Effective Public Engagement – Look for Convergence, Create Awareness

MN LegislatureThis is the last post in my series on Fighting a Government Threat. My 8th lesson, Don’t assume that your counterpart thinks the way you do or is influenced by the same consideration, is underscored in the Harvard Business Review case study on this topic. Author Michael Hartman notes, “Especially when dealing with government entities, it’s important to carefully evaluate what factors are likely to affect their decision making. Will an article in the newspaper sway the governor? Or is he more apt to be persuaded by constituents, such as the company’s employees?”

While you most likely will think about an issue differently, it still is possible to (lesson #9) find points of convergence and show empathy for the goals of the Governor or legislators with whom you have a disagreement.

In the recent B2B tax proposal, the Governor’s good intentions and desire to generate more money to fund them offered little in the way of a solid, viable plan. I was careful to explain that I share the Governor’s love of our state and the many benefits it offers. I hoped that by noting our shared commitment to the state, he would be more open to hearing my thoughts on why I disagreed with his B2B proposal.

Finally, lesson #10: Build a positive relationship with the news media over time. I have spent the better part of the past two decades building relationships with the local business news community. Working with a publicist has helped, but at the end of the day I have agreed to participate in almost every request for an interview that has come my way.

Building relationships with the press takes time, but this credibility pays huge dividends when you want to speak out on an important issue. If reporters and editors already know you are a credible businessperson from past interactions, they are more likely to seek you out for quotes and consider your OpEd submissions for publication.