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Connecting with policy makers – five practical tips

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As Covid-19 has swept across the globe, advising and engaging with policy makers is one of the most effective ways for a research body or corporate organisation to get their side of the story heard. For some, this may seem daunting – and for others, downright impossible.

So, where should you begin?

1.    Build relationships
Before bringing an issue to the public’s attention, policy makers must seek evidence from trusted sources. Over time, they’ll build up a bank of contacts which they look to for research and advice – and it’s up to you to ensure you make it on to the list. Recommendations from other industry experts will boost your chances, as well as providing them with concise, relevant research time after time.
Under normal circumstances, a simple handshake and introduction to yourself and your company may be the first stepping stone. However, with Covid-19 forcing us to attend conferences and networking events online, you’ll need to be more proactive than ever before. That’s where choosing the right platform to connect with them comes in.

2.    Decide how to communicate your message
We all use online platforms for a range of purposes, and policy makers are no different. As you get to know those who are working in policy, you’ll begin to get a feel of where they turn to for new information. Perhaps it’s Twitter to keep on top of public opinion, or LinkedIn to connect with like-minded professionals. Take note of this, and bear it mind before you approach them.
Along the same lines, some policy makers are more emotionally driven, whereas others prefer cold, hard statistics. By presenting your data in a way that will not only engage the policy maker but also their intended audience, you’re increasing the likelihood of it being taken on board. What are they motivated by? What language do they use? Again, if they like what they see, then they’ll likely come back for more.

3.    Be transparent
You’ll no doubt be challenged with some difficult questions, but responding in an honest, modest manner is the best way to uphold your reputation. Are you aware of what your weaknesses are – and are you prepared to face criticism for it?
It’s advisable to prepare your key spokespeople for this and have real-life scenarios ready to point to in order to back yourself up. 

4.    Stay on the ball
While your specialist knowledge of a niche area may be an invaluable tool for a policy maker, never lose sight of the bigger picture. You’ll need to be sensitive of timing, ensuring that you’re conscious of the current political landscape and wider social and economic issues. Otherwise, they may dismiss your evidence immediately. 
Keeping an eye out for sudden or upcoming changes is crucial too, as policy makers move on quickly and it’s all too easy to miss a fleeting opportunity. By monitoring official announcements carefully, you’ll be able to spot any inconsistencies, flag them, then provide a solution – and fast.

5.    Define your value
Policy makers are currently more willing to hear companies’ thoughts on how to rebuild business and consumer confidence than ever before – but this is no secret, and you won’t be the only one competing to be heard. 
Consider how your message aligns with the policy maker’s priorities. For example, as Covid-19 has swept across the globe, healthcare and pharmaceutical companies have been a first port of call for government officials. Have you already had several small wins that align with your future goals? Does this demonstrate your value to the future economy?

Right now, the government is willing to think big, and even the most radical solutions aren’t likely to be thrown aside – so seize the opportunity and start making those all-important connections.

Whether you’re searching for public affairs experts or you’re ready to make your mark on the industry, our consultants are ready to help you. Get in touch with our policy team today on or by email at info@murraymcintosh.com for a personal consultation.

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