It has to be said, despite my line of business, that you don’t need a professional to run your campaign. It depends rather on what you are trying to achieve and whether you have the resources at hand to achieve it, bearing in mind that a campaign doesn’t have to be an all-singing, all-dancing, media-blitzing, no-expenses-spared kind of affair.
It is always worth thinking about whether your campaign would be helped by engaging with MPs, however distasteful that might appear at first glance. While MPs remain universally unpopular, with probably a lower popularity rating than lawyers, journalists, or kitten haters, they can be quite useful.
But before you even think about approaching them, do your homework. You may have the impression they are a lazy, good-for-nothing, tax-dodging load of hypocrites (I couldn’t possibly comment), but actually most of them work quite hard, juggling their role as a constituency MP, legislator and for some of them, ministerial portfolio .
MPs, unless they don’t want to get re-elected, are most interested in issues affecting their own constituency, so make it local, preferably with a news angle and a photo op so they can get a nice picture of them doing something worthwhile in their patch.
If you want to contact MPs more generally, don’t do a random mail shot to all 650 of them, it will be a waste of your time and money as their researchers will spot a circular and will instantly ‘recycle’ anything of no interest before it even hits the MP’s desk.
Instead, find out which MPs are interested in your issue – do they have a shadow portfolio, are they on a select committee or all party group, did they work in that area before they became an MP? You can find all this out simply by searching biographies on the parliament.uk website.
While letters and emails will get picked up if your issue resonates (or if you are a constituent), social media is an increasingly useful tool for getting in touch. Follow the MP on Twitter, look at their Facebook page, check out their website or their blog. If you don’t know what any of those are, you’d better drop me a line.
Work out what you actually want your MP to do to help your campaign. Do you want to raise the profile of an issue, get something done, raise money, change the law? It is important that whatever the ask, it is integral to your campaign and not something bolted on because it seemed like a good thing to do.
There are three golden rules when contacting MPs, although I have also invented a fourth (as you do):
• Be brief and direct: almost nothing is so important or complicated it takes an hour to say it or more than two sides of A4 to write it. If you can’t manage this, you’d better drop me a line.
• Be relevant: there is no excuse for not thinking about how your issue fits with their priorities.
• Bring solutions: don’t just present them with a problem but proposals for solving it. If your issue is with government policy, bring them a better option.
• Nurture the relationship: you will get more out of it if you do this, rather than waiting for a crisis and then calling them up.
Don’t forget, for the moment at least, there is also a House of Lords you can target. Peers may have more time and it is likely there is one at least who is interested or even an expert in your issue. They can question ministers, instigate debates and even propose legislation just as MPs can.
That, in a nutshell, is how you do it. If it all sounds too much, do get in touch.