As the new college basketball season is well underway, it’s guaranteed that fundamental basketball will win more games with its controlled and disciplined play than street ball-style with its all-out sloppy play. The same rule applies for government relations communication, from winning at the Wisconsin State Capitol to success with a community funding referendum: An organized communications strategy is more effective than a plan with no rules.
Good Teams Manage the Shot Clock.
Every piece of legislation, election or public policy effort has a time frame defined by election, legislative floor period or budget year. A good strategic communication plan should be flexible while accounting for all of the time available.
Try for Three Pointers.
Getting an editorial board endorsement can be a coup for a communications campaign, and an issue needs to be properly set up in position to maximize the opportunity. Doing a newspaper editorial board with no message development before, during or after the meeting is missing the opportunity to even the score or pull ahead.
Don’t Foul Out.
Meeting with busy editors and reporters with no real story for them leaves you with good cups of coffee, but no story going to print. Don’t jeopardize relationships with these influencers by wasting their time—and ultimately yours.
Read the Defense.
If your opponent is successfully stopping legislation or is ahead in polling, ask yourself what their strategic communication weaknesses are and how can you overcome them yourself. Ignoring their advantages or underplaying the situation means you’re giving them back the ball to score against you.
Don’t Miss the Player Under the Basket.
When a reporter is interested, find the angle, interview subjects or material that is needed to put easy points on the board. If a reporter says he or she is waiting on a story, find a solution or define a time frame or move on to a better situation.
Take a Good Shot When It’s Available.
The best opportunity for winning on an issue may be a news conference, telling an unreported side of your story or restating your position. Be strategic in recognizing how current situations can work to your message’s advantage.
Don’t Panic If You Are Losing.
An ill-timed news conference that conflicts with another news conference or media event is killer in government relations since lawmakers, interest groups and the general public’ viewpoints are often defined by the appearances of the situation. No coverage of the event is a wasted time out that uses limited resources, hurts future media opportunities and leads to second-guessing strategic communication objectives.
Pick a Good Coach with a Winning Record.
A decade of being a Wisconsin State Assembly Chief of Staff taught me that fundamentals matter for success. Each of the laws that were signed into law under my tenure had targeted and customized strategic communications plans on the shot clock.