Quick Public Affairs Tip: If you want to open doors, tailor your approach to your target audience and their needs
I’ve always promoted the importance of a rounded secondary school experience. Something that enables people to create the lives they want whether it’s to do with banking or organic food farming. So I was chuffed to receive a commission to develop a strategy on how the local voluntary sector could engage more effectively with secondary schools.
It was a bit of an eye-opener. I’ve opened a lot of doors in my time – universities, trade unions, think tanks, government departments and ministerial offices – but this was a little different. Tougher. After the first couple of hiccups I’d managed to collect some crucial dos and don’ts to making that initial contact.
- Make sure you have a contact name within the school when you phone reception. Using a person’s name is always a good way to build trust. If you don’t have a contact name, then you could try business and enterprise; deputy heads, subject heads, pastoral heads or PSHE heads, inclusion unit managers, SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator), welfare and pastoral leads.
- If you can find someone with a bit of influence in the school to introduce you to the “right” person – perhaps a governor or a member of staff in the school – that would be great. Or perhaps you know someone who used to go to that school who can help introduce you to someone.
- Time it right. September’s a good time to approach schools. Avoid post-April.
- Frame the messages in the offer around their needs, what the school wants and how the project will benefit their students. Be clear about where you’re pitching (year, subject, theme); how it’s value for money; and how you intend to measure success.
- Be super-nice.
- Cold call schools.
- E-mail/mail bomb schools.
- Phone up during school hours expecting to talk to a teacher.
- Contact the head teachers as they’re always very busy. Their PAs can be very helpful people. They know the school and can help you find the right person.
- Antagonise the school receptionists.
Hope you found this helpful. I’ll be continuing this school series with what to do in steps 2 and 3 (building trust and creating strong sustainable relationships).
I’d love to hear about your stories. What worked – or didn’t work – for you when you first approached a secondary school with your idea?
Why not get in touch:
Key messages capture the essence of something that you want to communicate. They’re bits of information that people/organisations want their target audiences to know. They articulate what you do, what you believe in and how your work benefits people’s lives, the planet. . .
Here’s a couple of key messages to chew on:
“The melting Arctic is under threat from oil drilling, industrial fishing and conflict. You can Save The Arctic.” Greenpeace
“Speaking openly about our mental health is an essential element in breaking down the stigma surrounding it.” Rethink
Key messages are normally sprinkled into communications – website pages, newspaper articles, press releases, presentations, media interviews, MP meetings etc.
When creating strong key messages for your public affairs and media work remember the 10 steps:
- Short and simple – no more than a couple of sentences.
- Easy to understand.
- Conversational and is easy to say aloud.
- Jargon and acronym free.
- Has emotional punch.
- Captures the spirit of what you want to achieve.
- Uses a tone that will connect with your audience.
- Expresses your brand.
- Focuses on one broad idea.
- Is easy for people to remember.
So time to get out there. As Amelia Earhart once said: “The most effective way to do it, is to do it.”
If you liked this blog then you might find these helpful too:
Key message development
How to make your key messages interesting
Good luck with your messaging. If you need any help just give us a call on 07966 369579 or contact me @businesses4 good or sofija@ creative public affairs.
Use stories:they’re a great way of connecting with people emotionally. Stories can be used many ways to help you promote your cause, for instance to:
- Fund-raise effectively: Making things personal for potential donors adds the emotional wow factor by showing how you’ve helped someone or how you want to help someone.
- Promote policy positions: Using case studies in consultation responses captures people’s attention.
- Catch media attention: Journalists are in the business of storytelling. So why not give them some fresh success stories.
- Get an MP involved: With a face, a name and a story you can help politicians see how they can help someone in their constituency.
- Engage with your local community: Stories are a great way of ensuring that people know what you’re up to.
- Keep supporters happy: Success stories are a great way of keeping supporters happy.
- Build alliances: Personal stories can help build stronger alliances by showcasing your expertise and promoting your strengths.
- Increase volunteering: Promoting success profiles of current volunteers helps people get a grip on the benefits to them – as well as others – of volunteering.
One of my passions is re-cycling. Recently re-cycled an old Singer sewing machine with treddle; and a pair of 1980s glasses (you know the big, black rimmed ones) through Tools for Self Reliance and Vision Aid Overseas.
These two stories definitely helped me make my decision to donate to them:
Janet (trained to repair sewing machines)
Phillipe (a tailor and father to six)
If you want to get more communication, campaigning and lobbying tips why not follow me on twitter @businesses4good.
Contacting influential people – whether they’re newspaper editors or MPs – can be a little like walking a tightrope. You know they’re busy people so you don’t want to hassle them unnecessarily; but you really want to engage them with your latest news, ideas, campaign . . .
Here’s some strategies that have worked for me:
- Do your research. Do you know someone who knows them? Perhaps they can give you an insight into the editor’s future scheduling; or an issue that’s keeping the MP awake at night.
- Keep the e-mail short, simple and straight to the point.
- Have these three key sentences ready: an introduction proving that you know something about the person; why you’re contacting them; and what your idea, offer or question is.
- Include your URL in signature. Make it easy for people to contact you.
- Be realistic and generous. Thank them in advance for any help they can offer. If you don’t get a response, don’t take it personally. Follow-up though.
- Write short, descriptive subject lines that give the reader a reason to open up. So you really need to know your audience. What’s important to them at the moment?
If you want to know more:
How to email important people
Best practice in writing email subject lines
Perfect subject lines
Do you have an email tip to share? Please do add a comment; and why not follow me on twitter @businesses4good.
1. Be realistic. We’d all like to have a magic wand but only the fairy queen has one.
2. Be clear about your outcomes. An outcome is not the activity itself (serving lunch to a group of older people who currently live at home) but the impact it has on their lives (it might increase their confidence eg ).
3. Be aware outcomes come in three shapes:
Individual: Frank feels much more confident.
Service level: 10 people are able to stay independent at home.
Strategic: More people can live the life they want.
4. Be rigorous about how you’re going to measure success.
5. Be careful to get buy-in from all relevant departments.
6. Be open. You might have to change your mind.
7. Be respectful of evidence. Experiment. Do a pilot.
8. Be clear about who’s meant to be doing what.
9. Be sure to encourage constructive feedback from all staff.
10.Be honest. Will this really make people’s lives better?
If you want to know more about outcomes-based policy development helpful reads are:
NCVO’s Measuring and Commissioning Outcomes and Social Value and The experience of the use of outcomes-based commissioning in Camden.
Hope this has been useful. Why not give me a shout if there’s a policy issue that’s keeping you awake at night. Please follow me on twitter @businesses4good.
Looking forward to running Campaign With Impact Workshop next week on behalf of Get Involved Reading. One of the first challenges we’ll probably face together is to accept that campaigning means different things to different people. This may sound simple but 20 years of colourful, campaign experience has taught me that people tend to believe that it’s one of the three things: fighting a war, raising awareness or having a conversation with people.
All three hold some truth:
- When you’re fighting a war it helps if you’re clear about you objective, strategy and tactics.
- When you’re raising awareness you’re looking outwards and focusing on building alliances.
- When you’re having a conversation with people you’re thinking about how you can effectively influence ideas, behaviours and attitudes.
Some things you might like to look at if you’re interested in how to:
Other posts of mine you might like, if you like this one:
Stakeholder mapping: it sounds scary but it ain’t necessarily so
Oh let me in: social media and policy development
Creating a public affairs strategy/3: What does success look like?
If you’ve found this of use it’d be good to hear from you, perhaps add a comment at end. Please do follow me on twitter @businesses4good. You’ll pick up lots of communication and influencing tips.
Quick answers to someone confused by Autumn statement.
What is it? The autumn statement is an update on the government’s plans based on the latest forecasts from the Office of Budget Responsibility.
How can I get on top of the main points quickly? BBC news
And if I need a bit more detail? Treasury documents and regional map.
Or you could try out politics.co.uk and the Guardian’s autumn statement charts
Hope this helps. If it did why not leave a comment. Oh and please do follow me on twitter @busineses4good.