Effective Global Advocacy
Whether making your organization’s case in Washington or abroad, you need strong relationships and a clear message to ensure that your advocacy strategy is successful. Here are several successful advocacy tactics:
Have a strategy. Make sure that your tactics – lobby days, trade association meetings, digital policy campaigns – are directly related to your public affairs and organizational goals. Have a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve and make sure this resonates in your advocacy message.
Know your audience. Stakeholder mapping will better align your strategy with various audiences. Your message will sound different depending on the status of the current relationship – is it positive, negative, neutral or non-existent? What are this stakeholder’s priorities, and what kind of messaging will they be most receptive to? This type of background research is essential for an effective meeting and will make you stand out.
State your case and have an ask. Whether meeting with Hill staffers or the Executive Branch, make your objective clear. Avoid speaking generally about your company’s main line of business; be as specific as possible. If meeting with Hill staff, talk about the impact your company has on jobs in their district or state; if meeting with a federal agency, talk about how your company’s operations abroad are helping expand U.S. economic growth. Use the meeting as an opportunity to state your priorities on policy issues relevant to the stakeholder.
While these tactics work well in the U.S., global advocacy can be a little more nuanced than the “this-is-what-I-came-for” approach that is popular in Washington. Three things to keep in mind when building relationships abroad:
Patience is a virtue. In some settings, it is good to be direct. However, business executives and managers from the U.S. tend to have a negative reputation for being “all business” and overly aggressive in their requests. For many cultures, such as in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, the first meeting between potential business partners is just that – a meeting to get to know each other. It takes time to establish trust, especially between parties from different cultures.
It’s not always “yes or no”. Often you will hear agreement from the other side of the table; however, this doesn’t mean that what you are asking for will be done. It is often the cultural norm to agree, and leave the request unanswered once the meeting is over. While indirect answers such as “we will think about it” or “it might be possible” might sound like moving in a positive direction for an American, they are actually just diplomatic ways of saying “no” in Asia or South America.
Follow cultural cues. Remember that you are a guest in someone’s country. Show an interest in the culture, take time to answer non-work-related questions and try to follow subtle cues that indicate appropriate behavior. Don’t jump to fill the silence in the room, do accept invitations to share a meal and do present yourself as a trustworthy partner.
Want more tips for successful global advocacy tactics? Join me for a workshop on “Running a Global Advocacy Campaign” in September. Questions about the Council’s global public affairs practice? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.