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Top 3 Things To Avoid When Building Private-Public Relationships

As a coalition leader, you already know that building private-public relationships is critical to strengthening resilience efforts at all levels.  Your success as a FIRST coalition effectively depends on the relationships which you can foster. And just like building any type of relationship, mistakes can be made that “kill the love” so to speak even before you get things off the ground. In this post, we will look at the top 3 things to avoid when reaching out to develop these critical relationships.

#1 AVOID THIS – WAITING UNTIL A CRISIS OCCURS TO REACH OUT

You’ve heard it many times before that “a crisis is no time to exchange business cards” and it couldn’t be truer when trying to establish key private-public relationships. During a think tank session, I hosted in California a few years back, we had the Director of Earthquakes and Tsunamis presenting on crisis response expectations should the “big one” hit. C-level leaders from the financial sector were confident in their preparations due to their longevity in the field and region. That is until our speaker said … “When the big one hits … don’t expect to hear from us”. 

Wait … what?

Well, of course this left just a few of us (me included) a bit taken aback since the topic beforehand had been on how the financial sector was considered a critical infrastructure key resource (CIKR). But the reality was right there in front of us – our public official was saying “Don’t wait until a crisis hits to build a private-public relationship with us. We’ll be too busy saving lives and coordinating response/recovery efforts! That is not to say however that a relationship isn’t desired. Timing is everything. Reach out in steady state to begin your journey!

#2 AVOID THIS – SPENDING VALUABLE TIME EXPLAINING WHO YOU ARE

Unfortunately, I am guilty of this infraction. As I began working to build/brand the Mid-Atlantic FIRST coalition private-public relationship base, I was ecstatic to get face-to-face time with public sector leaders but because I hadn’t prepared any “read ahead” material (and did not have a web presence yet), I had to take precious time out of our initial meetings to start from ground zero in most cases. While this doesn’t sound like a show stopper think about it. Would you rather spend 30 minutes of a 60-minute meet/greet to explain what your coalition does? Or would it be more effective to use that time to forge the relationship by discussing mutual goals and expectations? How to avoid this?

·    Have an online presence that is up-to-date. Read ahead material is critical to the public sector who are often engaged with lifesaving activities that demand their time/attention. They respect brief and accurate information regarding your coalition and its mission.

·    Have a story or two ready to share on how your coalition has responded and successfully used the private-public relationship to accelerate response and recovery efforts. Too new for your own story? Reach out to the other coalition leaders to hear their stories!

#3 AVOID THIS – DRIVING ONE WAY DOWN A TWO-WAY HIGHWAY

All the current FIRST coalition leaders without exception understand the importance of establishing mutual benefit from the private-public relationship that they develop. Someone new to establishing these relationships may miss this critical step simply because at the time of your first “meet and greet” there is so much information transfer occurring that this may get overlooked. The public sector contact usually has many programs for both steady state and incident response so your conversation (especially if restricted by time) may go in a myriad of directions if you are not careful. How to avoid this?

·    Stick with your prepared set of questions/statements as much as possible while allowing for personalities and attendee contributions. Remember, the public sector tends to be short staffed, highly trained and extremely proud of their missions. There will be stories so build time into your agenda to hear them! But don’t lose sight of getting your message across on how your coalition can assist them reach their goals as well. Do you know your #1 value proposition for this contact?

·    Offer to provide support to their efforts. For instance, I recently had the opportunity to meet with a state level private-public liaison who was in the beginning stages of developing an exercise for her region. As a coalition leader myself, I was able to OFFER my assistance in providing financial sector perspective on scenario options. This in turn lead to an opportunity to sit on their exercise committee as a full participant in the planning effort. See how this mutual benefit works?

Understanding how to build private-public relationships is key for meeting the objectives of your coalition. Without them, your information channels will be limited to publicly available data. Too much noise and too little substance creates havoc. Do you have a successful tip for building private-public relationships in your coalition region? We’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

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