Returning to work after the festive season, especially when the weather continues to stay in vacation mode, is always a struggle. At least the first weeks of the new year are usually a quieter time in which you can ease back into things with a few long lunches and planning sessions…but not in 2023!
Unfortunately for those looking for a slow start to the year, the political sphere is already going full steam ahead – with many politicians and staffers working through the summer season to set up for a busy year.
With a packed agenda of elections, events and political issues set to dominate parliament and media headlines in first quarter of 2023, advocates have an opportunity to engage with political stakeholders early.
'Welcome back' events have become an increasingly common tool in advocacy strategies, giving you the opportunity to build relationships, test agendas and cement plans for the year ahead.
Welcome back to Canberra
Being a non-election year for Federal Parliament, a 'welcome back to Canberra' event allows for more flexibility for networking. With a flurry of events usually held to wrap up the previous year, organising an event to kick off the new year is likely to receive higher attendance rates due to less conflicting commitments.
A Canberra event should preferably be held in one of the hireable rooms in Parliament House, or in a venue very close by, for example in Barton, Deakin or Manuka, to make it as easy as possible for politicians and their staff to attend.
Wednesday night is the ideal night for an off-site venue as Parliament rises early. Tuesday night however, when Parliament stays late, is the perfect time to host an event in one of the gallery rooms during the dinner break.
Remember that there will only be a few sitting weeks in Canberra before budgets, state elections and potential referendums dominate attention spans – so it's important to have your date locked in as quickly as possible.
Welcome back to the states
If your targets include state governments, then cost notwithstanding, there is no reason not to hold a welcome back event in state capitals using the same model as Canberra.
Given the NSW State Election is set for March 25, this state is the obvious priority for any organisations that deal with the NSW jurisdiction. There won't be any sitting weeks before the election, so any event should be focused on Ministers and their staff rather than backbenchers as they will be focused on campaigning in their local electorates, especially those in marginal seats.
With the Victorian State Election having wrapped up in late 2022, this is another opportunity to welcome back new (and returning) members of parliament who may not have had time to engage during the chaotic election campaign.
Drinks or dinner?
The answer to the conundrum of whether to hold a dinner or a cocktail reception is simple: who are your primary targets and how many of them are there?
Rather than hosting a large event, it may be more appropriate and strategic to invite one to three relevant Ministers and key staff to a sit-down dinner with your clients or organisational heads. The same can be done with Shadow Ministers and their staff.
Add a fundraising component
Some organisations host their welcome back events as bipartisan affairs, which obviously has its advantages. However, by holding two smaller events (one for the coalition and one for the opposition) you can add a fundraising element, for example an auction or tickets sold to clients to attend. There are a range of possible fundraising options, which also help further your organisation's relationship with both major parties.
Is your resolution to make 2023 your best year for political advocacy yet? Contact us to see how our government relationship management tool could help enhance your overall government-relations strategy.