You gotta fight, for your right… to be heard by the government

Posted by: on Mar 15, 2021 | No Comments

There is no such thing as waiting for your turn when it comes to government announcements. It is dangerous to assume that simply because the government makes one announcement that there is a definitive logic to the next. Instead, public affairs always has to help shape the policy future.

You have to assume that there is no such thing as a fair share as far as government policy announcements are concerned. There could be a logic to suggest that ‘next time it is our turn’ but that makes at least two massive assumptions – that political priorities remain the same and that someone is paying attention / keeping count. Neither of these are sensible assumptions.

There may be a general consistency of approach for a government as initially set out by its election manifesto but there is always pressure being exerted on them which causes shifts and deviations. One sector could be in vogue at one point, but a new issue could emerge, or a reputational challenge could come to the fore which lead to changes. Once government comes off a path, it can be difficult to get them back on it.

The lesson must be that a policy is only secured once the legislation or regulation is in place, the announcement made, or the funding in place. In other words, it becomes impossible for government to back out or change its mind.

In terms of public affairs actions that means:

  • keep on keeping on – maintain the dialogue and the ‘pressure’ even in the event of an agreement to act. Get them to the point of no return;
  • constantly look to help – the development of a solution to the problem is a cornerstone of public affairs but ‘the answer’ may need to change. Be prepared to do that;
  • help the government to maintain focus – this can be difficult, especially over a long period of time but can only be achieved through ongoing engagement, updating the arguments considering new information and keeping the campaign current;
  • never lose sight of the political imperative – whatever it is you think is coming always must be tempered by the realities of politics. If a policy change or new project no longer offers political value, ie votes, then it is highly likely to be jettisoned unceremoniously;
  • never second guess government – keep a constant flow of information coming into you both formally (through monitoring) and informally (through stakeholder feedback etc) so keep your knowledge, understanding and thinking up to date. Keep good records of the conversations you are having so that you continue to revisit and strengthen your arguments and tweak, if necessary, positions;
  • refresh your networks – the reality is that the influences on governments change, sometimes rapidly. Political friends and advisers come and go. But there is also a flow to changes amongst officials and civil servants as well. So, fail to renew these networks at your peril. You can easily be forgotten; and
  • keep up the briefings – never fall into the trap of believing that everything that you said will remain with a contact. It can take several meetings for them to really understand an issue, especially if it is quite complicated (which many public affairs issues can be). It is also the case that an issue is rarely the preserve of just one contact internally or at government level. An issue normally requires a number of people, on both sides, to come together.

We all must remember that fighting for the attention of the government is highly competitive. Ideas of ‘next in line’ put this to one side. The reality is that someone else will always want to take your place. They too may believe that they are ‘next in line’. Always look to maintain the momentum and take nothing for granted. Otherwise someone else could well come along with a shiny new offer that looks more attractive.

Do not allow others the time or space.