No Government Relations Department Is An Island

Government relations professional Stefanie Reeves, CAE, ponders why so many association staff members feel the least prepared for the public policy section of the CAE exam.

What’s so intimidating about GR? Well for some folks, a lot.

Stefanie Reeves, CAE, senior legislative and federal affairs officer at the American Psychological Association, blogged last week about prepping for the CAE exam and how almost 73 percent of CAE candidates say they feel least prepared for the government relations, public policy, and coalition building portion of the test.

I think in terms of [government relations], it’s kind of an island in and of itself within an association.

(The second most feared portion of the exam was research and knowledge management, at almost 57 percent.)

This number got some of us thinking: Why do so many people at associations feel the least prepared for the GR portion of the CAE test, when the large majority of associations are involved in this kind of work?

“I think in terms of GR, it’s kind of an island in and of itself within an association,” Reeves says. “GR’s what those people in that department do over there. Whereas with people in association management, you can easily explain membership, marketing, IT, etc.”

GR and public policy come with strict rules about lobbying and political action committees, and “if you’re thinking about it from the domain aspect studying for the CAE exam, there are very specific things that you need to learn,” Reeves adds. “Finance is another area where you would need to learn very specific topics, but that’s not something you really need to explain. People know what it means in terms of your account receivables, accounts payable, etc. Those are basic, easy terms that I think anybody who’s done any kind of transaction can kind of understand.”

So how can association staff members become more familiar in the land of GR? Reeves suggests more communication and education among departments.

“For us, we need to educate our colleagues on what it is that what we do,” she says. “Whether you do that through a brown bag, or it’s some internal communications tool, once that door is open I think people with a little understanding will get it a little more, and that will maybe make them a little more comfortable with it. But it’s a two-way street.”

(Photo illustration; original by Kevin Burkett/Flickr)

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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