Politics is a tricky game. While it is easy for talk radio know-it-all commentators and bar stool philosophers to tell us exactly how to run our country, once you get behind the wheel it is a far different story. Just ask the Irish Presidential hopeful, Gavin Duffy. Wow, what an impact he had!
With the right message, the right focus and the right public affairs strategy, it is possible to wield political influence at the highest levels.
The very nature of government means that simply pontificating in the media solves little. Effective public affairs requires knowledge, patience and a commitment to see it through to the end. In his autobiography, Tony Blair said he “found saying no the most difficult task in politics.” Getting in front of the right people and lobbying for your position in a clear, concise manner can be a very powerful tool.
The Government is of the people and for the people. That is the central basis of democracy. That is why it is a vital part of any healthy democracy that people step forward to mould and shape the government to ensure it best serves our needs. To simply stand silently by only to call foul when things don’t go your way is not good enough. The more proactive individuals, groups and organisations we have trying to positively influence the direction of our government the better it is for our democracy.
Shaping the Future
While the legacy of the brown envelope has cast a very long and dark shadow over the reputation of public affairs and lobbying in Ireland, everyday there are people working on behalf of individuals, charities, NGOs and organisations to help the government embrace best practice and become more effective in its leadership of the country.
In the build up to the most recent budget, our quest was to help Animation Ireland, the association of Irish animation studios, to lobby the Government to extend Section 481 tax relief for the film industry.
Our public affairs campaign made sure the facts spoke for themselves and, importantly, were listened to. The extension would provide for many small, independent animation studios to continue to produce world-class films and television series.
We met with the appropriate civil servants, spokespeople and government officials to highlight the impact Section 481 has on jobs and job creation. We also outlined the immeasurable culture benefits which having this growing industry in Ireland will bring to our civic life.
All politics is local, so we also ensured every business involved in the animation sector targeted their local TDs, key Ministers and their advisors.
Focused on Success
Rather than become side tracked and get caught up in the larger political debate, our goal was to engage proactively with all serving members of the Government. After many discussions, all agreed that our proposal was workable and acknowledged our business case was excellent. It was nice to get such positive feedback on our public affairs campaign, but the question was would we get the result on Budget day. Thankfully our hard work paid off.
As a direct result of the continuation of Section 481 a huge array of proposed animation projects will be developed over the next five years, which will bring additional jobs to Ireland and cement Ireland’s place among the world leaders in film production.
Far too often, public affairs and lobbying are on the receiving end of bad publicity, but it must be acknowledges that the vast majority of public affairs work is being undertaken for noble reasons and in the pursuit of the common good.
While many prefer to sit on their hands and leave their faith in the powers that be, taking a proactive role in lobbying for your future is what democracy is all about.
If you have an interest in public affairs, visit www.lobbyine.ie for best practice examples and information on regulations.
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