1. Elected and agency officials only work for you if you put them to work.
Government and its policies, at every level, impact virtually every enterprise: health care, education, workforce development, banking, and the green economy, among many. Being unaware of or unengaged in the political process results in substantial missed opportunities for both you and the policy maker.
2. A handshake still rules.
Despite the rise of social media and e-mail, no electronic form of communication comes close to the power of a face-to-face meeting with an elected or agency official.
3. Take the long view.
Government affairs is a repeat business based on existing relationships. New programs, funding, and business opportunities are created all the time. Your goal is to be “top of mind” when this happens.
4. Before you tell them what’s wrong, tell them what’s right.
Always start a meeting by reviewing your company’s:
– History of working with the official’s constituents or client base,
– Overview of current projects or proposals, – Focus, – Size (your budget, staff, and subcontractors),
– And relationships in the elected official’s district.
5. It’s not the more the merrier!
Craft your meetings with elected officials around one or two specific, attainable, and compelling goals. Don’t make a shopping list!
6. Your credit-worthiness is being judged.
Elected officials, like your loan officer, judge your credit (also known as political capital). The key to building political capital is to:
– Show off your company’s specific accomplishments; – Provide proof that what you’re saying is true (facts, statistics, etc.);
– And highlight your community connections.
7. Be honest.
Be prepared to answer any and all questions about your topic, or bring someone with you who can. If you don’t know the answer to a question asked by an elected or agency official, say you don’t know and offer to follow up with staff.
8. Be considerate.
Answer questions simply and clearly; do not go on ad nauseam.
Treat staff person(s) with respect and courtesy. Show up five minutes early but expect to wait.
9. Don’t be shy.
Did the elected/agency official use an acronym you don’t know? Ask. Do you have questions about how a particular program works? Ask. She will be more than happy to answer.
10. In the end, Mom was right.
A timely, genuine, and specific thank-you letter should follow any meeting with an elected/agency official. Address the letter to the official, but send it, electronically and in hard copy, to the staff who attended the meeting.