10 ways to make sure you get the most out of an MP or Minister’s visit

So your manufacturing or construction business has been growing, maybe taking on new staff, developing new technologies or expanding internationally?  Sound like a good idea to invite an MP or Cabinet Minister to visit?  Well here are some top tips to help make your visit a success.

1. Firstly avoid the Purdah period.

This is the pre-election period between the time an election is announced and the final election results.  The aim is to stop government making announcements about new or controversial initiatives that could be seen as giving an advantage to any candidates or political parties in the forthcoming election.   The purdah period typically begins six weeks before an announced election – so this year will start on 30th March. So there is little point contacting any MPs, council leaders or Ministers from 30th March until after the Election as they will be prevented from carrying out any publicity visits.

2. Plan early.

MPs and Ministers have busy schedules, so expect that you may have to wait several weeks or months to secure a slot.   Most MPs and all Ministers have a private secretary who should be approached by letter or email to request a visit, explaining the reason why they would find it a relevant/interesting visit eg jobs, expansion, international work and giving details of the location of the plant.  Make sure you approach an MP in your own constituency as they will not want to encroach on another MP’s patch.

3. Fridays are good.

MPs spend most of their time in Westminster during the week, so may only be based in their constituencies one day a week, usually Friday.  Don’t set strict dates when you want the MP or Minister to visit, make it as flexible as possible and be accommodating to host an event on Friday, as it is most likely the best day for them to attend.

4. Alert the media well in advance.

Once you have agreed a date for the MP to visit, it is worth issuing a Diary Note to local media, so they can save the date and time.  Follow this up with a reminder one week before the visit, as newspapers often plan their photograph’s diaries the end of the week for the following week’s activities.  Don’t be afraid to give a quick call to the newsdesk to make sure that the details of the photo opportunity have been received.

5. Book your own photographer.

For an important visit, such as by an MP or Minister, it is important to book your own photography, even if local press tell you that their photographer will attend.  The reason for this is that you will then have access to your own photographs, so you can promote the event through your website and own publicity channels.

It is not usually possible these days to use the photographs of a press photographer without specific permission  (as per copyright rules) or without buying the photographs directly from the paper.  It is much simpler and you will be less constrained by commissioning your own photographer, but ensure that his/her terms and conditions state that after payment, the photographs can be used in whatever format you wish.  Also many local media do not directly employ their own photographers any more, due to cutbacks, so it is much less likely that they will be able to send anyone out.

6. Prepare notes.

Once an MP or Minister agrees to visiting your business, then that is the time to create a background briefing document giving them bullet point facts about the company, containing key messages, beforehand.  Send them this around a week prior to the visit, so their private secretary can look to prepare a speech for the day  (if required) or any questions the MP or Minister may wish to ask.

7. Maximise available time.

You may only be allocated an hour or at most two hours of an MP or Minister’s time for a visit.  It is important that you maximise the time your special guest is on site.  Draw up an itinerary and include a short welcome and presentation about the company, followed by a site tour to show them what is new and exciting.  Produce a list of key messages and issue these to your team to ensure they are aware of the message you want to get across on the day of the visit.

8. Make the visit real.

Don’t think that you have to bring in professional speakers or meeters and greeters from outside to help on the day.  A factory tour can be much more meaningful if it is led by a factory manager, who knows the business really well and may have worked there a number of years.

Give your special guest the chance to meet and speak to your next generation of staff, such as Apprentices, as this can create a good photo opportunity.  It also motivates the team and gets across to the MP that you are investing in the factory’s future.

9. Set up an area for a photo opportunity.

Media photographers will be looking to set up a photograph quickly, as they often only have a few minutes available at each job.  You can help ease this process by setting up an area with a clean backdrop, with a piece of equipment or product and with subtle branding in place.  (Too blatant branding will ensure that the photographers move elsewhere!)  A photograph could be taken here with the Minister and a key member of your staff.  If the visit is for the purpose of an official opening, a ribbon cutting is a good idea.  However, make sure that the ribbon is significantly wide and is in a constrasting colour to the backdrop, so it can be seen through a camera lense.

10. Send a thank you letter afterwards.

It may sound obvious, but it is good practice to send a letter of thanks afterwards to your special visit.  This is done to maintain good relations, in fact this should be just the start of ongoing communications between your business and the MP or Minister.  The aim is that they may be a good ally for you and you should keep them informed of developments within the business.

If you would like help with planning or maximising publicity for an MP, Minister or visit by other special guest, please contact Dragonfly PR for a free no obligation discussion on 01709 300130 or email hello@dragonflypr.co.uk.

Call 0114 349 5345

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