Last November, the most divisive & polarizing election in U.S. history exposed many fears we, as Americans, have about the way our government is representing its citizens. The aftermath? A political climate that seems to suggest that the relevance of effective government relations has lessened. The news media, along with some politicians, thrive on falsely criticizing the mislabeled “swamp” and everyone in it. Despite this, the importance of an effective government relations practice remains critical to anyone looking to impact their industry or organization’s relationship with the government.

The Facts

According to a 2011 survey conducted by McKinsey Global, Managing Government Relations for the Future,” customers are the only group that trumps governments and regulators in their ability to affect companies’ economic value. While frequently overlooked, the world of government relations has a higher impact on companies than meets the eye. In fact, the survey confirmed that stakeholders such as workers, investors, & laborers are not as relevant to a company’s economic value as governments and regulators.

The survey found that quality government relations allow a company’s collective voice to be heard. As a result, government officials and regulators receive honest information, enabling them to make informed decisions.

What government relations is– and why it isn’t “special interests”

Simply put, government relations involves many basic tasks including the gathering and analysis of information and in-depth policy research. This data is used to create a digestible picture of an issue under consideration by lawmakers or regulators. However, the government relations professionals who compile this info are often thought to represent “special interests”. Let’s take a closer look at this false generalization.

Accountants are certified members of the professional organization that represents accountants nationwide. The same can be said for an airline pilot with membership to a professional pilots labor organization. In these -and many other- cases, the associations, and organizations maintain a strong government relations presence. These groups can thus focus on informing leaders and policy makers about the views of those they represent & their impact on the issue under debate.

Think about it…

…Place yourself in the shoes of an elected official: don’t you want to know all constituent viewpoints before voting on an issue? Their collective voices aren’t “special interests,” they’re American citizens trying to communicate their views using the government relations channels available.

Rest assured, lawmaking doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Elected officials, regardless of political affiliation, hear and evaluate arguments from all sides of an issue when making important decisions.

In a 2005 excerpt from “Lobbying: A Misunderstood Profession,” Paul Miller correctly observed, “lobbying is also NOT about fancy lunches, expensive suits, or days out on the golf course.  Lobbying involves much more than persuading legislators.  Its principal elements include researching and analyzing legislation or regulatory proposals; monitoring and reporting on developments; attending congressional or regulatory hearings; working with coalitions interested in the same issues, and educating not only government officials but also employees and corporate officers on the implications of various changes.”

Ultimately, success in government relations comes from integrity, relationships, and informed strategic engagement. In the fast-paced environment of the nation’s capital, it’s wise to have “eyes and ears” representing your views and interests.

Mike Wascom
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