The thick of it – 10 tips for engaging with Parliament

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As a local government communicator I often have to spend quite a bit of time convincing friends that my job is nothing like that of Malcolm Tucker, the fictional anti-hero of the BBC comedy series, despite a similar job title and natural swearing pattern.

So it was fairly amusing to find myself hosting a CIPR North East event called: The thick of It – a practical introduction to Parliament.

All joking aside the event was essential for North East PR practitioners working in or with any organisation that needs to engage with the UK parliament.

It was delivered by Daniel Wood, North East and Yorkshire Outreach Officer for the Houses of Parliament.

Daniel was an excellent speaker and his practical and interesting advice was a real eye opener, even for those well used to the political system.

Here’s my summary of his useful advice around engaging with Parliament and the political system:

  1. Use both Houses. The House of Commons and the House of Lords have distinct purposes but both should be looked at.
  2. Like many others, politics is a people business and that shouldn’t be overlooked.
  3. Tailor your communications properly and appropriately. If you send a Dear MP letter then expect aDear constituent response.
  4. Apply a belt and braces approach to your communications with members – most split their time between London and their own constituency.
  5. Briefings for MPs or Members of the House of Lords should be brief (keep it to a side of A4). Make sure the information is objective and well written but be clear about what you actually want to happen.
  6. Politics is very immediate so make sure you’re relevant to the ‘here and now’.
  7. The profile of select committees has increased massively in recent years and they are now a key tool in holding the government to account. This high profile often means lots of media coverage for a particular cause or issue. Sign up for e-mail alerts for individual committees and give evidence to their inquiries.
  8. Get involved in all party groups on relevant subjects or industries.
  9. The House of Lords has a wide range of expertise because key members have worked to such a high level across industry. They are also more able to hold non-party political positions on issues they feel strongly about. The House also has an excellent information office to help.
  10. Use the website: http://www.parliament.uk/

Creative commons: Parliamentary copyright images are reproduced with the permission of Parliament.

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