Expert Insight: Brandy Stacks, Prudential Financial

Brandy Stacks is Director of Government Affairs for Prudential Financial, Inc. In her role, Brandy runs the firm’s political action committees and serves as the point person for many of Prudential’s external affairs initiatives. Click here to learn more about Brandy.

“The key to this business is relationships.” – Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire

I didn’t learn everything I know about PAC management from the 1996 movie Jerry Maguire. But I’ve been in this business long enough to know that this advice applies to running a successful PAC. When Maguire’s career is in free fall, he claws his way back by (re)building a relationship with a single client. He nearly loses that loyal (but challenging) client when he forgets the seven words written above. Remembering them once more gets him the girl, and the glory, at the end of the movie.

Hopefully your PAC receipts aren’t in free fall, but perhaps you’ve reached a plateau and need to reinvigorate your program. When this happens, the tendency can be to reach for the newest and shiniest object. This impulse isn’t a bad one—we must continually modernize—but it shouldn’t be your only one, and it shouldn’t be your first one. Your first impulse should be to make sure that the foundation of your giving program is strong, that it truly reflects the culture of your organization and allows personal relationships to flourish. That means:

Having An Annual Campaign That Reflects Your Value. A successful PAC requires forethought and strategic thinking. First, you must decide what your value proposition is. Why should your employees give? What does it mean for them, and their customers? Answering these questions is key to getting individuals to give. Next, you must decide how it’s best to ask and when it is best to communicate. What is the right amount of information and what is the best medium for communicating to them? You cannot answer these questions yourself, and your PAC and government relations team cannot either. There is value in surveying your eligible populations, but you also should have a kitchen cabinet. Consult your human resources, legal, technology, and global communications teams to ensure you’re saying the right thing and being sensitive to what else is going on in the company.

Implementing A Successful Peer-To-Peer Program. According to Nielsen, 92 percent of consumers trust referrals from people they know. Consumers also are four times more likely to buy a product when referred to it by a friend. Communications from your CEO are vital, but nothing works better than a strong PAC ambassador program. Your ambassadors are true believers in your cause—and they’re trusted associates of the individuals you’re targeting. You must, however, give your PAC ambassadors the tools they will need to succeed. Chances are that your ambassadors are not necessarily masters of persuasion. Think about implementing an executive sales training program that will educate your ambassadors about the “cycle of a sale”: how to make the right ask at the right time, how to move on from a “no,” and how to ask their peers for money in the first place. Even though your ambassadors may have personal relationships with those they’re “asking” , these tools will make their job easier, and more fruitful.

Getting On A Plane Or Train, Or Into An Automobile. Sometimes the only way to make a sale is to meet your client face to face. Nothing can replace the personal touch. Jerry Maguire certainly learned that, and I have too. On average, I visit each of Prudential’s office locations every four to six weeks, sometimes more, participating in or hosting of an average of 17 events a year. Those events are coupled with the more than 70 emailed communications and countless phone calls made each year. It’s all about creating a surround sound effect for your program.

Devising Incentives That Truly Fit Your Culture. Incentives are a great way to spur new donors to action. But not all incentives will work, or at least not all will work in your organization. You must first figure out the culture of your donor base before launching an incentive program. Look around you: is your company spirit evident in tangible products? Then coffee mugs or baseball caps might be the small incentive you need to increase receipts. If not, think about offering information—access to interesting “Inside the Beltway” practitioners and pundits who can give your employees insight into the political process. Providing new networking or mentoring opportunities also is something to consider. (You can never go wrong with an event hosted by your CEO.) One more idea: add a PAC match program. Employees are more likely to engage when their dollars go further.

Tending Your Garden. All of this, of course, comes with having a strong compliance program. If you’re not doing everything by the letter of the law, you might as well not do anything at all.

We’re in a period of political uncertainty. That makes our jobs as PAC managers more difficult. It’s like asking someone to invest in the stock market during a period of volatility. It’s just harder to get to the “yes.” The best way to endure, and even flourish, during a period like this is to remember … The key to this business is relationships.

© 2017 Prudential Financial, Inc. and its related entities.

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