How to Chase (and Win) Government WorkLet’s say you work in PR.

Furthermore, let’s say you work in the agency or solo world, singing for your supper every day.

Hi, I’m you. I’ve been doing this for nearly 30 years, and for the last 15, have been running my own show.

Still with me? Okay, here’s where it gets fun.

What if I told you that, in a typical small or mid-sized metro market—you know, the Des Moines’, the Kansas City’s, and the Nashville’s of the world—there were several million dollars of annual PR spend available of which you might not be aware?

And, all of it largely free from the baggage you find in other sectors.

No startups that want you to work for free, no mom-and-pops cringing because every dollar they pay you comes from their butter-and-egg money.

Millions of dollars in available work, spread across projects as small as a single news release to integrated campaigns billing seven figures a year.

And exactly none of it is hiding under a rock.

So, where exactly is all this work?

Well, I’ll give you a hint.

You may or may not be able to fight city hall. But it makes a damn fine client.

You just need to know where to look for the work, how to sort good opportunities from bad, and how to pursue the good ones in a way that burns as few of your resources as possible.

Some Quick Numbers

The claim that there’s several million dollars of local and regional government PR work in every metro area is anecdotal but completely borne out by my decades of doing this type of work all over the country.

If anything, it’s conservative.

Your regional planning agency?

They probably have several contracts a year for public involvement and maybe a six- or seven-figure multi-year program for air pollution education.

Your public housing authority likely has ongoing tenant and public education needs.

Your department of transportation is spending millions of dollars for each new mile of concrete, and nearly every bit of that planning, engineering, and construction demands, under the law, that the public is kept in the loop.

Oh, and the federal government?

A cool billion dollars a year on various PR contracts. And, another $500 million on in-house PR staff, according to research from taxpayer advocates.

Police, fire, education—the list goes on and on.

And none of this is particularly political work. I’ve signed contracts in reliably red states and blue bastions alike.

The government today is involved in nearly every aspect of our lives.

They generally do a miserable job of communicating their value to stakeholders, which is one reason the government is trusted less than media, business or NGOs in America, according to Edelman’s 2018 Trust Barometer.

Chasing Government Work, Really?

Right about now, there’s a fair amount of eye rolling going on.

Government work? RFPs? Greg, it’s like you’re combining all my boring dreams and terrifying nightmares into a single, blobby, bad idea!

Settle down, folks. Although it’s not for everyone, public-sector PR offers solos and agencies a surprising range of potential benefits:

  • Do you enjoy working with nonprofits trying to better your town, region or even the whole planet? Pursuing government PR work is another potential way to scratch that itch.
  • Are you tired of getting stiffed by clients? The government isn’t going out of business, and they honor their contracts.
  • Would you like work that’s meatier than your typical B2C or B2B engagement? Government work offers challenges that will stretch your skill set and problem-solving abilities.
  • And finally, you’re tired of chasing nickel-and-dime retainers. Government work is a path to the bigger-biz game.

OK, But Isn’t Getting Government Work a Pain in the Butt?

That depends.

If you don’t have a plan and flail around for weeks on a $30,000 proposal that ends up looking and sounding like every other agency’s BS, then yeah, chasing government work can seem, pretty quickly, like it’s not worth the effort.

But it doesn’t need to be like that. In fact, you might not even have to go through the RFP process at all.

Whether you have one or two public-sector contracts to round out your book of work or you decide to make a major push into that sector, three things still apply:

  • You have to know where to find the work;
  • You have to know how to determine quickly whether the work is right for you; and
  • You have to know how to prosecute and close the deal without losing your mind to paperwork and bureaucratic hoops.

On projects as varied as one-off infographics and multi-year, multi-million dollar public education campaigns, I like to think I’ve figured a lot of this out.

I’m not smarter than you, and I don’t know some secret government language that wins me work.

What I am is a guy who’s made all the mistakes, fixed them along the way, and now wants to pass on that knowledge for practitioners who want a piece of this very large, very diverse PR market.

That’s why I approached the Spin Sucks team about doing a webinar, and that’s why I’m inviting you to join me on Thursday, May 17th at noon EST.

What You’ll Learn

If you can spare one hour, you’ll learn:

  • How government work can fit into your client mix
  • Advantages and disadvantages of chasing public-sector clients, where to find the work, and how to bust through the time-sink aspects of chasing formal government RFPs
  • Deal killers — what immediately tells me not to bid and how to develop your own list of showstoppers
  • Getting certified and cashing in on specific opportunities for women and minorities
  • Selling to the government without an RFP — how to become a sole preferred source
  • What makes for a really great (or really awful) proposal

I’ve been PR practitioner for a long time.

But my friends also know I’m a die-hard cheerleader for my fellow entrepreneurs in this business.

I want nothing less than for all of us to make a whole lot of money doing interesting, satisfying work.

Learning how to tap into the large, lucrative public-sector PR market can be a big part of that.

I hope you’ll join us May 17th.

What You’ll Walk Away With

The goal of this webinar is as simple as it is audacious.

At the end of an hour, you’ll have a better feel for whether government work is potentially right for you or not.

And you’ll have solid, actionable steps you can take to get started looking for opportunities.

But this is about more than just blah-blah ideas.

I want you to have real tools that will help you kick ass in this space.

So every participant will walk away with a big, downloadable resource bundle to help you dive in if you decide you want a piece of the public-sector pie:

  • Where to look for work: An opinionated, real-world resource guide on how to go from zero to RFP sleuth in a week.
  • The showstopper checklist: What you can look for in your first five minutes of viewing an opportunity to tell you if it’s right for you, with both examples from my decades in this space as well as some things you may want to consider for your firm.
  • The powerhouse dozen – a one-month action plan: Twelve things you can do in 30 days to get on local and regional government radars, so you’re not just another vendor – you’re the smartest voice in the room.
  • Two sample proposals: Yes, you already know how to craft a proposal. But government bids can be fussy. Learn from winning examples.
  • Task, time and materials budgeting for people who fear Excel: A working spreadsheet for detailed budgeting of the kind that many government projects demand.

The Spin Sucks Webinar Series: Chasing Government Work

  • What: Chasing Government Work, featuring Greg Brooks. All the whys and hows behind getting government work.
  • When: Thursday, May 17, 12pm ET (If you can’t join us live, go ahead and register and we’ll send you the recording the afternoon the 17th).
  • Where: Check out additional information about the webinar here or go straight to the payment page and get yourself registered.
  • Bonus: If you are a PR Dream Team member, the discount code is in Slack for you.

See you on Thursday!

Greg Brooks

For nearly three decades, Greg Brooks has advanced complex ideas, policies and technical issues to the press, the public, elected officials and stakeholder groups. A former journalist, Brooks' work ranges from outreach explaining small-town recycling ordinances to media and legislative relations for landmark Supreme Court cases. His practice, West Third Group, is based in Las Vegas and he works throughout the U.S.

View all posts by Greg Brooks