5 tips for... communicating to policy makers

You closely follow policy discussions that affect your industry and your business. You draft position papers, back up your arguments with data, and meet decision-makers to argue your case. Time for a break?

Not quite. You will be competing with countless other interest groups for the attention of policy makers. So how can you maximise the chances of your message being seen by the right people at the right time? 

(Image: Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash)

1 Build long-term relationships
Understanding the policy makers you want to influence is important, and it takes more than an Excel file of cabinet members’ contact details. Do you have a clear idea about their agenda and priorities? What is their desired outcome for this particular policy file? How can your organisation’s proposal help achieve their goals? Answers to these questions come from close relationships with these people, which you should start cultivating long before you need to send them a position paper. Once you have that knowledge, make sure you explain clearly how your organisation’s proposal can help your stakeholders’ goals in whatever communication material you produce.

2 Hook into an important social or economic issue
There are usually guaranteed issues high on the agenda of decisions makers in any given community – job creation, attracting investments, improving public health, reducing costs etc. Think about how to link your campaign’s messages to one of these political priorities, and explain how your organisation can contribute to solving these problems.

3 Tighten up your writing 
Select a maximum of three key messages to describe your cause and call to action. Avoid jargon and avoid commonly used words that mean nothing. Have an elevator pitch at hand for calls and meetings: summarise your call to action in a short paragraph using plain language and link it to the cause that resonates with your decision makers.

4 Explore various formats 
With decision makers receiving hundreds of position papers and official statements every day, use creative formats to stand out from the crowd, e.g. images, videos, infographics. While you probably can’t submit an image or video during a public consultation or enquiry, these formats are ideal for social media, email campaigns, billboards etc. Just know where your stakeholders are and what channels they use to select the right delivery vehicle for your messages.  

5 Find the right time
Knowing your window of opportunity is just as important as crafting a good message. Make sure you know precisely when important decisions are taken, political parties’ positions are agreed upon and legislative proposals are finalised and focus your message dissemination efforts on the four to six weeks preceding your key milestones. .

Maria Linkova-Nijs

Maria Linkova-Nijs is communications manager at Cefic, the European Chemical Industry Council representing the interests of EU chemical manufacturers before the EU institutions. Maria started her career as a broadcast journalist and then moved to the consultancy world. She has worked for six years in various public affairs and communication agencies in Brussels, advising international organisations and private companies on media relations, stakeholder engagement strategies and public policy positioning in Brussels.