Lionel Zetter is Patron of Conservatives in Communications
Conservatives in Communications is open to all communicators who identify with the aims and values of the UK Conservative Party. Its chair, directors, patrons and supporters include politicians and journalists as well as communications professionals from every branch of that broad discipline.
However, given the political connection it is not surprising that public affairs professionals make up a substantial proportion of the CiC membership. Public affairs – or lobbying – is often regarded by outsiders as being some sort of dark and mysterious art. In reality, it is a straight-forward trade, with few secrets, but also few short-cuts.
I have worked in public affairs for 40 years, at large and small consultancies, in-house and as a freelancer. Sometimes, I am asked if there is a secret to the (admittedly modest) success I’ve enjoyed. My response is always that there is no secret, but there is a key. That key is relationships.
But, relationships have to be instigated and established, and then constantly nurtured. And that takes time. Because instigating and then establishing and then deepening relationships can only be done through networking – often outside of office hours.
So, over the course of my career, I’ve joined every trade and professional body I can, and used every networking opportunity that presents itself. Apart from Conservatives in Communications (which I helped to set up), I’ve joined (and sometimes headed) the CIPR, Government Affairs Group, PRCA and The Enterprise Forum. On top of these formal bodies, I have also supported and attended events ranging from PubAffairs Networking to (back in the day) Village Drinks. Then, of course, there are the party conferences – every networkers’ wet dream!
I did all this because I enjoy socialising, and let’s be honest – I also enjoy the occasional drink. But more than that, way more than that, attending networking events enables you to make new contacts and reinforce relationships. They help you to break out of the echo chamber and talk to people with different political views and colleagues from different communications disciplines. They enable you to promote your own views, but even more importantly, to listen to and argue with people from different backgrounds who hold divergent views. And, if you decide to write a book (plug alert), such as Lobbying, the Art of Political Persuasion, networking will help you to persuade people to contribute passages to the book – and maybe even to buy a copy!
So, if you want to get on in the wonderful overlapping worlds of politics and communications, my advice is to network like crazy, and to cherish and nurture the relationships that flow from those varying events.
And, if you are a Conservative and work in communications – I’m sure that you know what to do…
This piece was written for our website.