Why and How to Engage With Government as Early as Possible
I have had the honour of working on government relations with national and provincial associations for over 30 years. One of the biggest things that I’ve noticed over the past decades is that most associations operate on a shoestring budget. This means that association executives and staff are constantly working hard with limited resources to meet the demands of their members. Through networking, training, communications and all the other services that associations provide, sometimes advocacy can easily take a backseat.
Associations and Advocacy
Funny enough, most associations were first founded on an advocacy basis. Those in various industries came together to create one voice that they could deliver to the government. Since then, associations have grown to offer widespread services that didn’t use to exist, but the need for advocacy remains constant. The old saying, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu” holds true. Associations need to constantly work for attention and awareness, especially with government officials. For example, elected officials deal with hundreds of issues a week. If you’re not engaging early and often with them, the industry you represent is at risk of being forgotten in the policy development process.
Ways to Engage With Government Officials
As you may already know, there are dozens of ways to engage effectively with elected officials.
The oldest, and likely still the most effective, is through a meeting. Meeting with government officials on a regular basis is important. This ensures that your messages are being delivered and your sector is not being forgotten.
Newer methods, such as social media, are also necessary nowadays. Officials spend hundreds of hours a year scrolling through Twitter or Instagram. It’s important that they see you active on those platforms and others.
Lastly, you need to actively involve your members in your advocacy activities. You can do this either through regular lobby days or tours in the constituency.
By following these advocacy activities, as well as many others, you can ensure that you are positioning your association and the sector that you represent for success. Governments will always be creating new policies and programs. It’s important that associations are at the table to ensure they create positive benefits for all Canadians.
Don’t miss Huw’s session at CSAE 2022: REUNITE in Halifax this October. He dives deeper into the various actions that you can take to ensure that you’re acting as the voice of your industry.