When you're preparing messages to take to government - to influence legislation, to obtain funding or approvals, or to persuade the government not to do something you think would harm your interests - keep in mind that decision-makers in government are being bombarded by dozens of such messages every day.
How can you make your message stand out?
One approach that can help is to look at the messages you're going to be taking to government from a different perspective, applying some basic ideas from the field of marketing in addition to the kinds of public policy or political ideas we normally deal with.
Take 20 minutes to think about how you might apply these basic ideas to your messages and see if it doesn't give you some useful ideas.
A marketer would start out by asking "What does the customer really want?" and "How can we meet that customer need?"
By contrast, most groups approaching government start out by asking "What do we want the government to do?" And when we start with that kind of question, it shouldn't be surprising if the messages we deliver sometimes start to sound as though we're lecturing the government - telling them what they should do. And it also shouldn't be surprising if - at the same time we're telling government to do things differently - we don't seem to be looking very hard for ways we can improve our performance.
If we start with a marketing approach instead, we begin by asking "What does the government (our "customer") want to achieve in our area of concern?" and "How can we help them reach those goals?"
A marketer has to be able to distinguish between "features" and "benefits".
A "feature" is something built into the product or service on offer. It might be an Anti-Lock Brake system in an automobile, a large buffer in a printer, an exhaust vent built into a micro-wave oven or extended hours at a super market. Features are of great interest to the people designing and offering the products or services.
The "benefits" are the good things customers enjoy because of the features. ABS systems make cars safer - the ABS is the feature, greater safety for you and your family is the benefit. A larger print buffer lets you print large documents or graphics with less waiting time - the buffer is the feature, faster results is the benefit. The vented micro-wave can be hung over a stove - the vent is the feature, the extra counter space you gain by hanging the microwave is the benefit to the homemaker. The longer hours at the Supermarket deliver the benefit of increased convenience for the shopper.
What are the "features" of your organization or program that could be more persuasively expressed in terms of the "benefits" they would deliver for your government "customer"?
Again - it's a simple matter of looking at the whole situation from the "customer's perspective".
A marketer is always alert to the opportunity to offer a "New & Improved" product or service.
Sometimes the changes we find in so-called "new and improved" products are pretty insignificant; sometimes they involve dramatic improvements and increased value.
But contrast the search for "new & improved" solutions in the marketplace with the basic approach most organizations take in their messages to government. Instead of striving to find ways to improve what we're doing, we tend to defend and praise ourselves and to indicate that government undervalues our contributions. If there are any shortcomings, we explain them by referring to shortages in funding.
So, where a marketer might try to build market share and customer loyalty by seeking opportunities to do a better job of meeting customer need, almost all the messages government receives demand more money - not for a "new & improved" service or program, but for basically the same old service.
We can all identify ways - even relatively small ways - we could improve our programs or organizations - getting better results with the same amount of money we have now. How can you do a better job of meeting government goals ("customer" demands) by adding some "new & improved" features and benefits to your program or service?
We know that one of the constant pressures governments face in today's tight budgetary climate is to "do more with less". Your "new & improved" offerings will help the government officials you're dealing with to prove they're meeting that challenge.
Public policy is not the same as selling soap. But people working to influence public policy should never be too good to learn a little something from the people who sell soap.
Start by asking what "the customer" - the government you're trying to influence - hopes to achieve in your area of concern, and by asking how you can help achieve those goals. The government actions you're recommending may be exactly the same, but the words you use will be different.
Focus on the "benefit" to "the customer" - specific things the government values that will result from the way you operate your program or service.
And always seek to provide "new & improved" services or programs. That's something we should be doing anyway, but sometimes we get so busy defending ourselves, we forget to keep trying to get better.
If this quick look at how marketing concepts can strengthen your messages to government makes sense to you, we should talk.
Give us a call. We can talk about this and other ways to build messages to government that will stand out and succeed.