Following on from my blog about the Power of Proactive Engagement, I thought I’d tell you a little more about my experience managing Ministerial letters, and how proactively engaging with Members of Parliament can help significantly reduce the time and resources spent dealing with these issues.
Anyone who has worked in government knows how much effort is required to respond to community or stakeholder issues raised with Members of Parliament or Ministers!
Typically, this is what happens:
- A customer or local constituent raises an issue affecting them with their local MP
- The MP either writes to their Minister or the CEO of the relevant organisation
- Under both of the above scenarios, this correspondence is considered top priority and responses to letters and background briefing notes are required within 5 days
- The draft responses involve multiple people at senior levels on high salaries – affected teams, managers, general managers, Government Liaison writers and coordinators and staff in the Minister’s office.
The cost of responding to Ministerials
A colleague in stakeholder engagement recently advised me of research indicating that one ministerial enquiry costs the government well over $1,000. Based on this figure, the following proactive engagement program I implemented with MPs saved the organisation at the time an estimated $350,000 in one year, (this figure includes my time).
Prior to implementing a proactive relationship management program with MPs and their electoral staff, the metropolitan region received more than 400 written ministerial enquiries a year. Some government agencies would receive thousands of enquiries each year.
The following year, after I was assigned the relationship manager for this sector, the number of written ministerial enquiries reduced to 28.
Several MPs wrote to the Minister praising our proactive approach. The positive outcomes achieved were recognised by the Executive and Board and I received an award through the organisation’s Chairman’s Innovative Awards Program.
5 tips for a proactive engagement approach
Here’s some of the processes we implemented (and you can too!) to achieve these results:
- Regular meetings: We met mainly with Members of the Legislative Assembly (Lower house) or, if they were unavailable, their electoral staff – as our customers would go to their local MLA if they had a problem.
- Monitoring of issues: We monitored issues or coming projects and prioritised meetings based on the timing of these and influence of the MP – usually twice a year
- Tailored information and personalisation: We provided tailored information packs for each MP and encouraged electoral officers to contact me directly with a promise of a faster response (within 2 working days)
- Open communication: We liaised with electoral officers to connect staff with affected constituents, monitored all issues to ensure they were successfully resolved, and ensured all affected parties were aware of the outcome.
- Staggered briefing: For coming works, MPs were briefed before the community so they could help with any enquiries and avoid escalation of issues to the Minister.
Tools to help you engage proactively
Many of our clients engage proactively with MPs using Consultation Manager as their stakeholder information management system. Here are a few examples of how the software can be used to support this process.
- Building a knowledgebase: information is collected from every contact with MPs, including agendas, meeting outcomes, letters to the CEO or Minister and articles in the media.
- Bulk email campaigns and tracking: Project information sheets, letters on coming works or initiatives are issued to MPs (prior to the community) through the ‘eNews’ feature. Powerful analytics on opens, clicks and stakeholders help measure the effectiveness of campaigns.
- Segmentation and grouping: The stakeholder database in Consultation Manager enables you to create stakeholder groups, which enabled personalised letters or emails to be sent to the relevant Members of Parliament (by their electoral area or region). Using the electoral boundaries in mapping makes it easy to identify which MPs to liaise with on projects or issues.
- Reminders: Action reminders are set up to reflect meeting schedules to book coming meetings.
- Briefings: Prior to meetings, MP stakeholder records are reviewed to ensure you are across all issues, their interests, works in their electorate and the status of agreed actions.
Learn how other organisations manage small and large-scale engagement projects. Download the free information sheet for your industry.
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