target is usually six or seven two-line sentences*.

Try to write it so you can leave behind a copy of your Narrative when you meet a Government representative – it saves them taking notes, makes you look organised and competent, and reduces the chance of misunderstanding.

You can’t deliver all of that off the cuff; nor can you deliver it if you are clumsy with words, or can’t set aside your passions when drafting or speaking, or if you are mistaken about what motivates your audience.  You may need help.

 

* OK, we’re often enough off-target here, but never by more than 50%

 

How to Lobby – Part 1

medlyNeed something from Government?

Over the past year we’ve posted a series of articles about, inter alia, how lobbying works.  Here’s a compilation of the How To Lobby articles so far*, broken up into rough topics.

Why

Why Lobby? http://wp.me/p4xOhB-r

“Why Lobby?” Encore http://wp.me/p4xOhB-A

Who Does It

Who’s a Lobbyist? http://wp.me/p4xOhB-N

Who’s Your Best Lobbyist? http://wp.me/p4xOhB-23

Reality Bites

Lobbying: The Dirty Truth https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/lobbying-the-dirty-truth/

Myths & Legends of Lobbying https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/10/16/myths-lobbying/

Dogbert Does Lobbying

Regulating Lobbyists: Hardly https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/10/22/regulating-lobbyists-hardly/

Australian Lobbying: Credibility Fail https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2015/03/10/australian-lobbying-credibility-fail/

Strategy

Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There! https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/dont-just-do-something/

Strategy & Delusion https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/strategy-delusion/

DON’T Increase Awareness https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/dont-increase-awareness/

The Basics

Lobbying: 6 Things to Know https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/6-lobbying-things/

Lobbyists Do WHAT? https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/lobbyists-do-what/

Lobbying is Marketing https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/lobbying-is-marketing/

Targeting

“Get Me The Premier!” https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/11/12/get-me-the-premier/

Who’s the Decision-Maker? https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/10/02/who-decision-maker/

Understanding Policy Processes

Mysterious & Mysteriouser https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/mysterious-mysteriouser/

“So When WILL They Decide???” https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/when-will-they-decide/

From Althaus, Bridgman and Davis

From Althaus, Bridgman and Davis

How’s Your Rat King? https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/11/27/rat-king/

The Uber-Rat-King https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/the-uber-rat-king/

What IS A “Policy Instrument,” Anyway? https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/what-is-policy-instrument/

Sax vs. Cymbals https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2015/01/28/sax-vs-cymbals/

Getting Ready

Lobbying Labor’s Queensland Government: How? https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2015/02/17/lobbying-labors-queensland-government-how/

The Meeting

How to Get That Meeting https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/how-to-get-that-meeting/

When you meet the Minister … https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/when-you-meet-the-minister/

What To Ask For

Persuading Government: What You Say https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2015/05/13/persuading-government-what-you-say/

What Makes A Policy Good? https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/policy-good/

agressive-manHow To Ask For It

Connecting with Decision-Makers https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/connect-decision-makers/

Motivating & Persuading https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/motivating-persuading/

Persuading Government: How To Say It https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2015/05/20/persuading-government-how-to-say-it/

Specialties

Crisis Management 101 https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/crisis-management-101/

 

What other topics would you like to see covered?

 

* There will be more!

 

What Makes A Policy Good?

good_sml“And what is good, Phaedrus,
And what is not good—
Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?”*

If you roll up not-good policy to Government, there’s every chance they will tell you so: your time and theirs will have been wasted.

You need to know how to ensure what you construct to take to Government is good policy, but “good” is often in the eye of the beholder, and Governments of different styles (e.g. authoritarian/bullying, consultative, conservative, reforming, neo-liberal, or socialist) will see the same policy proposal through quite different prisms.  So too will individual decision-makers who are unable or unwilling to consider policy proposals dispassionately and objectively, and who bring their particular passions to bear upon whatever is before them.

So, you need to know with whom you are speaking, in order to craft a proposal they will see as good:

  • What are their politics, objectives, and priorities?
  • What are those of the Party and of the Government they serve?
  • How do you cast or modify your proposal in a way servicing those layers of priorities, politics, and objectives?

For example, if your proposal needs to pass through a Treasury Department, where the official religion is usually “Market Mechanisms Rule, OK?” your proposal will attract suspicion and opposition as a matter of course, if it interferes with a free market or market-based pricing mechanism.  Benefits will be seen as, at best, secondary.

The text books tell us there are objective criteria any policy must satisfy, if it is to be considered good; for example, it must be all of these:

  • Effective and efficient: so scarce resources aren’t wasted;
  • Equitable: remedying social injustice, providing a “fair go”;
  • Comprehensible: avoiding uncertainty, misapplication, compliance failure, evasion, avoidance;
  • Accessible: avoiding inbuilt exclusions caused by false assumptions;
  • Practicable: avoiding policies made just for show; and
  • Stable: so the outcomes endure and frequent changes aren’t required – this might include consideration of community popularity and/or political sustainability (e.g., would the next Government reverse the policy?).

The Policy Analysis chapter** of The Australian Policy Handbook*** by Althaus, Bridgman, and Davis will give you a good understanding of what lies behind each of those terms.

Original uncaptioned photo: The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice (RobertHannah89)

Original uncaptioned photo: The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice (RobertHannah89)

However, in dealing with ideologically driven Governments of a neo-liberal bent, then you will find they treat some of those principles as subordinate to some or all of these principles**** below:

  • Custom and practice: don’t lightly change what has gone before;
  • Precaution: identifying thoroughly the true long-term impacts;
  • Choice and freedom: don’t impose stagnation and uniformity unnecessarily;
  • Personal responsibility and mutual obligation: ensuring individuals take responsibility for their own choices;
  • Small Government and lower Government expenditure: the smaller the Government the greater the freedom of citizens, and you are entitled to the full fruits of your labour;
  • Competition, market-based mechanisms and contestability: competition and free markets deliver efficiency, quality and lowest cost; and
  • Mainstreaming: avoiding ongoing disadvantage by eliminating stigma and policy ghettos.

On the other side of the political fence in Australia, a leftish or centre-left Government tends to regard those text-book criteria above, together with consistency with their own policy manifesto, as the starting point for assessing policy quality.  Governments closer to the centre will demonstrate affection for some of those neo-liberal policy principles listed above, while retaining a commitment to the text-book criteria.  Individual members of centre and centre-left Governments might regard the impact on such things as, for example

  • community empowerment,
  • income redistribution,
  • social safety net,
  • jobs and working conditions,
  • infrastructure investment, and
  • environmental sustainability,

as additional key tests for the quality of policy.

But don’t be fooled by these apparent ideological categories and constraints: you have to do the research so that know your audience, because, to cite two examples, some centre-left politicians are concerned to ensure personal responsibility and mutual obligation, while some on the right have a commitment to community empowerment.

 

 

* No, not Phaedrus by Plato, but Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
** If we could find our copy (long story) we would provide the Chapter number.  Sorry about that.  I know you’ll forgive.
*** It’s pretty easy to get as it is the prescribed text for several courses at www.uq.edu.au and www.qut.edu.au, and across Australia
**** These words aren’t necessarily our words!

 

 

Strategy Needs Strategy

strategy-palette

From “Your Strategy Needs a Strategy”

There’s a new book coming out in June, called Your Strategy Needs a Strategy: How to Choose and Execute the Right Approach.  In anticipation, one of the authors has been laying out some of the book’s core propositions in a series of LinkedIn articles.

At the heart of what they are saying is the perfectly logical proposition that different business environments should drive you to different strategic approaches.  They identify five kinds of business environment and the related strategic response:

The Environment / The Future Strategic Response
I can predict it, but I can’t change it Classical
I can’t predict it, and I can’t change it Adaptive
I can predict it, and I can change it Visionary
I can’t predict it, but I can change it Shaping
My resources are severely constrained Renewal

Articles summarising the book so far:

Martin Reeves seems to be posting a new update each week – stay tuned.

It looks like a must-buy for those who offer strategy advice, and strategy development services.

 

Lobbyists Do WHAT?

burke grill chargedMany misunderstand what lobbyists do, and it suits some practitioners to keep it mysterious.

Here’s a list of some of the sort of things lobbying/Government relations consultants* do for clients.

  • Government relations – devising, supervising and/or implementing client profile-building inside Government;
  • Stakeholder relations – similarly, with non-Government stakeholders;
  • Strategy – advising clients on the most effective and likely way to achieve their objectives;
  • Tactics – advising clients how best to respond to events;
  • Communications planning – devising, supervising and/or implementing client communications into Government and the broader community;
  • Message delivery advice – advising clients how best to get their information and messages through to their audience;
  • Lobbying/advocacy – directly conveying client representations to public sector influencers;
  • Research – researching issues, their background, perceptions within Government, processes within Government, and so on; in particular, identifying possible barriers to success;
  • Stakeholder mapping – a specialised kind of research, identifying and categorising stakeholders;
  • Analyse – taking the results of research, and simplifying, summarising, clarifying and organising that material;
  • Synthesising – taking research and analysis from multiple sources or perspectives;
  • Recommending – using analysis to propose strategy, tactics or activities;
  • Open doors – using your contacts and networks to ensure client issues get in front of the right people;
  • Negotiation – directly liaising with public sector influencers to reach agreement on issues;
  • Presentation – directly conveying client information to public sector influencers;
  • Briefing – bringing stakeholders and/or client staff up to speed on issues;
  • Marketing – persuading people in Government to “buy” client credibility or proposals;
  • Public relations – devising, supervising and/or implementing communications programs about your client, in the broader community; and
  • Consulting/reporting – engaging with clients to make sure they are happy with what you’re up to, and getting their take on changes.

burke-grillNot every lobbyist/Government relations consultant does everything on that list, and in fact most do only some of them.

Have I missed anything?

 

*     I’m using the terms “lobbyist” and “Government relations consultant” somewhat interchangeably – in part, that’s because most lobbyists spend most of their time doing things other than lobbying, as you can see from the list above.

 

Lobbying Labor’s Queensland Government: How?

migraineFirst, don’t just do something, sit there – take a little time to research and plan your approach.

Know who they are, not who the Courier Mail says they are; the current Labor Ministry are not the same as the Beattie or Bligh Ministries, and very different from the Newman Ministry.  Many Ministers are new to Parliament, and most have had no Ministerial experience; although more of the Palaszczuk Ministry have past Ministerial experience than the fresh 2012 Liberal National Party in 2012, fewer have substantial Parliamentary experience.

Check their (brief) biographies here.  Deeper knowledge is better e.g. does the Minister have a past policy interest in this area?  Past experience?  What are their internal Party alliances and networks? Have they made a speech on the topic?  A media release, or blog or Facebook post?  There’s rarely value, in asking for something that’s already been rejected – you’ll need to modify your proposal.

Know what Labor have said and done previously about your issue: what did the Beattie and Bligh Governments say or do?  Did Labor release a policy impacting your issue, during the campaign?  Is it referenced in the Party’s new Platform?  What does the Premier think about the issue?  Other Ministers?

Understand who is responsible for what: there’s been a significant Ministerial restructure and portfolios aren’t structured the way they used to be.  Is the issue more appropriately handled by a Parliamentary Secretary rather than a Minister?  Here’s the list of the new administrative arrangements.

democracy_not_for_saleLabor has a different approach to transparency than had the previous Government: some of their intentions are highlighted in their “Our Democracy Not For Sale” policy, here, and some are outlined in this news report relating to the “Fitzgerald Principles”.

Appreciate that there is always lengthy and unexpected dislocation (hence delays) upon the accession of a new Government, even a re-elected Government, and Ministers won’t have a full complement of staff for weeks, so will struggle to deal with things quickly, initially.  As of 17 February, not all of them have appointed Chiefs of Staff.

Start early: the standard turnaround time for a reply to a Ministerial letter is four weeks, and complex issues can take longer.

Understand that some public servants and Ministers can be hard to find directly: the Newman Government took down the most useful website in the Queensland public sector – the directory of senior and executive staff – because they didn’t want the public going directly to anyone in the middle ranks of the public sector.

Understand that the person you need to speak with may well not be a Minister or a Ministerial advisor – it may be a public servant.  The public servants are still there and their continuity in their roles can speed things up.  Going unnecessarily to a Minister can slow things way down.

meetingOnce you’ve sorted all of that out, you need to work out how to persuade them most effectively: how to get the message to them, and the right message – remembering that the things that persuade you aren’t the things that persuade them!

And, there’s so much more – these are just a few, quick, initial tips.

 

Crisis Management 101

From Wikimedia Commons

From Wikimedia Commons

Here’s a downloadable basic primer on crisis management, for you – Happy New-ish Year!

In 2011 Mike Smith gave a presentation on political crisis management to The Art of Political Campaigning Conference* organised by Campaigns & Elections Magazine in Washington DC.

The presentation has been tidied it up and reformatted, and it now might be useful as a very basic crisis management tutorial, with obvious US, and election, taints!

It includes a number of crisis management failure case studies, some of which make depressing reading.

You can download it here – if you use it anywhere, please attribute!

 

* This is an annual conference – Mike presents most years, on such topics as crisis management, campaign organisation, strategy development, etc.