3 Ways for Business to Impact Policy in Wake of 2012 Elections

Below is a re-post from ProActive Communications’ President Mark Serrano’s blog, PowerTrip.

In the wake of the 2012 elections, many industries are sifting through the results to determine how to update their plans to impact public policy development in the upcoming Congress and state legislative sessions.

In an industry meeting last week designed to address this challenge, I had the chance to guide a group of state and federal government affairs professionals on the best practices to impact policy, in particular by engaging companies and interested parties across the country to support their industry’s policy agenda.

The session began with some basic assumptions about the state of affairs in government in the near future. With little change in the power structure of Washington, business uncertainty will persist, tax policy is undetermined (at least until a new budget deal is reached between the warring factions), and regulatory threats, especially those affecting heavy industry, will accelerate at the federal level.

Developing a plan to impact policy in this current climate starts with the basics. Large companies and industrial enterprises must accept that policy attacks will continue at the federal level and in some states that serve as anti-business policy incubators.

Also, they must determine where and how they need to expand their political networks with new relationships to be prepared for future policy challenges at the state and district levels.

Ultimately, all organizations should examine their deficiencies in profiling their value to their communities and to the economy on the whole.

This often requires a switch in thinking and commitment, particularly in large organizations where it is more difficult persuading senior leaders of the value and efficacy of an effective political mobilization program within the organization.

Towards this end, here are three areas of concentration for organizations to focus on and concepts to implement them in light of the continued uncertainty in the marketplace and approaching policy threats for businesses of all sizes:

Tell Your Own Story

Mitt Romney certainly learned what happens when you are defined by others before you can define yourself.

Most every employer has a good story to tell about its contributions to jobs and our economy, as well its views on policies that are hostile to business.

These are stories that should be told by companies and industries themselves, especially to educate policy makers before you need to approach them about specific threats to your business.

Telling your story with the use of technology, video, online platforms, infographics, and more is essential to capture the hearts and minds of possible supporters in important policy positions.

For example, heavy industry can invite policy makers for plant tours to educate them about their business, or they can bring the plant to those who cannot come in-person through a virtual plant tour using video and web applications for a compelling visual effect.

Make New Connections

Few organizations have reach in every state and congressional district in the country. Many companies and industries wisely focus at the federal level on the congressional committees that make decisions affecting their businesses most directly.

Since resources are constrained for nearly every organization these days, most have new relationships to make after the 2012 election, either with newly elected officials or with new committee members or leaders.

This can be accomplished by connecting in new ways to build awareness around your brand and your value. One approach is to encourage large segments of people, such as employees, to connect with policy makers and their staff members via social media.

Young professionals speaking about the benefits of their business as a good corporate citizen to other young professionals who represent policy makers helps establish a good foundation of familiarity with your business and the issues impacting it.

Working with suppliers and other “downstream” allies is another way to gain greater geographic reach where you do not currently have a presence.

Break the Corporate Logjam

It is always important to gain buy-in from key leaders in your organization to support political mobilization activities. Such activities often meet a logjam because senior executives do not always appreciate the bottom-line value they deliver.

Overcoming such objections can be accomplished through various techniques. Building a brand awareness program internally about the benefits of political engagement (e.g. voter registration, PACs, policy issue campaigns), for instance, can help to create an environment of acceptance for political mobilization.

Putting a face on the organization by trying to always include rank and file employees (e.g. plant managers, salesmen) in direct meetings, town hall meetings, and plant tours with policy makers can also help reinforce the value of your brand and business.

Good internal reinforcement comes when you can distribute photos from the latest event with employees surrounding a key policy maker, or a published letter to the editor that can be posted on your company blog to demonstrate real value in political mobilization techniques.

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