Working for a publication that almost exclusively serves the public sector and its partners, I routinely deal with practitioners and leaders at all three levels of government. Previously, I worked for an organization that archives data for government research projects. Along the way, I’ve picked up several tips and tricks for working effectively with elected and administrative officials. These tips can be used by the private and public sector alike to foster strong professional relationships. Although there are at times notable differences in the way government operates, we have common goals of seeking quality projects delivered on time and according to budget.
1. Build relationships. The idea here is to make introductions and build credibility before you need something. Make use of conferences, networking events and LinkedIn. Then, stay in touch. For example, extending congratulations when one of your professional contacts wins an award, publishes an industry-related piece or begins a new position. Paperwork may be an important part of government contracting, but the human aspect shouldn’t be overlooked.
2. Start early. Need an interview completed with a member of Congress by the end of November? You’d be wise to get the ball rolling as soon as possible. The checks and balances in government, while useful and necessary, often mean that processes are slower than their private sector counterparts.
3. Be transparent. State your intention and what you hope to gain from the interaction straight away. This is especially important when public dollars are involved because accountability for public spending is imperative. Know the ins and outs of your own company and what you have to offer to make a concise and effective pitch.
4. Follow up. Typically, people don’t purposefully ignore your emails or voicemails. Rather, most of us are incredibly busy and communications can easily slip through the cracks. Oftentimes, my most lucrative partnerships have come from a follow-up call.
5. Know compliance rules. Government contracting can seem complex, but there are a myriad of resources out there to help you. Take some time to familiarize yourself with basic rules and operating procedures before entering into a new partnership.
6. Share your successes. Keep key players in the loop over the course of a project and again upon completion. For example, each time our publication publishes an interview or piece by an external government contributor, it is shared with the participant and his or her organization.
7. Don’t take it personally. Not every proposed partnership will turn out to be a good fit, and that’s OK. Maintain those relationships anyway. You never know when they might come in handy.
What would you add to the list? I’d love to hear the other perspective, from those of you working within the public sector, about how you deal effectively with private partners and the media.
Brittany Renken is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.