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Is your GR plan ready for 2015?

The new year is a great time to evaluate your government relations needs. New year, fresh start.

By
Hande Bilhan
,
on
January 2, 2015

The new year is a great time to evaluate your government relations needs. New year, fresh start.

It is interesting that some of the corporate world continues to view Government Relations (“GR”) as an ancillary and optional activity. Even companies that have recognized the need for a GR Department, often structurally subordinate GR to their marketing and/or legal departments. While it may appear self-serving for me to say this, it is a fact that by the time a company has an active need for GR support, it may be too late to change the course of a public policy decision that impacts their business hence why a proactive and ongoing GR program is so valuable.

Top reason I get contacted for a short term contract is when a company gets blind-sided by a government or regulatory decision or direction. These are desperate hours when it is often past the point of no return – backtracking on the initiative might just not be an option either from a fiscal standpoint or from a political standpoint once a public announcement is made. While one can still mount a formidable campaign in a short period of time, the campaign to change a decision that has already been made is uphill and can be protracted versus a proactive GR campaign that is engaged early on to influence a potential decision. It is important for companies to be proactively engaged in public policy advocacy on issues that impact or have the potential to impact their businesses.

Laws, rules and regulations all have the potential of impacting your business – staying out of it is a costly option to choose. While each company’s needs are very different – in-house team, out-sourced full service consultancy, ad-hoc advice or reliance on an industry association – each company should view government affairs as a necessary business function and not an after-thought once crisis hits. A recent McKinsey study found that larger shares of executives say governments and regulators will affect their companies’ economic value, according to results from their third survey on how companies manage their external affairs. Yet few say their companies engage proactively with these stakeholders or are more effective at implementing external-affairs practices. I highly recommend visiting the McKinsey website and reading their excellent research on this topic. While it is not practical nor economical for every single company to have their own dedicated GR team or consultant, a company can consider even a DIY version of a GR program, then call on an expert when things get too hot to handle on your own. But staying on the side-lines is not a risk worth taking.

Hande Bilhan

www.sagepublicaffairs.com

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