The government relations industry tends to get media attention on the national level, but recently state and local governments have been making news with their bold legislative initiatives, actions locally to federal problems, and amplified crises because of Covid. The Public Affairs Council (the Council) sat down with industry leaders at the State and Local Government Relations Conference, from the leaders in overall government affairs strategy to those advocating on a niche local issue, to share best practices, goals, and how to shake the stigma of state-level government affairs.
On the Offense
Find Policy Partners in Coalitions and Alliances
We heard from leading organizations, from Walgreens to United Airlines, that finding the right policy partners will often enable your efforts beyond the D.C. associations and think tanks. Local organizations influence and know the fine details of what is actively changing – even if you might not think there is a chance for engagement. Creating partners with local, regional, community organizations, and industry-adjacent trade organizations helps establish your brand beyond mayors and governors and position your organization to make an impact with the local-level decision-makers.
Example: Water resources crosscut many industries from housing to beer. Water is needed for city development, agriculture, and to make our favorite football game beverages. These industries join forces on a local level to ensure the preservation and clean water for all—cheers to finding more opportunities like this one for the issue that impacts your organization.
Have a seat at the table for strategy
Leaders in Fortune 1000 corporations echoed the same message: Government affairs teams need a seat at the table when developing overall corporate strategy. It’s important to prepare what regulations might impact your organization, plan goals to shape the future of your industry and keep your organization out of oversight committees. Whether you create an impact sheet highlighting milestones or focus your efforts locally in communications style, these hyper-focused geo strategies are being implemented through some of the most profitable corporations in the nation.
On the Defense
Never Waste a Good Crisis
In today’s world, it’s nearly impossible to sweep something under the rug. Your time in the offense should enable results when you’re on defense. Is it time to activate your coalition to make policy moves while your organization handles the crisis? Might this be a time to re-engage your membership thoughtfully and leverage your professional network for stronger positioning? Preparing a playbook for engagement and using data to drive the solution will put your organization in a strong position in the future.
Communicate to your relationships regularly, but keep it short and sweet
When you focus on building relationships early and regularly, success often happens when it’s time for “the ask.” Your professional network internally and externally will come through for you if you’re transparent and keep your update or ask simple. Everyone is inundated with noise constantly now. Breakthrough by being a trusted source of information and the right partner for a policy transaction, but most importantly, keeping it simple… and you know how the rest goes.
With the increased visibility into state and local government policy making, the organizations must adjust and prepare the government action teams to succeed. Whether you find yourself on the offense or defense, organizations like the Council and their membership (including Leadership Connect) aim to make your team as effective as possible when working with decision-makers.
For more fantastic resources and ideas on improving your public affairs strategies, visit the Public Affairs Council website.