Upgrading your digital strategy to manage your issues and stakeholders, and to prove your ROI, has never been more important. With many of the traditional ways of lobbying upended, successful corporate, external, and government affairs teams must digitally transform the way they anticipate, manage, and respond to public issues using technology.
While this digital transformation is not new to the public affairs world, 2020 pushed it into overdrive. Now, the question is: how does technology allow public affairs professionals to do everything remotely, in a way that keeps teams cohesive, successful, and on message while crushing their goals?
“I think the big challenge we're all facing … is how to keep organized because the inflow of information is massive — and how to make sure that we focus on the right things,” says Marcel Halma, vice president of public affairs and government relations at Nouryon, a specialty chemicals company operating in 80 countries, with 10,000 employees, and an annual turnover of $5 billion, that built a fully integrated team using FiscalNote.
Keeping track of legislation, stakeholders, and teams across the world is a big task. The volume of information and legislation has been steadily increasing over the years and now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, governments at the local, state, and national levels have had to ramp up activity to effectively respond. This adds an unexpected level of complexity for public affairs teams.
“Going forward, working the old-fashioned way with Excel sheets and Share Points, etc, is not sufficient.” Halma adds. Tools that combine political intelligence with stakeholder management; connect teams and streamline workflows; help analyze data to assess feasibility and impact on your company and your issues; and help define your team’s ROI are essential for creating a sustainable government affairs strategy going into 2021 and beyond.
Issues Management & Analytics
It’s not just the volume of information that has dramatically increased, it’s also the number of platforms to keep track of. Issues management technology must allow you to store your information and keep track of meetings held, what was said, and what are your key documents and positions on your issues.
But even beyond that, Alan Hardacre, director of group corporate affairs at Imperial Brands, a multinational consumer goods tobacco company, believes artificial intelligence will become more and more important for government affairs technology. Specifically, tools that can help visualize trends and data “to move into a space where it’s helping you not just determine what happened yesterday and where things are today, but perhaps where they might be tomorrow,” he says.
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John Pournoor, global head of government affairs at 3M, adds speed to the equation. “When geopolitical events rapidly and dynamically change the environment, the need and speed with which we have to collect data and process it becomes incredibly important,” he says. “Your speed of data collection has to match at a minimum the speed with which the legislative or political process is moving.”
Effectively collecting, managing, and analyzing information has become more important than ever before. “Data is alive,” Pournoor says and it doesn’t live in a silo. More than ever, government affairs strategies must take into account the cultural and political atmosphere to understand where your issues are going, why your key stakeholders are making certain decisions, and how to effectively respond.
“If you start building stakeholders and relationships when an issue is happening, you're basically too late,” says Halma. “It's a long-term game.”
Stakeholder management tools help you achieve your goals by combining a vast directory of information on public and private stakeholders, relationship management tools, and AI-driven insights. Predictability plays a big role in successfully building the critical relationships your organization needs.
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“What we are constantly doing about critical issues that we see emerging is making sure that we have the right stakeholders,” Halma adds. “It's not an issue now, but we expect in two years we’ll need to do something. We start building stakeholders and then having a digital tool to bring it together helps us keep track [of whether] we are going in the right way, if we need to step up efforts, [or] if we need to bring different people in to build that stakeholder base.”
Technology enables you to engage both internal and external stakeholders through all phases of the issues management process, and support your efforts each step of the way. For Molly Guthrie, director of public policy and advocacy at the Susan G. Komen Foundation, this means using technology to continually train advocates.
“We are launching an online learning management system for our advocates. Trainings are available on a virtual platform, so it's on demand. It's not an expectation that stakeholders or patients come to a training, but they can do this on their own time,” she says. “Right now we're doing this at the congressional district level to try to have an advocacy champion in every congressional district that has gone through this training system.”
Collaboration & Workflow
“I encourage you to house data you collect on government actions, on trends, etc, in a way that your entire organization has access to,” Pournoor says. Collaboration tools help keep your team and internal stakeholders aligned and on track to achieve your goals.
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Collaboration tools make FiscalNote the #1 solution for keeping your team and stakeholders aligned and on track to achieving your issues management goals.
Having a system in place where your team can easily share policy updates, strategy developments, and issue status changes in one platform for everyone to see can make your team more visible and valuable to the entire organization.
Also, stay top of mind in your organization with recurrent updates to your internal teams. Showing what your goals are, your progress, and what this means to the business can be an underrated tactic that can help show your value. “I think internal communication in times where we're not in crisis, just showing that listening to this type of information is really important and business-critical is one of the things that everybody can do,” Pournoor adds.
Proving your ROI
Showing the return on investment to your stakeholders is a challenge every government and public affairs department faces. It’s about tying your wins to your organization’s bottom line and displaying them with consequences and metrics. Whether that’s profits realized or saved from legislation or regulations passed or stopped, membership and engagement growth metrics, or funding secured, technology is at the forefront of helping build and show that correlation.
“ROI is something that we dedicate a lot of energy to, and increasingly so over the last few years,” says Hardacre. “We want to know what the issue is that is being faced, but we want to know the likelihood of it happening, and we want to know the timing and if there is a timeline. And then, we want to know what the annualized financial impact is, whether it's recurring or one-off so that we can get a bit of scale to this situation.”
Halma brings back predictability as a crucial component of proving your team’s ROI and value to the organization, which is where policy monitoring software can play a big role.
“Make sure that your company leadership, your business leaders or your functional leaders, understand what is going to happen and what you can do about it,” he says. “What I do try to report on and use data for is trend development. … If you can indeed predict how an issue is developing and use the data in terms of adjusting your strategy, that helps a lot.”
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