Building relationships of trust with policy-makers is at the heart of public affairs. But how can you build those relationships?
It is important to appreciate from the outset that, just as with any other relationship, time and effort needs to be invested. Sometimes the policy-makers may feel like a very needy friend but if you want to build trust then that is part of the implicit agreement. You need to think ahead and recognise the benefits of the relationship rather than worrying about the short-term pain or reacting adversely to the requests for immediate information.
The simple fact is that the policy-makers do need your help but your task is to help them appreciate that. You have to demonstrate that your expertise and insight is invaluable to them and, in essence, helps them to better do their jobs, avoid mistakes and deliver a better product / policy.
So how can you build trust with politicians and policy-makers?
But of fundamental importance and what should drive the engagement at all times, is demonstrating that you have the expertise and insight they will find useful. Coming back to the issue of reputation, the more that this same message can be delivered through all communications, the better. Thought leadership can often play a useful role in building that reputation as well.
There are no short cuts to building political trust but it is worth the effort.