New Zealand is one of the easier places in which to undertake government relations activities because by world standards, our politicians and officials are readily accessible and incorrupt.
Government relations is a specialised public relations discipline that covers many different activities, including: interacting with politicians and political party members, advocating with officials and regulatory authorities, and writing select committee submissions.
Although a range of technical skills may be involved (e.g. when writing and presenting select committee submissions) and specialised knowledge is required in relation to the legislative process, embarking upon a government relations programme need not be an intimidating prospect.
As is the case with all other types of PR, good government relations boils down to being clear about what you want to achieve, forming good relationships and communicating effectively. Therefore, when contacting politicians and officials remember to:
- be open, honest and transparent about what you want to achieve
- be friendly and polite in your dealings with them
- stand on the strength of your argument and the position you are taking
- avoid only presenting the problem and also be sure to present the solution
- bring as many people and organisations along with you as possible so as to present a united voice on an issue
- get to know MPs when they first enter Parliament because it can be a lonely place for newcomers; the relationship will pay dividends when they eventually become Ministers
- spend time developing relationships with relevant opposition spokespeople, which will pay dividends if they become MPs
- if you are not sure who to speak with or where to begin, in addition to the political parties’ websites, there are many useful online resources, including:
http://www.parliament.nz/en-nz: Extensive information about Parliament (includes information about how to make a submission and contact a Member of Parliament).
http://www.legislation.govt.nz/: Information about all Acts, Bills and legislative instruments.
https://www.govt.nz/: a guide to finding and using government services (includes contact details and information for all government departments and organisations).
https://data.govt.nz/: Directory of publicly-available New Zealand government datasets.