Creating a Government Affairs Program

I was recently meeting with a local chamber CEO and they asked the question "How do I start a government affairs program at my chamber?"

It's very simple!

Start by:

  • Forming a governance structure, identify a chairman (current member of the board) to head your Government Affairs or Advocacy Committee;
  • Survey your membership to identify the issues that are important to them;
  • Have the committee discuss the issues; and
  • That committee should make recommendations to your full chamber board on what position to take on any legislative issues.

This new government affairs committee does not have to meet every month. I'd suggest quarterly will do the trick as you get started, unless you have a very active legislative session.

Who should you pick as your chairman?

A current board member without an ax to grind and a consensus builder would be a great choice.

Like any chairman, it's important to pick an individual that will put on their "chamber hat" and work on issues that affect all businesses.

And there will be times when you will have members on both sides of an issue, don't worry that's what your committee is for.  My guess, in those situations you won't take a position.

But once the board has approved a position (support or opposing an issue), communicate that position to all stakeholders:

  • Your members;
  • The legislators;
  • The media; and
  • Your community.

Chambers were created to stand up for their members and take pro business advocacy positions. We are membership organizations, right?

It's as easy as that.

For a related blog post on Advocacy: Three Elements of an Effective Program go HERE.

Or you can access this blog post titled Advocate: What's Your Chamber's Role HERE.

Effective Messaging

I recently read an article in AssociationsNow magazine that quoted James Carville as stating:

"...for a message to be effective, it has to be simple, relevant, and repetitive. It has to fit all three elements."

So true!

I also recently attended a special training on executive communications.
  While there are many keys to an effective presentation, the three themes I learned there were:

  • Be yourself;
  • Be energetic; and
  • Start and finish with the same point/message.

As chamber executives it's important to keep these suggestions top of mind. You remember the KISS theory, right?  Keep it simple stupid.

I'm suggesting the same thing here!

Don't over complicate the message. Keep it in bite size portions so people can digest and understand what you're saying or what you’re asking them to do.

It's like the 30-second elevator speech we're all familiar with and I wrote about in a previous post HERE. All your staff should have that speech down pat when asked what your chamber is known for.

So, continue to educate yourself on becoming the best communicator you can be. Your chamber will be the beneficiary. You'll benefit too!

I'll end with another quote from James Carville from the article:

"...if you want people to know three things about you, have three parts to your message. If you want people to know nothing about you, then have nine."