November 3 is rapidly approaching, and with new elected officials comes new opportunities to connect, engage, and educate a new generation of decisionmakers. This process will look different than in years past, particularly because the coronavirus pandemic prevents us from making connections in person and forces us to rely on utilize technology even more to bridge the gap.
With so many needing to work from home, we have temporarily lost the ability to have a coffee, go to dinner, host a fundraiser, or grab a beer with others in our field, so how do we stay connected?
Flexibility is Key
Maintaining networks during COVID-19 requires flexibility – and a willingness to use technology to facilitate connections. A decade ago, it would be extremely challenging to maintain a network. However, with the proliferation of smartphones, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and more, we can continue connecting with others.
While COVID-19 may have changed how governments operate and elections change who is in the office, the jurisdictions and policy goals remain the same. It is up to us to determine how to continue to educate effectively in the new normal and changing landscape.
A silver lining of working from home has been the ease of scheduling meetings with others and having more effective conversations virtually with both elected officials and staff. Our value is in our relationships, and there is no doubt that virtual and phone meetings allow us to continue meeting with others.
It is a challenging time for those who are just entering their careers to build up their network. However, phone calls and Zoom can suffice for the time being. Returning to “normal” will be a gradual progression, so we must find a way to get the job done now. I expect more and more people will consider a socially-distanced coffee chat as we move forward and counties in California continue to consider their levels of reopening.
Election-induced turnover is part of the life in government relations. However, the key is specialization. Cerrell focuses on the LA Basin at all levels of government, including regional and municipal agencies. Oftentimes, staff with deep institutional knowledge carryover and are excellent for maintaining connections with new elected officials. In fact, sometimes staff are just as, or even more influential that their bosses. The ability to connect and work with staff takes priority, especially during a pandemic.