Effective public affairs networking makes delivering for clients and colleagues just that much easier. Improving your ability as a networker might just be the single most important thing you can do to increase your effectiveness as a lobbyist.
You know the difference between a debate on a substantive motion and an end of day adjournment?
You know how to craft a submission that leaves the Select Committee in no doubt about who really knows their stuff in your area?
Even better. None of that will matter if you can’t persuade someone to take positive action for your client or organisation at just the right time.
So how do you take practical steps to build a network that will deliver for you?
Public Affairs Networking Checklist
Take the time to think through the goals you are trying to achieve with your public affairs networking. Then target the right individuals.
Are you looking to build contacts for a move into an in-house role in healthcare? Or are you looking to improve your ability to influence the energy policy which finds its way into Labour’s manifesto?
The more specific you can be about your goals, the easier it will be to identify who the relevant decision-makers are, and the more effective your public affairs networking will be.
Growing a genuinely mutually beneficial relationship with someone is a big investment of time and emotional resources, so think things through first and you won’t waste energy.
Prepare the Pitch
Write a thirty-second elevator pitch about you and your employer which can be easily modified depending on the audience. The pitch should subtly but firmly establish you and your employer’s authority in the relevant field, make it clear what value you can bring to the listener, and point toward potential future action together.
If you can’t think what that future action could be, either:
a) You are speaking to the wrong person or
b) you haven’t thought through your networking goals clearly enough.
How do you choose a pitch that will do all those things? Pick a story about your employer’s achievements that has people at its heart and make it clear that you understand your audience by referencing the detail of the problem you are going to fix for them.
Most importantly, keep it simple – make one big, effective argument not lots of unconnected smaller ones.
It’s Not About You, it’s About Them
While it is important to have a concise and compelling way of introducing and selling yourself and your employer, be sure to give before expecting anything in return.
The principle of reciprocity, of exchange for mutual benefit, is hard-wired into human behaviour.
It’s part of the reason large sums of money have been spent by marketing teams all over the world on ‘gifts’ given to the customer. It’s also why women often refuse to let men buy them drinks.
So be interested in the person you are trying to connect with: listen, ask questions, and decide how you can help them achieve their goals. You may not be able to do anything to help the person you are trying to connect with immediately, but building a strong relationship almost always takes time.
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