241: Personal engagement plans: how the whole team can deliver a public affairs strategy
A public affairs programme will always cover who the key decision-makers are. But ‘who does what’ amongst the team is not always considered in so much detail. So think about establishing Personal Engagement Plans.
The overall programme will, of course, set some strategic priorities for engagement, list top targets and outline what the ‘asks’ for government or politicians are. But each member of the team will want to play an active role in the delivery of the programme. Team members will be out and about at events, doing their own networking and could be politically active themselves as well. So why not set them specific tasks and targets as part of a Personal Engagement Plan? That is to say nothing of the personal and career development aspects of giving them a specific role as well.
Taking this type of approach offers benefits not only to the individual but also the organisation as well. It could mean that more stakeholders are engaged, overlap avoided and resources used more effectively.
But to ensure that engagement is consistent and mistakes avoided, what should a Personal Engagement Plan cover?
- Be clear in the allocation of stakeholders – the list should not be a random selection of those in the overall strategy. Instead, there should be a consistent theme amongst the target list and a prioritisation. In other words, there should a firm understanding / explanation as to why a particular group of stakeholders has been selected as part of the Plan. So within the context of the overall programme, why have these stakeholders been selected? That could come down to, for instance, covering a single issue, a particular sector or Parliamentary group.
- Clarity of approach – the Plan needs to cover details not just of the stakeholders but also the aims behind the proposed engagement, the purpose of the engagement and the ‘asks’ of each stakeholder as well. This isn’t to ‘over manage’ the process but to provide comfort, especially for any less experienced members of the team. Although managing upwards can be important as well!
- Don’t be too ambitious – it is often better to establish meaningful contact with a small number of stakeholders rather than simply ticking names off a long list but having no real understanding of their concerns.
- Get the feedback mechanisms right – capturing the right level of information is a critical aspect that needs to be covered. The Plan should explain what needs to come back from the engagement so that everything can be collected and collated centrally. That is especially true if any follow-up is promised. You have to ensure that the contacts and the information etc are fed back into the overall stakeholder programme for the organisation. Only then can an assessment of future activity be made.Regular sharing will also help to prevent target overlap as lines of delineation are at always clear. Any reviews can also reallocate targets but, most importantly, should take into account changing policies and priorities both across Government but also internally as well.
- Other people’s plans – it might also be useful for the Plan to include at least a summary of what others in the team are up to as well, sharing the ‘relationship status’. That would enable some potentially useful cross-referrals by way of future actions as well as allowing for reviews of the allocation / approaches.
Of course, each organisation will have its own idea of what a Personal Engagement Plan will look like but they offer a number of positive benefits for all involved.