Communications with legislators are a critical aspect of any corporate affairs planning. Get it right and MPs give companies the benefit of the doubt if issues arise. Get it wrong and MPs may be quick to condemn you publicly and loudly. As such, it is critical to understand how best to communicate with legislators and to achieve meaningful engagement and how that engagement is received.
Ipsos MORI surveys MPs’ opinions twice a year on a range of subjects for a wide variety of clients. In winter 2020, we asked MPs what media they read and how best to develop and maintain good relationships with MPs.
What media do MPs read?
The Times is the standout daily print publication, read by 63% of MPs, followed by the Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph (38% for both). However, there are clear differences by party; while Conservative MPs favour The Times (71%), The Daily Telegraph (63%) and Daily Mail (55%), Labour MPs are most likely to read The Guardian (73%), The Times (49%) and The Mirror (48%).
Thinking about weekly and monthly print publications, The House Magazine is frequently read by MPs from across the political spectrum (50%). In contrast, The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph’s readership is very partisan (73% of Labour vs. 7% of Conservatives read the former, 63% of Conservatives vs. 3% of Labour read the latter).
Therefore, when thinking about communication campaigns that are targeted at MPs, it is important to remember that not all publications are equally read by your target audience and some are more likely to reach them than others.
Whatever your company’s aim is when communicating with MPs, direct and personal engagement is often the most effective way to ensure your message is getting through. With face-to-face meetings set to make a tentative return in 2021, going forward how do MPs want to be engaged?
How do MPs want to be engaged?
Communication by email and face-to-face meetings or personal contact are seen as the best way to do this by 26% of MPs. Importantly, communication by email has increased by 18 percentage points since winter 2019, reflective of the current situation. But MPs’ fondness for face-to-face meetings highlights a desire for personal engagement to be retained in the future as we move out of lockdown.
MPs receive an enormous volume of emails, whether from constituents or businesses, so how do you cut through the noise? How do you ensure your communications gets past MPs’ gatekeeper and does not end up in the bin? Relevance. A quarter (25%) of MPs say they want communications on subjects relevant to their constituency, while one in five (19%) want communications on subjects of interest to them. Want to speak to an MP about an initiative you’re introducing? How will it impact their constituents? How does it specifically relate to them and what they’re working on?
In short, there are three words that communicators should have as a checklist when preparing communications; personal, local and relevant. Face-to-face is ideal, but while restrictions apply, those three words should be applied to digital communications.
While 2020 was an exceptional year and 2021 will (touch wood) deliver an exit from lockdown, what does this look like for MPs and how will your engagement with legislators need to adapt going forward? While the Leader of the House indicated that he wanted to see a return to the green benches for all MPs, there are clear rumblings that this is not desired by all, a view the Speaker is sympathetic to.
The next few years will be transformative for the UK as the country recovers from COVID and charts a new course in a post-Brexit landscape. Parliament will be at the forefront of this change and it will be critical to understand how your organisation’s voice is reaching MPs.
Want to know what MPs think about you and your organisation? Get in touch with Ipsos MORI….
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