Saturday, June 5, 2010

How to get a politician to pay attention...

Give them something they want!

It’s election year in Australia, and the lines of lobbyists are lengthening.

Why? Because getting a politician to support your interests in the leadup may get you an election promise. Then if they win, you’re going to benefit.

Let’s assume you are not a party insider with hands on all the right levers. You’re a community or business group with an issue that deserves attention. You need to get the politician’s ear, and to cut through the competition.

Let’s say step one is in the bag - you’ve set up a meeting.

What are you going to do with it?

Talking to a politician is concentrated communication.

You can speed past a billboard ad and get the gist in 2 seconds right? The politician is like you behind the wheel, travelling at speed. Don’t overwhelm.

If you have 15 minutes it will likely turn into 5 – or possibly 2. It’s an ‘elevator pitch’. It has to be succinct, memorable and relevant. Be clear, bold, and simple.

All the usual rules for public speaking apply.

You need
one clear message that connects everything you say.
• an attention getting opening,
stories to make it live,
• just enough data to convince
• a goal – or takeaway call-to action.

Your ‘ask’ has to work for them. Say enough to interest and entice. Show that both of you will benefit if s/he takes up your idea. Demonstrate that you know what’s important to them and that your project is right in line.

Paperwork and leave-behinds

Your personal presentation is just one type of communication. You should round it with what you put down on paper. This is the place for backup: the denser, more fact-laden information. It’s also where summary arguments and contact information can go.

The politician may not read this, but their staffers often will. Make it easy for them. Three pages max, strong headings, bullet points and white space will all aid readability. And of course, a picture is worth a thousand words.


  1. I remember one politician I presented to several times who always seemed to ask the same question "Do you know of any overseas experience?"
    Once I'd twigged to that and came prepared it made a world of difference.

  2. Rule 1.
    Unless you explain what you want and how he/she can help in three minutes your audience has switched off
    Rule 2.
    Because it matters to you/your clients does not give the cause any special credibility
    Rule 3.
    Explain why it matters to people in his/her seat
    Rule 4.
    Set out how easily the issue is fixed
    Rule 5.
    Never ever warn of dire consequences that will occur if you do not get what you want. If you he/she wont