Government Relations in Evolution
The following article is based on a talk Jeff Mascott gave to a global corporate government relations team in May 2017. Although we at Adfero are strategic communicators, not lobbyists, we often work closely with government relations professionals. Such partnerships has inspired this collection of observations.
TODAY'S WORLD IS RAPIDLY MODERNIZING,
endlessly riveted by change and constantly challenging its inhabitants to keep up. Our generation has grown wary of the technological advancement that will ultimately transform our job market, severely damaged by occupations that have already been lost. But it's not only low-wage workers who are at risk—many white collar jobs are also likely to be disrupted. The government relations professional may very well be among them.
While I can't predict how the years to come will affect the government relations profession, I'm certain lobbyists must evolve in order to perform effectively. And evolution isn't just adapting to changing realities and developing new abilities, but also strengthening core skills. I have identified six new, expanded roles of the evolved government relations professional, which I will outline below.
First and foremost, the evolved government relations professional must be a strong communicator. Unfortunately, our education system often fails to produce strong writers. Many university students graduate from college without adequate training in the art of communications. For government relations professionals, such training is especially critical. They are required to write well and write often, marshalling language in order to influence and persuade. Whether working on policy papers, reports, internal memos, talking points or emails, the more effective the government relations professional is at being clear, concise, and easily understood, the more effective he or she will be at the job.
The evolved government relations professional should also be a skilled strategic thinker. In my last LinkedIn article, I described my simple conceptual model for thinking strategically, which is hinged upon thinking high (asking, “why?”), thinking wide (asking, “what else do I need to know?”), and thinking far (looking ahead). These three dimensions of thought are essential to all successful government relations professionals.
It's easy to forget that every government relations professional has an enormous impact on his or her company’s corporate reputation with government officials. Congressional staff want to work with lobbyists they can trust, and the behavior of these lobbyists affects staffers’ overall perception of the company. Government relations professionals reflect brand values and strengthen corporate reputation—it is their personal meeting with lawmakers that makes all the difference.
For the twenty-first century government relations professional, it is no longer sufficient to merely follow the news. He or she needs to observe the conversation on social media. The contemporary digital age has brought about change in the nature of influence, and voices that shape the debate can be found online at all times. Reporters from publications large and small, experts from think tanks, academics, members of advocacy organizations and elected officials are continuously discussing and debating policy issues.
I don't mean to suggest that one must engage in online debates, but my recommendation is that when working on a particular policy issue, in a particular country or region of the world, one should become familiarized with all influencers of policy and actively keep up with their unique dialogue.
Another role of the evolved government relations professional is that of conductor. He or she is responsible for orchestrating different people to play different parts at different times. A skilled manager, he or she must work closely with employees, partners, suppliers and customers to produce the maximum effect on the outcome of policy decisions. The government relations professional need not—and should not—go at it alone.
Finally, the evolved government relations professional must excel at considering how to best leverage technology. At the moment, I recommend paying close attention to two technology trends. First, public affairs professionals are increasingly relying on data analytics and predictive modeling. Companies like Quorum have created tools to predict where policy makers stand on issues as well as likely legislative outcomes.
Second, some government relations teams are taking advantage of the latest Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and inbound marketing technologies. At Adfero, we are currently working with one of our clients to implement CRM and inbound marketing tools that record real time intelligence on the activity of reporters and congressional staffers. Technologies such as these better prepare the government relations team so that it can anticipate, prepare, and respond proactively to legislative contacts.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.