Kick-off 2021 with the first in a four-part series by PoliTraQ founder Chris Moffatt Armes, on positioning your advocacy efforts. Published over the next four Mondays, this series will offer practical tips to apply to your next pre-budget submission or general advocacy campaign.
Part 1: What are you (really) asking for?
One of my favourite pastimes - because I’m an incredibly boring person - is looking back on past pre-budget proposals. I can spend hours re-reading old proposals submitted to the annual Standing Committee on Finance pre-budget consultations by various companies or associations.
This has been even more entertaining under the Trudeau Liberals, as there has been a concerted effort to focus each year’s consultation and budget around a particular theme - seeking input from stakeholders on policy proposals around the same.
I say it is my favourite, because it’s truly entertaining to see how many organizations believe that the answer to all policy concerns is the same:
“Give us money to do this thing we already wanted to do, but can’t currently afford.”
Research and Science budget? “We need infrastructure money.”
Climate Change Budget? “Infrastructure money.”
Post-COVID Recovery? “You know what goes well with a vaccine? New infrastructure money!”
Obviously, at any given time, there’s only a handful of truly pressing priorities for any given organization - even fewer, when you consider those which could be addressed in a pre-budget submission. That said, the copy and paste approach stands out for several reasons.
First off, far too often, pre-budget (and other advocacy) asks are framed entirely around the benefits to the organization - with little to no mention of broader societal benefit. A purely transactional approach to government relations doesn’t work when one party has all the leverage.
If you’re lobbying the government, it is understood that your organization will benefit in some way. You’ll be able to build that new building, expand your organization’s outreach, create jobs - whatever it is.
What isn’t immediately clear - and what any advocacy ask should outline - is how this ask:
- Helps the government meet its policy aims,
- Aligns with the government’s preferred tactical approach,
- Serves the interests of one or more key support constituencies, AND
- Does so in a more beneficial way (lower cost, broader reach, etc.) than internal options or those proposed by comparators or competitors.
If you have already submitted a similar policy proposal - or if your advocacy focus is around a suite of repeating issues or themes - it’s important that your ask not simply be a copy and paste job.
It’s not uncommon to see an organization repeat a pre-budget ask through several consultation cycles. Repeats could include either a specific proposal (for example, a manufacturer seeking support for a new facility), or a recurring theme - such as a non-governmental organization seeking funding to deliver its services. When done poorly, you might see the same exact messaging carried over from year-to-year; perhaps with a couple lines tacked-on at the end to tailor impact to the theme of the consultation.
If you’re re-submitting a proposal, by definition that means you were unsuccessful securing funding the first time. What has changed between now and then? Perhaps your capacity to deliver has improved, or the government’s focus has shifted to better-align with your proposal? Has the state of the economy changed, and could this lead to a change in behaviour or need - which your proposal can now address?
Demonstrating that your organization understands the broader context in which the government is operating can help increase the likelihood that your proposal will stand out as a legitimate offer of stakeholder insight - rather than another hat-in-hand.
Well-considered positioning can make a substantial impact on your advocacy goals, and elevate the stature of your client in the minds of your target audience. Leveraging and continuing this momentum becomes much simpler when you have an effective way of tracking your engagement activities.
By using a GR-focused CRM like PoliTraQ, you and your team will be able to make real, data-driven decisions, monitor progress on KPI’s and demonstrate the value of your advocacy efforts. To learn more or to arrange a demo, please visit PoliTraQ or email Chris@PoliTraQ.com.