The Public is Ready. What Are You Waiting For?

September 14, 2015
Michael Shue, Senior Vice President, Client Relations

On September 10, the Public Affairs Council released their annual Public Affairs Pulse Survey, a comprehensive poll on American attitudes about business and politics. While there are many interesting highlights in the full report (which can be found here) the most important takeaway is the increasing trend of consumer engagement in public policies that affect business, specifically consumers’ expectation that businesses would and should engage in the development of policies that affect them.

When given the hypothetical question how they would respond “if you were the CEO of a business and were concerned about policies that would affect your business,” 98% said they “would not sit idly by while their hypothetical company struggled with difficult laws and regulations.” They would engage with Members of Congress, work within coalitions to make policy change, and ask their employees to get involved.

Not surprisingly, the survey also indicates that the younger consumers are, the more likely they are to get involved in conversations around politics and policy. This finding mirrors the national trend we have seen that shows that voters under 40 years old are demanding to be engaged in real and meaningful ways on policies that affect them.

For those of us who live and work in the public affairs space, the survey crystallizes an important aspect of how we think about our big-picture advocacy strategy: how do we engage the stakeholders who likely already want to be involved in shaping the policies that affect our clients? How do we reach shareholders? Who has family that works in the sector or the supply chain? Who lives in the communities whose economic fortunes rest on our client’s success? All of these are ultimately stakeholders in the enterprise, even if they are not part of the executive leadership. They ought to be a part of the policy conversations that affect the company.

Thanks to the connectivity that the Internet provides, it’s more feasible than ever to reach these stakeholders and—more importantly—not simply mobilize them, but turn them into articulate, committed allies.

We at DDC have found that it doesn’t matter what sector you are in or how “inside-baseball” you think your political challenges are: there are third-party voices who are ready, willing, and very able to engage on the issues your company faces. And they bring credibility to your advocacy that you will never have if you try to stand alone.

All you need to do is build a communications platform that provides your stakeholders with the right opportunities to join the conversation. Taking that first step is transformative for a business—and it can be scary—but it is an investment that will pay remarkable dividends down the road. Your advocacy in Washington changes from business-to-government to community-to-government. And community is where you want to be.


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