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Getting a Seat at the Executive Table

by Content Team, FiscalNote

It's time for government affairs professionals to get a seat at the table. Read on to find out how.

Government affairs departments exist because policy can have a significant negative or positive impact on organizations.

Yet the bane of many a government affairs team is being viewed as a drain rather than a driver of revenue. Add to that only a vague understanding by finance and the C-suite as to how, or whether, government affairs contributions have any impact on corporate or association business goals, and you’re into a never-ending cycle of proving your worth.

And yet, according to McKinsey, the business value associated with some type of government action such as legislation or regulation – is around 30 percent for most industries and as high as 50 percent for the financial sector. In today’s increasingly complex business and political environments, the government affairs function is more consequential than ever.

But the problem for government affairs teams, who have traditionally used lobbying and communications as their most effective weapons, is how to show that value on the bottom line.

Not any more.

Technology is now allowing government relations and advocacy departments to show their results in hard metrics, the language of the money counters in every organization.

For government affairs professionals, advances in technology offer an opportunity to showcase the impact they have on corporate and organizational goals — even when their activities span multiple legislative sessions or administrations. They can also now more clearly align and execute their campaigns in Congress, at state and local level, and internationally, with overall company or association goals.

The key is to demonstrate that the typical tasks associated with government affairs; identifying and tracking important issues, fending off detrimental policy initiatives, or proactively sponsoring legislation, have a material and measurable impact on the overall business, despite not being tied directly to revenue.

The rise in advocacy, specifically grassroots advocacy, has also greatly enhanced the metrics and mobilization government affairs teams can show.

Advocacy campaigns involving engaged clients, members or supporters, show impact far beyond the government affairs department, and help with brand engagement, client and member attrition rates, fundraising, and ultimately customer lifecycle.

The challenge though is to do more than simply reduce the time spent on administrative activities and racking up metrics on a dashboard. To truly get a seat at the decision-making table in any organization, you have to demonstrate how you can build a 21st century network of stakeholders more efficiently. That means identifying champions of your organization for legislation, prioritizing policy agendas based on insights generated from analytics, and understanding not only how lawmakers lean on any given issue, but what really make them tick.

Leveraging this information to drive better results across the board for your organization is the key to moving beyond justifying your existence and showing that government affairs not only deserves to be at the table, but sitting near or at the top of it.

Here are three ways government affairs teams can use data and technology, combined with their traditional activities, to ensure the C-suite or board will sit up and take notice.

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MEASURE ECONOMIC IMPACT

Government affairs professionals have to pay close attention to the potential economic impacts of pending legislation and regulation on their organizations.

Whether the potential consequences would lead to increased costs or to new growth opportunities, that insight should drive the vision, alignment and execution of the government affairs team.

Quantifying this impact for the C-suite, executive director, or board of directors, should be a priority for modern government affairs departments. To do this, government affairs professionals have to be able to link the actions of the department to legislative or regulatory outcomes.

So much work goes into bill tracking, lobbying, meetings, research, and networking – but it’s hard to prove the direct results and relationship between those actions and impact.

Traditionally, the impact of that was difficult to show, when the focus was often on relationship building, spreadsheets and email management. The good news is technology platforms such as FiscalNote make it much easier to show return on investment for your government affairs department.

For example, technology that allows teams to log actions and relate them directly to bills, regulations, legislators, and committees can enable professionals to keep track of what’s been done and what the specific outcomes are. Imagine pulling a professional-looking report that gathers all of this information together in minutes, rather than cobbling together Excel spreadsheets and Google docs?

Meanwhile, collaboration tools make it possible to collect and share these actions and outcomes within and across departments – a key step towards substantiating impact as a department.

EXPAND NETWORKS

Government affairs professionals rely on their ability to build a network of stakeholders they can influence — to persuade to sponsor, support, or kill specific legislation or regulations, or to build a coalition. But think about what it takes to truly get to know a legislator and develop a lasting relationship? It’s a labor-intensive activity, requiring sustained effort, with limitations in terms of time and scope.

The sheer amount of work involved, and the inability to scale, almost certainly limits the impact you can have.

Data and analytics offer the opportunity to exponentially expand your network. Analytics about legislators, for example, can give government affairs professionals insight into everything from issue-specific voting records, to more subtle ideological preferences. Straightforward “data collection” leaves time to focus on building a more powerful campaign strategy with the right legislators.

Analytics can tell you things you didn’t know about existing relationships, as well as dive more deeply into the leanings of surface legislators with whom you ought to be building stronger ties. Not having to rely only on the “who you know” model helps you expand your influence.

GROW THE BOTTOM LINE

Business development is not generally perceived to be a key activity for government affairs departments, but with the right technology and analytics, you have the opportunity to play a bigger role in the entire organization. Keeping track of appropriations bills at federal, state and international levels that are likely to have an impact on the bottom line is the first step.

With cutting edge search capabilities and automation tools, a government affairs department can identify potential growth opportunities by watching trends where legislation is moving, thereby transforming itself into an effective business development operation.

Savvy pros can take it one step further by utilizing insights from legislator analytics to help inform an outreach strategy fueled by legislators who are likely to help or hinder your efforts. Once you’ve identified the opportunities appropriate for your organization, you can become more effective at turning them into business — or handing them off to business development colleagues.

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