The regulatory landscape of every business has changed in an indescribable way over the last 6 months. Whether it is the ‘rule of six’ and pub closures, or the requirement for retail employees to wear face coverings, every business has had to adapt and understanding ever-changing regulations to keep apace of what they are required to be doing.
However, regulation and public policy is not just a thing that should just be passively “accepted” by businesses and individuals, but actively influenced and shaped. Many business owners will have experienced the feeling of their industries being misunderstood by policymakers recently. We have seen backlash from the events industry regarding mass gatherings and also reluctance from the hospitality industry regarding the 10pm curfew.
An integrated public affairs strategy means building and establishing relationships with key political stakeholders and shaping the regulatory landscape your industry faces. Deployed effectively, it can dovetail with a public relations campaign to further your commercial and organsational objectives.
If you’re not seeking to shape change, it is easy to fall victim to it and there are a number of ways in which businesses can and should be engaging with the political process. Firstly, companies, organisations and charities must make use of their local MP. Backbench MPs can be a huge force for good and are dutybound to represent the voice of their constituents in Parliament. Engaging with them can lead to them raising your concerns in Parliament, or just offer constructive advice on the opportunities available to you.
Parliamentary engagement should be a crucial facet of almost all businesses plans throughout coronavirus and after it. When engaging with MPs and peers with an interest in your business it is not just important to understand how Westminster operates but also appreciate the pithy, data-driven messaging which is most likely to resonate in the corridors of power. This forms the basis of your public affairs/political engagement strategy and we would encourage any business to get in contact to discuss the best way to proceed.
One major thing to consider when engaging with Parliamentarians about issues facing your business and sector is that you are the expert. You know your business and sector better than anybody and this can be extremely useful to MPs and peers trying to grapple with complex issues. Your business should be therefore contributing to inquiries and consultations brought forward by the Government, Whitehall Departments, Select Committees and All-Party Parliamentary Groups.
Your thoughts, knowledge and expertise can be crucial into forming recommendations put to Parliament and may influence how the regulatory landscape in which your business operates in. Whether you want to be supplying evidence to the Transport Select Committee’s inquiry into “e-scooters” or the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s consultation on “improving the energy performance of privately rented homes”, there are countless opportunities to have your voice heard.
Whilst direct political engagement is a surefire way of having your voice heard by political stakeholders, it is important to remember that politicians read newspapers too. An effective, integrated and strategic public relations campaign is one of the best ways to achieve results in Westminster. You only have to look at the stellar example set by Marcus Rashford in recent months to appreciate the power and influence that speaking out in the media and on social media can have with political stakeholders.
If you’re business or organisation would like to discuss a public affairs strategy to help guide it through the next 12 months, then please do get in touch.