By Dan Ekstein
"If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail."
– Ben Franklin
It is here: 2022. Assuredly, you have countless issues on your plate. But most importantly — is your company ready? Have you mapped out the next 12 months? Planning is the best strategy. Here are actionable steps you can take today:
Hybrid is here. To stay.
Covid challenges continue, as will hybrid return-to-work policies and meeting formats. A mix of in-person, virtual meetings, and phone calls will continue, and all require preparation and coordination.
While nothing replaces in-person contact, we know we can successfully communicate virtually. Voice-to-voice contact will continue to be essential for all businesses to operate optimally.
How many meetings have you scheduled in person, by phone or via an online meeting platform this week? This month? In the next six weeks?
The urge to fire off an email and delay a conversation is tempting. But an email or text message does not replace the importance of voice-to-voice connection. Intonation, body language, facial expressions (even virtual), and back-and-forth questions that spur from natural conversation — none of these can be duplicated with electronic messages.
If you have been able to return to the office, how are you utilizing your commute? Those living inside or around the beltway live in one of the most congested cities in the nation — continuously in the top 10 in recent years. It’s easy to unplug in the name of “decompression” after a long day, and there are no shortages of podcasts or Audible reads to delve into while driving or using public transportation. But is decompressing the most effective use of your time?
Best Practice Tip: Before getting in your car, Uber or other means of public transportation, make a list of three work tasks to focus on. Whether through phone calls, a Zoom recording (audio only — safety first), or a meeting prep call with a colleague, by utilizing your time in this way, even if you cannot complete all tasks during each commute, you can free up minutes or hours in your weekly schedule.
Strategic business planning must include advocacy.
Often, we get wrapped up in closing for the year and leave planning to the new calendar year. However, the most successful organizations use Q4 as a year-in-review, while also creating a strategic plan for the following year.
Did you wrap up 2021 in terms of your strategic business and budget plans? Did you also set goals for 2022? From a government affairs perspective, do you know when your state legislature(s) are in session? Do you know when Congress is in session?
This year will be as critical as any mid-term election year — and redistricting will play a major part in the outcome of congressional seats. Currently, just more than half of the congressional districts have settled redistricting boundaries. Redistricting can be a grueling and unpredictable process and can result in the courts deciding boundaries, as seen during the last redistricting cycle.
Therefore, consider how redistricting can impact your business when developing government affairs strategy. A comprehensive plan also includes a robust advocacy component. In the current political and policy climate, business and government affairs go hand in hand — both at the state and federal levels.
Best Practice Tip: Bookmark these 2022 state and federal legislative calendar schedules. Determine important information such as state government “crossover” days and when the legislatures are in session. Virtual meetings can offer more scheduling options, as lawmakers can conduct them regardless of whether legislatures are in or out of session.
Opposition to corporate advocacy looms. Get ahead of it.
We know that government advocacy is essential. But there are many who oppose advocating for big business — and their voices are only growing louder. Is your company ready?
As the adage states, “The best defense is a good offense,” so why not position your company as part of the solution? Now is the time to ensure that your C-suite, communications, human resources, and investor relations teams are working from the same playbook. A response matrix can provide a framework for how to address attacks on your brand.
Opponents of corporate advocacy see raising issue awareness as an attempt to increase sales, or bottom lines.
Every company wants to thrive, grow, and remain sustainable — so own it. Your company also has teams of experts. You rely on them to produce your product or service, predict outcomes and handle challenges that arise. That same approach should be applied to your advocacy strategy.
If your company produces printer ink, your team knows the most about what goes into making the ink, how it’s packaged, protocols to keep production lines safe, as well regulations regarding the ingredients used in manufacturing. Are legislators and their staffers experts in this area? Likely not.
Best Practice Tip: Take inventory. Who are your best experts? Utilize in-house staff and board members who can communicate “big-picture” issues, and how policy impacts day-to-day operations. What associations or coalitions are you aligned with? Harness the power of those external industry experts, then develop an educational one-pager to share with legislators and staffers.
The next 12 months will be challenging. But when challenges come, so do opportunities. If you take one thing away from this article — lay the groundwork for success.
Start today. Gather your team to plan and set goals. Track progress and lessons learned, and most importantly, act every day to achieve your goals.
Dan Ekstein is a partner at Sagac Public Affairs. For more than 20 years, he has helped nonprofit and for-profit organizations, including Capital One and JPMorgan Chase, expand their advocacy efforts. He is a former president of the National Association of Business Political Action Committees.
"2021 Urban Mobility Report." The Texas A&M Transportation Institute
How redistricting is shaping the 2022 U.S. House map
National Conference of State Legislatures — State Legislative Website Directory
U.S. Congress Floor Calendars