More and more managers are creating public policy brands that include stakeholder engagement and government relations strategies to address political and policy implications for continued bottom line performance; as legislative and regulatory achievements are largely determined by those who are most effective at making their case while demonstrating broad-based support from industry peers, employees, and the public.
Over the last several years I have worked directly with CEOs and top management team members and through these experiences I have learned that the most effective business strategies require managers to design and execute competitive public policy strategies as well as competitive marketplace strategies.
Here are six principals organizations need to remember when advocating on various issues both in the U.S. and aboard.
Understand The Public Policy Process
Policies that affect organizations are decided at several different levels -local, state, federal and international. Likewise, there are several different stages of the process – legislative, executive, regulatory, and judicial. Each level and each stage of the public policy process is a separate audience requiring separate analysis and action.
Acknowledge That The Public Policy Process Is Long
Unlike implementing a marketing campaign, the public policy process never ends. Once legislation is passed and signed into law, responsibility for interpretation and implementation of the law is typically passed to a regulatory agency and possibly to the courts. Likewise, it is not unusual for legislators to re-consider a law once it has been implemented and after your organization has started complying with the new regulation. Just as the market is continuously changing, laws and perceptions change as well.
The Importance Of Being Proactive And Strategic
To set the right path for success you must be as proactive as possible by monitoring threats and opportunities in the political environment in both your current market and potential markets. As a growing organization you never want to be on the defensive or a late comer in the policy debate – it is much easier to influence legislation at the early stages. Why? Relationships are key and building a long-term relationship based on trust with policymakers cannot be achieved overnight. Not matter your brand recognition or the power of your company; people build relationships with other people via experiences not products and logos.
Knowing The Power Of Executive Influence
Senior Leadership Team members have a tremendous amount of influence as they are perceived as credible authoritative sources of information on industry-related issues. Yet, many leaders are still reluctant to participate actively in public policy. In order to best communicate the company’s policy positions, senior leadership team members must be actively involved in order to build a strong case for or against a proposed measure.
Grassroots Support Is The Golden Ticket
Build it board and build it deep, as grassroots support is the single most powerful means to influence public policy. Having a committed group of internal and external stakeholders who are educated on your organization’s policy issues and who are actively involved will grab and maintain the attention of policymakers. Policymakers pay attention to and respond to their constituents. Organizations with the most effective strategies understand the value of educated and mobilized employees and customers.
Coalitions Equal Influence
No matter your organization’s power and influence, no single group can successfully influence public policy issues on its own. Organizations that join working policy groups and/or issue advocacy coalitions increase the likelihood of success. For example, the Public Access to Sunscreens Coalition (PASS Coalition) does a great job at bringing to together a diverse group of organizations such as L’Oreal USA, Beiersdorf, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and the Melanoma International Foundation to work “collaboratively with the FDA, Congress, the White House, health providers, consumer organizations and stakeholders to establish a regulatory pathway for timely pre-market review of new, safe and effective sunscreen ingredients.”
Rather than simply reacting defensively to proposed regulation or legislation, companies and industry associations can proactively shape public policy positively impacting the community. By devising a public policy brand to address a complex business environment, organizations are less likely to find themselves with a diminished brand and low customer loyalty.