By Nicky Smith
This could be the most unpopular blog post I ever write. It’s about how to work effectively with your local MP.
Whatever we think of current politics and parliament, a good public relations professional should have a clear understanding of the role of their local MP and how important they can be to their clients.
Let’s think positively, and assume there isn’t another gunpowder plot in the making and normal service will resume soon.
It is normal to call on your MP for help on local matters – or for help or advice on wider national or international business matters – if the business in question is in their constituency or will impact its residents.
Many PRs are nervous or unsure of how to approach and involve an MP in support of their legitimate business objectives.
This is why we were lucky to have a great panel of speakers lined up for us by the Oxford PUBLic Relations Group in June this year: Ed Vaizey, Susan Brown and Frank Nigriello.
Between them they cover the political spectrum from left to right, with business in the middle. Ed Vaizey is Conservative MP for Wantage and served as Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries from 2010 to 2016 before Theresa May sacked him. Susan Brown is Labour leader of Oxford City Council and Head of Communications at the Oxford University Hospital Health Trust, and Frank Nigriello is director of Corporate Affairs at Unipart.
Each of them plays an important part in helping to shape where we live and work, but only Ed Viazey is a full time MP. This is why it is especially important to understand and use your MP effectively; because as Ed pointed out, that’s exactly what they’re paid to do – represent you.
They may not reflect the political values of your client or you, but they are still paid to work for the good of their constituents. That work may mean securing or safeguarding better employment prospects, new homes, access to health care, better road or transport links, or a host of other things. The important thing is that if you don’t make them aware of your needs (or your clients’) then they can’t help.
Here are Ed’s top tips for working with your MP:
- The way to an MP’s heart is through his constituency. They will be available every Friday looking for constructive things to do. Do stuff on Fridays.
- Come with something specific to do – not just an event or opening to attend, but a meaningful action they can do for you.
- Give them a photo opportunity.
- Do your research and identify their areas of interest and committee membership.
- Develop a proper relationship from the start, with a formal, personal letter or email from the MD, rather than their PR, and build a meaningful dialogue between MP and brand.
- Ensure you spell out the connection with their constituency, which may require using a home rather than business address.
- Support any communication with information and statistics which present your case and highlight the local or specialist subject context, information the MP can then use.
- Bring in another business. Look for synergy across your market or subject, and how it dovetails with your MP’s interests and committee work, allowing them to justify working with you.
- Don’t neglect the opposition. As well as your current elected MP, involve other parties. They could be in power next, and will appreciate being informed. They may also be able to help right now.
- Identify the advisors who work with your MP and facilitate direct communication with them too.
Look out for the next event organised by the Oxford PUBlic Relations Group. They offer great networking and learning opportunities.
Nicky Smith works at Twelve.pr, an award-winning PR agency in Chipping Norton.