Rich Sigel and Joel Maiola of the McLane Law Firm’s new Government and Public Strategies Group (“McLane GPS”), recently published an article for members of the Concord Chamber of Commerce on making the most of a meeting with a public official.
When a business or organization needs to engage in person with a public official – it makes sense to be prepared. Maiola, who served as chief of staff to Senator Judd Gregg, and Rich who served as chief of staff to Governor John Lynch and Governor Jeanne Shaheen, have considerable insight into this process and offer five tips to help make that meeting as productive as it can be.
#1. Don’t wing it. You know your business better than anyone, and you’re persuasive, so it’s tempting to think you can walk in to a meeting and wing it. Resist the temptation, and plan ahead. The official you are meeting with may have many such meetings scheduled back to back dealing with a variety of other crises and priorities. To get the most out of your meeting, plan exactly what you want to say, and what you want to ask for, and present it in a way that is easy to follow and straightforward. Prepare a one page narrative to leave behind identifying the problem and possible solution.
#2. Know your audience. Understand the political landscape before you meet and set your expectations accordingly. Research the official you are meeting with and know his or her areas of interest. Is what you are asking for consistent with the official’s priorities, or does it run counter? How does helping you help further the official’s own agenda? Who is likely to support your idea or request, and who is likely to oppose it? It is better to be frank and upfront about these issues, than to let the official discover after the meeting that other officials or key constituencies oppose what you are requesting.
#3. Personalize your message. In the end, issues are not simply decided on “facts and figures.” Personalize the importance of solving the issue. Explain the consequences of action or inaction in real terms. It is not just another line item in the budget. Their action has direct consequences on the people they serve.
#4. Make it easy. You are much more likely to achieve a positive outcome if you make it easy for the official to get there. Reduce written materials to a one page summary. Get the materials to the official in advance, so he or she can review them before your meeting. Anticipate the questions you are likely to get, and know the answers. Be very clear about what action step you need help with.
#5. Engage the staff. Both in advance and with follow up, engaging effectively with key staff is as important to success as your meeting with the official. Ask that the staff person most knowledgeable about your issue, or best positioned to follow up, be included in your meetings.
Maiola and Sigel suggest that one meeting with a public official is likely to be just one piece of a comprehensive strategy to turn a good idea into public policy. Following these five tips, a businessperson will show respect for the official’s time, demonstrate forethought and preparation for the meeting, and better their chances of winning his or her support.
Joel Maiola and Rich Sigel are Senior Advisors with McLane GPS. Together, they help businesses and organizations navigate complex issues involving government, and in the arena of public and strategic communications. Joel can be reached at [email protected] or at (603)628-1485. Rich can be reached at [email protected] or at (603) 628-1489.
About the McLane Law Firm
Founded in 1919, McLane, Graf, Raulerson & Middleton, Professional Association is the largest full-service law firm in the state of New Hampshire, with offices in Manchester, Concord and Portsmouth, as well as Woburn, Massachusetts. Driven by the firm’s depth of sophisticated legal expertise and an unwavering commitment to client service, McLane has built collaborative and lasting relationships with a broad spectrum of domestic and international clients. www.mclane.com