By Daniel Bond, Product Director for The House Magazine.
From the outside, the machinery of Westminster or Brussels can appear obscure, and the formal legislative process even more so. Political engagement, therefore, may seem like alien territory – something best left to professional lobbyists or campaign groups with armies of activists. But that myth needs to be debunked – political engagement is both achievable and realistic for organisations that have never attempted it before. In this blog, I will try to explain which types of organisations should be attune to this, why they should be seizing the moment and, more importantly, how to get started.
What type of organisations should engage with politics?
The answer to this is that with a clear strategy and the right platform, any organisation can make their voice heard.
Against a backdrop of Covid-19, the climate change crisis, Brexit and technological disruption, political decisions are being made that will shape our economy and our society for years to come. Through effective engagement you can ensure that, as those calls are made, policy-makers are well-informed about your industry and your organisation – moving you from a silent bystander to a proactive part of the conversation.
At Dods Group, for example, we work with organisations across all sectors to achieve this, from telecoms, technology and transport to engineering and energy. By engaging through our platforms, including The House, Westminster’s in-house magazine, organisations can speak directly to policy movers and shakers.
Those in the energy sector, and adjacent industries, should pay particular attention. As the UK prepares to host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference this November, the ‘Road to Net Zero’ is on everyone’s lips. But this is more than just a political catchphrase. Behind every headline pledge made by world leaders this Autumn, there will follow a multitude of policy decisions to be made at a national, regional and local level – each representing another opportunity for organisations large and small to get their message heard by a political audience on the look-out for ideas, information and inspiration.
As finance departments look to rebuild following the pandemic and tackle the even bigger crisis of climate change, policy-makers are searching for answers to some huge and complex questions.
How can we ensure energy is clean, secure and aﬀordable? How can we be confident that new technologies are given the support they need to become viable alternatives? How can government and industry work together to build a skilled workforce? Can policy-makers get buy-in from their voters? And, following the Covid-19 pandemic, how can economies aﬀord the investment required?
At the same time, Brexit could open up new opportunities for British exporters, and for global firms looking to do business in the UK. Rapid technological change is transforming society and creating new industries. And let’s not forget the evergreen challenges in housing, health and social care, or education and skills.
Politicians cannot address these issues on their own. Success will require a coalition of stakeholders, from industry, Whitehall, local authorities and NGOs, working together to meet common goals. This has to be accompanied by an inclusive exchange of information, ideas and solutions.
If you don’t stick your head above the parapet during that process, you’ll remain on the outside of strategic decisions. And yes, that may mean a missed opportunity for your organisation. But more than that, the political debate – and the policies that emerge from it – will be the poorer for your absence.
After all, who else is better placed to inform policy-makers about the challenges facing your industry? Who else is more qualified to work with them to grasp the opportunities on offer, or to help them manage the risks involved?
It’s in all of our interests for policy-makers to implement clear, thought-through and effective policy. And that means presenting them with all the facts.
How to get your voice heard
It’s clear then, that political engagement is something many organisations should consider, and that now is a pivotal moment for relevant ones to join the conversation.
But where to begin? Being clear about what your organisation is asking for, or what it is offering, is vital. So start by asking yourself some questions. What do you want out of this? What action do you want policy-makers to take to help you?
But just as important, what can you bring to the table? Is there a policy-problem that your organisation can solve? Or an opportunity that your business can help the UK seize? Think about how you can you work in partnership with policy-makers to overcome common challenges or achieve shared aims.
Any successful communications strategy also starts with a candid assessment of how your organisation, or your issue, is viewed. What do policy-makers and political influencers know about you already? What do they think about your industry or sector? Are they under pressure to act in a way that will benefit or harm your organisation? Do they even know that you could be impacted by decisions they are taking?
Organisations that offer political monitoring can help. Our Monitoring and People service can pull together stakeholder maps to identify the key politicians, policy-makers and civil servants you should be aware of, and give you a greater understanding of what makes them tick. You may also want to consider some primary research in the form of political polling. At Dods, we offer research measuring brand awareness, perception and campaign recall, to help you track the effectiveness of your engagement in real time.
This is where this blog ends – but where a successful campaign needs to begin: with a clear understanding of your target audience and its aims. In this case, what politicians are trying to achieve and how you can make them better informed in their decisions. Without this, you will fail to engage effectively – politically or otherwise.