TOSCA: 5 simple lobbying tips

Some simple steps to help you plan your next lobbying campaign.

T: Target the MPs who have shown an interest or have a responsibility over the issue you’re interested in promoting.

O: Be clear about what you are trying to achieve – what are your objectives? Have a clear outcome in mind.

S: Identify your strategy and the key milestones.

C: Ask yourself how this will play to the MP’s constituents or responsibilities.

A: Be clear about your ask.

What’s your opinion? Which tip grabs your attention most? Please do leave a comment.

Useful stuff

“Lobbying is the practice of individuals and organisations trying to influence the opinions of MPs and Lords. Methods of lobbying vary and can range from sending letters, making presentations, providing briefing material to Members and organised rallies”. (click here for more information).

End note

A little light relief from TOSCA before you get started.

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MP magic: 3 reasons why your MP letter might not be working for you

Have you ever contacted your local MP and wondered why you never got a formal reply? It might be worth checking that you didn’t accidentally make one of the three simple mistakes listed below. They’re very easy to make – especially if you’re in a rush or a rage; and the world of public affairs is notoriously difficult to navigate, if you’re new to it.

1: Have you sent your request in the right way, to the right person and to the right address? A good place to start if you’re looking for an MP is the www.parliament.uk/website. If you put in your home postcode, then your constituency and MPs details will come up. The best way of contacting your local MP is by letter (almost always the House of Commons rather than the constituency address). If you need some help, you can always call the House of Commons Information Office on 020 7219 4272.

2: Have you double-checked that the MP can do what you’re asking him/her to do? An MP (without ministerial responsibilities) can do various things to help you move your issue forward:

Private actions

  • Write a letter to the relevant department or official
  • Write to the Minister involved
  • Have a meeting with the right Minister

Public – parlimentary actions

  • ask an oral question at Question Time
  • put forward an early day motion
  • ask to lead a debate in the House of Commons
  • raise an issue in the Adjournment debate
  • put forward a Private Members Bill

If you’ve contacted an MP with ministerial responsibilities (eg parliamentary private secretaries or Secretary of States) s/he can’t question Government policy through Parliament (eg ask questions). Opposition spokespeople may also be restricted by internal party rules.

3: Is parliament in recess? This could be slowing the response time. Parliament doesn’t sit all year round. During recess, MPs can carry out their other duties. The recess calendar is not set in stone – it changes; and it’s normally slightly different for the two Houses (Commons/Lords). Again the parliament.uk website details recess dates.

Please do add a comment. I’d be interested to hear if other people have come across simple, practical reasons as to why their MP letters didn’t get a formal response.

“It’s not just about money”

Charities can get a lot out of going to local, face-to-face (F2F) business networking events; and yet – it seems to me – that very few do so on a regular basis.

Let’s look at the benefits:

  • Raising awareness of what your charity does.
  • Building a stronger profile in your local community.
  • Promoting your brand to people who are interested to know more.
  • Expanding your volunteer base so that your charity can keep running its services.
  • Increasing fund-raising, sales leads.

Some advice for budding charity business networkers*

  • Don’t think about it as just money – sponsorship means more than money.
  • Ask for practical support: volunteer marshalls on a sponsored walk eg
  • Believe that people want an opportunity to get to know the charity well (what it does, who and how it helps people).
  • View it as a chance to build lasting, sustainable relationships – not just a one-off event.
  • Go with some specific stories up your sleeve about how businesses can benefit by working with you eg how it has helped in team building.

And a few tips from me:

  • Be open, optimistic and supportive: How can you help the person you’re talking to? Building relationships takes time. Perhaps there’s an issue that you can resolve together?
  • Set your objectives. What do you want to achieve? Be as specific, measurable and realistic as possible eg share 3 human stories (some people call them case studies) about the benefit of your services/products? give out 6 business cards; ask 5 people to visit your website?
  • Be prepared: Have the answers to the following questions along with a stash of business cards: what you do; who you work with, what service and products your charity offers, and how it helps people.

 Finally, two actions to set the ball rolling: 

  • Choose your event. Find out what F2F business networking events are happening in your local area. Some like Business Biscotti and First Friday – in my local area of Reading, Berkshire – are free. Others charge. Be careful.
  • Double-check when they’re on: normally early mornings or late afternoons. Timings can be a barrier for some – but this shouldn’t put you off – it’s worth it!

I’d love to hear from any charities about the things that have worked for you n F2F business networking. Please do write a comment.

* Thanks to Jacqui Dunne of Business Biscotti and Juliette Smith of the Athena Network for their expert advice.

What’s in an elevator pitch?

Professional blog

People sometimes ask me what an elevator pitch is. My understanding is that it’s a way of letting people know what you can do for them in about 30 seconds – the time you’d have if you were sharing an elevator/lift with them.

My experience in public affairs is that you’re lucky if you have 30 seconds with – say – a key business leader at a public event to exchange ideas about how you could work together.

So, here’s the challenge:  you’re in a lift with Lord Alan Sugar, you introduce your business/organisation, he doesn’t know about it, and you have  just 15 seconds left to talk to just three of the five  key elevator pitch points – which three would you pick?

  • Who you work with
  • What the problem is you’re helping to solve
  • What service and products you offer
  • What difference you’re making
  • What the benefits are

I don’t think there’s a right answer to this  -but I’d really like to hear your thoughts.

Visual story telling/creating a miracle

Some claim that you can raise your organisation’s profile by building a visual story with some emotional punch to it.

They say that visual stories work because they grab your attention (especially if the story’s original, simple and shows the impact on one person’s life); and engage you (by getting you emotionally involved in their cause).

The visual story technique was used by a team of students from Centre for Social Innovation at the Stanford Graduate School of Business to promote Embrace, a sustainable social enterprise that helps save small babies from hypothermia by giving them high-spec, portable sleeping blankets. Or as the visual story puts it: “Created a miracle to keep small babies warm.”

I’d be glad to know if the video of Ananya’s story engages you; and why it did or didn’t?