240: Public affairs on a shoestring
Not everyone has a huge budget to put at the disposal of their public affairs campaign. So what should those with more limited resources do?
I thank Jon Gerlis at the CIPR for getting me to think about this issue. We had a chat in preparation for a talk that he is to do shortly. The topic of Jon’s talk is valuable for everyone, regardless of how much money is at their disposal. But there is also a large misconception that big corporates or those bodies representing wealthy industries have large budgets available to them. That is very often not the case. They often struggle just as much as anyone else.
However, one person’s shoestring may be another one’s budget for an entire year. It is important that we all think about pulling an accurate budget together from the outset, regardless of how large the sum available may be. Accurate budgeting is part of the ability to attract work and / or to secure funds internally. If you can’t pull an accurate budget together then the chances of getting any money in future is reduced.
But if we think about a shoestring budget being quite limited and small then what are some of the ways in which we make the most of a limited budget?
- Fill in the gaps – be realistic about what you and your team are good at and where the gaps may be. Use the money available to fill in the gaps rather than just looking for broad or general support. That also helps with future campaigns as well, where you can learn from the experience of others.
- Use free resources – there are plenty of resources around that do not cost money. Keeping up with political insight can come from the morning email bulletins that anyone can sign up for. Free alerts are available through Government and Parliament websites and the Select Committees themselves. That may not guarantee completely coverage but it is a good foundations upon which to build.
- Maintain your network – putting time and effort into maintaining your networks (political, media and other stakeholders) to share intelligence should not cost a fortune. Actually, the cost of letting contacts slip away will be higher. Those networks will be useful time and again so don’t just think about investing in continuing to expand and develop it. That is, though, useful!
- Remember your ethics – do not be tempted to try to push at the edges of ethics just because your budgets are limited. For instance, holding a tender just to receive ‘free’ advice and campaigning ideas should not even be thought of.
- Look for inspiration – seek out inspiration from others, for instance look at award winners and see what worked well for them. The CIPR and PRCA have a range of materials available, especially for members, and there books around as well. I could well mention Public Affairs in Practice and Public Affairs: A Global Perspective here but there are others around as well.
However, the most important consideration in any public affairs, and it is completely free, is to be pro-active in your engagement.