It was the sunny calm before storm Eunice when I travelled down to our client Helix Group in Newbury, last month, for an MP visit.
It was my first time supporting a parliamentary visit and for this particular meeting, the housing contractor wanted to speak with their local MP Laura Farris about their green credentials and tackling the skills shortage in construction through a variety of training programmes.
Given that the meeting is still fresh on my mind, I wanted to share some of my experience and insight into arranging a MP visit and the communications support you might consider.
To MP or not to MP?
Somewhat of a rogue idea, given the focus of my article, but think about whether your MP is the person you need to see right now. Should you be focusing your efforts on other stakeholders? It’s good to establish valuable connections for any local business but you need to understand who is best to connect with.
Mitchell’s salience model can help you and your comms teams to classify the legitimacy, urgency and power of your stakeholders and prioritise who you should be communicating with.
What is your ask?
So, you’re making waves in your constituency. Now what? One of the first pitfalls people make when contacting their local MP for a visit is that they haven’t established their ‘why’. Their overarching goal. A real purpose for the meeting.
If you’re going to go to the effort of arranging a meeting with your local MP, you should want to achieve more than just a photo to share on your social channels.
As with any PR or public affairs activity, it’s important to make sure everything aligns with your wider business objectives. If you’re hoping for your MP to connect you with an All-Party Parliamentary Group or to enable you to take part in their outreach programmes, then make sure you set this out in the meeting.
MPs are busy, well-connected and want to help their community – don’t waste their or your time by walking them around your building site, housing scheme or offices and never discussing with them your bigger picture.
Touring with purpose brings me to my next point…
On your feet
MPs spend a lot of time in meetings, sitting down. If you can, plan something that allows them to stretch their legs and see something they wouldn’t get to see every day. It could be a good opportunity to involve some of your other colleagues or even introduce your local MP to some of your residents.
Last September, we arranged a coffee morning in conjunction with the National Housing Federation’s Starts at Home campaign, for our client Raven Housing Trust at one of its retirement living schemes. The aim of the meeting was to discuss the role housing providers play in supporting people to live independently in their homes for longer and the challenges the government need to consider to accommodate the UK’s ageing population.
One way to make the most of your time is to make sure your MP doesn’t leave empty-handed, or with an empty stomach. You’ll likely be given a snappy one-hour window. If that is around midday, it’s always worth offering lunch. It could provide some extra time to get to know them.
Another way to leave a lasting impression is to give them a printed-out (or send them a digital) case study or briefing to take away. This can include any clear call to actions you may have set out in the meeting. It is a good opportunity for sharing the good work you are doing, but they can also use it as an example of the things going on in their constituency – as you will often see MPs do in public speaking appearances.
Last but not least, Covid-19 restrictions may have been lifted but making sure the protocol for the day is clear and agreed upon ahead of the visit is still a must – especially if you’re looking to capture a picture. Measures to mitigate the spread of the virus may keep changing, but that doesn’t stop you from being safe and courteous in the office with hand sanitiser, ventilation, masks and avoiding any overcrowded rooms.
If you’re looking to arrange an MP visit or are interested to know more about how we can support your organisation with any wider stakeholder mapping and engagement exercises, ger in touch by contacting email@example.com.