COVID-19 has forced companies and organisations of all sizes to reflect on the way they interact with stakeholders. Whether that be customers and suppliers, clients or shoppers, every sector has been forced to rethink how they continue to provide an effective service and keep their balance sheets looking healthy.
And this shift continues unabated with the way companies are interacting with the media and politicians. The coronavirus pandemic may have marked the first time that your organisation has felt the need to, or been approached by, politicians and the media. Whilst this may have originally come as perhaps an unwelcome surprise, companies can and should be using this to their advantage and can make a success out of political and media relations, if executed correctly.
The first lesson to learn when considering how your business can execute a successful political and media strategy is that you should not operate in a silo. The notion of engaging with politicians and journalists is inherently linked and you should treat it as such. Whether your goal be to preserve your reputation, to influence legislation or to strategically campaign, it is crucial that you consider how you appear in both the press and Westminster.
Many businesses will have seen the coronavirus expose a gaping flaw in the way their industry operates. Whether that be supply issues or regulatory barriers, companies will be looking to make a noise and effect change in their sector. A coordinated and integrated approach can ensure that this is as effective as possible, leveraging direct engagement with politicians and journalists in order to convey the problems impacting their industry.
One of the most poignant examples in recent times of how media engagement can effect political change is the case of footballer Marcus Rashford. Rashford was rightly lauded as an effective campaigner for his work on extending the provision of free school meals, which highlighted how impactful a media campaign can be in a company, or in this case an individual’s, efforts to shift Government policy.
However, when planning strategic campaigns, it is easy to forget that not all companies and organisations have the clout and profile of that of a Premier League footballer. This is where integration and coordination become an indispensable and integral tool to your campaign.
However, it is not just about pro-actively effecting change when it comes to political and media relations. Throughout the pandemic, a number of businesses and companies will have felt that their customer service or way of working did not stand the test of a global pandemic. It was to be expected, the generational impact which coronavirus has had on some sectors could not be predicted and it has meant that some fell short on what would normally be expected of them.
Many industries have subsequently received reputational damage in the media and are looking to rectify this by engaging with their customers and the media and explaining the challenges they faced and the steps they are taking to remedy and support those impacted by their shortcomings.
Yet, many companies will ignore reputational damage they have suffered not just in the press but also in Westminster. Consumers who feel disaffected by the way they have been treated by a company are more than likely to complain to their constituency MP. With the correct messaging and due consideration, companies will be able to turn an otherwise negative interaction with a politician into one that is constructive. As an organisation, if you are able to demonstrate a progressive approach to the issues you have faced and propose constructive solutions for the future then your interaction with political stakeholders will improve.
Often, it is not enough to be seen as making inroads with politicians and offering constructive advice to how your industry can flourish, if the media are taking no interest. Similarly, the media may fail to take an interest if they don’t view it as a political priority in Westminster. The truth is, that politicians read the newspapers and newspapers report on the politicians. If your strategic campaign can leverage support on ‘Fleet Street’ and ‘Downing Street’ simultaneously, then your chances of making a positive impact on your sector and industry only increases.
If you’re business or organisation would like to discuss a political and media relations strategy to help guide it through the next 12 months, then please get in touch.