Archive for the government affairs Category

Government and Community Relations Actions

Government and Community Relations Actions

What should businesses do about government relations? Governments can take your money or reduce your taxes whenever they want. They can increase the cost of materials or open markets to you. Governments can regulate you into oblivion or encourage your growth. They can even take care of your stakeholders’ needs for you or compel you to provide everything for them. This is true at the national level, as well as with state and local governments. The potential impacts are enormous. It would be foolhardy to ignore them. So, what do you do? To start, learn and practice the basics of government and community relations.

Government and community relations Government affairs

In our increasingly polarized society, the stakes of government action are growing. The pendulum of history swings both ways. If it goes too far one way, eventually it will swing back in the other direction.  With less than 90 days before the November 6, 2018 elections, you need to start preparing your business for whatever direction the government will go. Whatever the results, the direction will change.

We’re not necessarily suggesting that your business take sides in the election, but you should expect change either way. The deliberate, methodical procedures of government used to allow time to adapt by insulating businesses from dramatic change. Today, those procedural protections are often disregarded. Combine this with the political posturing that is reducing opportunities for bipartisan solutions, and we have a recipe for more extreme change.

What should businesses do about Government Relations?

Most businesses operate better in stable, predictable environments. Without this stability, we are forced to find solutions for the unpredictable disruptions of our polarized and contentious political world. Some businesses are picking sides and others are seeking influence. Be careful though, since you are gambling your company’s future when you pick sides in politics. You may win for a number of years, but you only need to look at Enron to see how it eventually could work against you.

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These days, even the most sophisticated businesses are finding it difficult to anticipate and respond to government actions. Some may think of government relations as a political exercise and try to bolster their connections with either Republicans or Democrats in anticipation of the next election. Others look at government relations as a public policy exercise and do their best to objectively inform government officials about the impact of issues. Small businesses may have the owner periodically inform local elected officials about their concerns, rather than dedicate staff to government relations.

Most companies try to navigate this age of disparagement, conflict, and agitation without alienating key stakeholders. For many, the best solution may be a return to government and community relations fundamentals. This helps insulate them from harm and strengthens their base of support. We’ll walk through the seven fundamentals of government and community relations below.

Seven Fundamentals of Government and Community Relations

Regardless of size, every business should prepare itself for an uncertain future. While government and community relations efforts can range from the very elaborate to do-it-yourself, there are seven key initiatives that will strengthen any program. Take these basic government and community relations actions now, scaled to the resources and needs of your business. They will dramatically improve your business’ ability to protect and even enhance its future. This applies whether you have a formal government relations function or are a one-person shop.

government and community relations

Stay Informed

This is the most fundamental need. Stay informed about developments, policy alternatives and the potential impact on your business. For the small business, this may be limited to following the news and participating in a business or professional organization. For large businesses, it’s the same plus deep analysis by experts, intelligence gathering by trade associations, consultants, and your own professionals. If you don’t want unpleasant surprises or missed opportunities, you need to know what is happening and how it will affect your business.

Build your reputation

It’s important that you develop the best possible reputation for your company. This will help prevent your business from being left out of positive legislation or the target of attacks. How others view your company, its value to the economy and contributions to society will influence government officials. A strong brand and reputation help ensure a more attentive audience. In most companies, this is managed by corporate communications or your communication consultant.

Engage in local communities

Strengthen your relationships and base through involvement in the communities where you operate. The communities that host your business are some of your most important stakeholders. They are homes to your employees and people who can influence your future. They can either oppose you and make life miserable or be your biggest supporter.

The time to make friends is not when you need them, but when you can help them. Your investment in them will pay great dividends if and when the tables turn. Start by joining the local chamber of commerce and supporting local organizations. Introduce yourself to local officials and be as helpful as you can in resolving problems. A little courtesy and involvement by you will go a long way. Someday you may be pleasantly surprised by how willingly and effectively they can return the favor.

government and community relations

Leverage your influence

Large businesses likely have a Washington office with teams of government relations professionals and outside lobbyists. They may be a member and involved in major trade associations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, American Petroleum Institute, American Hospital Association or the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association. Small and large businesses may also belong to state and local associations such as the Texas Farm Bureau or Greater Houston Partnership. These are great sources of information, and they provide opportunities to collaborate with like-minded businesses. They also can help you directly express your business’ views to government officials.

Build relationships with officials

You, your government and community relations professionals, trade associations, employees and other stakeholders can also develop relationships with elected officials by attending events, writing and meeting with them. If you share substantive information, your elected representative may be better informed, share insights and become more supportive of your position. Don’t overestimate your influence, however, since the average Congressional district has about 650,000 residents, with conflicting demands for representatives’ time and energy.

Inform and engage your stakeholders

Your employees understand and care about your business. Keep them informed about issues and opportunities, so they can share their views with elected officials when needed. Man employees are involved in their communities and your most effective ambassadors. Elected officials care what people think. Also, consider keeping other stakeholders such as suppliers or business partners informed and engaged.

Consistent messages

It’s always important to have consistent messaging to all stakeholder groups. Employees, media, investors, government officials, and community leaders should all receive consistent messages and timing is also important. For instance, federal rules prohibit disclosing material information to one group of investors before another. Likewise, you don’t want employees to learn important information about the company from the news before they hear from you. Avoid conflicting messages and be sure to coordinate your company’s outreach efforts on policy matters. The government relations and communication teams need to synchronize their efforts so stakeholders’ grassroots activation complements your other legislative and administration contacts.

Conclusion

Businesses depend upon a social license to operate. These government and community relations efforts build the understanding and relationships needed to gain that support. In this way, they protect and even advance your business interests. While we may not be able to predict the future, we can prepare for and influence it. Take these steps now and you will have a say in how government policy affects your business.

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Houston, Texas 77002