How to influence policymakers - ESRC


Building and maintaining contacts

It is vital to keep track of your public affairs contacts and to manage them effectively. People move on all the time – civil servants move up and across departments, ambitious MPs become parliamentary private secretaries or ministers, MPs researchers become MPs, and so on.

Building a database

You should:

  • develop a database of all your public affairs contacts and keep it up to date
  • if targeting multiple audiences, keep track of who has been contacted and for what purpose. This is vital for activities such as issuing publications and press releases, and organising events
  • have key briefing material and facts and figures ready to send to any new contacts
  • follow existing contacts even if they move out of your immediate sphere of interest, they may pop up in another role that is useful to you
  • think about how you can maintain a lower level of contact but still keep in touch with existing contacts who have moved on – remember it is harder to make a new contact than to maintain an existing one
  • never use a scattergun approach. It is better to build up your own database rather than buying lists and sending out standard letters, for example, to all health service chief executives or members of the Confederation of British Industry.

Managing your database

How you manage your contacts with audiences is as important as gaining them in the first place.

Consider investing in a contact management system using software such as Maximiser or FileFinder.

If your project is small, there are basic contact management systems available to download free of charge.

Last updated: 31 August 2021

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