Posts Tagged ‘state government relations’

Insider Dealing – A Government Relations Necessity?

August 12, 2014

By Steve Arthur, Vice President

blog-buildinginternalrelationshipsI recently participated in a client’s government relations off-site retreat, and part of that meeting was devoted to developing the key issues on which the government relations team should be working. But unlike many companies where a team might kick issues around and decide what was most important, this team was working on an outreach plan to meet individually with many of the company’s senior management to discuss what was important to each business unit.

This is an excellent approach to corporate government relations for two reasons. As Stateside President Connie Campanella proffered in her blog post on the subject, “No Client, No Issue,” if you do not have an internal business unit that cares about an issue, you have no business working on that issue. That doesn’t mean you should wait for them to ask you to work on an issue. Quite the contrary: It is YOUR job to understand their business well enough to identify emerging issues and take them to your internal customers for evaluation and development of a business case for political engagement.

Second, simply building internal relationships is a critical component to the long-term success of your government relations program. If you do not want to be perceived as simply a “cost center” for your company, you need to invest time in internal relationship building. Just as you spend time building relationships with state and local officials at Groups meetings and statehouse visits, you need to do so internally to be seen as a partner and someone who can be trusted to support the business. If you are not, your program will always be at risk.

The meetings our “retreat” client is scheduling with senior corporate executives will afford the government relations team an opportunity to brief about current government relations activities while learning more about the business unit issues. The discussion could include explaining the assets that government relations brings to the table, such as how Groups are used to extend the reach of the program and spotlight emerging issues.

As we all know, corporate leadership has a fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders, so you need to make sure they see that the government relations team understands and appreciates that obligation. While it is not always possible for every policy, if you can assign a dollar value to any issue you work on, you can demonstrate that you speak their language. It also has the benefit of giving you an additional data point when you are prioritizing the issues. Again, the key is aligning your work to the goals of the business.

Finally, now is the time that most of our corporate and association clients begin working on next year’s budget in earnest. While it might be nice to decompress after a summer of Groups meetings, this is the time to talk to those with profit and loss responsibility in your company and make sure you are working on the issues important to them. As they see the value you bring, it becomes easier to get budget increases when you can clearly demonstrate the P/L impact of your work.

So make sure you have an internal plan to reach out to your internal customers. You’re spending the summer (and the rest of year) attending Groups meetings to build and maintain relationships with elected officials across the country to advance your company’s agenda. Make sure you actually know what that agenda needs to be.

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Steve Arthur is Vice President and brings more than 20 years of public policy experience in both the public and private sector to his work at Stateside Associates. Mr. Arthur provides clients with hands on state government relations support from strategic planning and issue management to lobbyist management and direct lobbying. He is one of the leaders of Stateside’s Attorneys General practice, guiding clients through the process of working with, and lobbying, state Attorneys General.

NAAG MEETING: NIGHTMARE TO DREAM TRIP

June 12, 2014

By Steve Arthur, Vice President

parachute_hit_target_400_clr_14044My recent trip to the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Summer Meeting reminded me that state government relations professionals deal not only with weighty public policy issues, but also with the choices we make about whether to attend a conference and how we get there.

We sometimes do take for granted the nice places we enjoy while attending Groups meetings. However, for anyone who has ever attended a meeting on Mackinac Island, Michigan you know that getting there can be a challenge even when everything goes well. And last week, everything did not go well getting to the NAAG Summer Meeting.

My day began with a 3:00 AM wake-up call to be on the road from Santa Fe to Albuquerque at 4:00 for the 6:00 AM flight to Minneapolis to catch the flight to Detroit to catch the flight to Pellston, Michigan to catch the bus to the dock to catch the ferry to island to get on the horse drawn taxi to the hotel. Just in time for a 7:30 dinner. At least that was the plan.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other ideas. Due to severe weather, the Detroit to Pellston flight was cancelled, and some on the flight were told the first available seat would be two days later. In fact some meeting attendees seriously considered asking the airline to simply fly them back home. To their credit, NAAG staff quickly arranged a charter bus to make sure the Attorneys General, staff and the rest of us could arrive in time for the next day’s opening session.

So a 45 minute flight became a 360 minute bus ride after a two hour delay in leaving Detroit. That 7:30 dinner became an order of chicken fingers at the airport and a refreshment stop at a grocery store in Flint. Of course, the bus can only take you so far when your final destination is an ISLAND. Again, NAAG staff came through with a chartered ferry 5 hours later than the last regularly scheduled ferry.

Once the meeting started the next day, a couple of things became clear. First, while the number of Attorneys General and staff were down from previous meetings, over 30 states were still represented. The big change was the number of private sector attendees, which was well below normal. This made it much easier for those of us who were there to talk with everyone we needed to for business, and also allowed more casual discussions at the social events.

Second, the bus trip became the talk of the conference. While it was definitely not the best of travel days, it was a bit of a bonding experience for those on the bus, and it will likely be mentioned at future NAAG meetings for years to come. And this brings me to my point about how travel can impact our jobs. We all know that building relationships is an important aspect of our profession and when you spend six hours with people on an unscheduled bus ride, that can definitely be a long term relationship builder. We might even start a Facebook page.

The second, and just as important, lesson from this trip is to always attend the meetings that may be difficult to get to because your competitors might not be there. You persevered – they did not – you win. Imagine how you would feel if your competitor followed this advice and you did not?

State government relations is comprised of so many elements from Legislative Monitoring to Strategic Planning, Groups issue management and Lobbying. Until this meeting, I did not fully appreciate the value of the shared travel nightmare for building relationships.

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Steve Arthur is Vice President and brings more than 20 years of public policy experience in both the public and private sector to his work at Stateside Associates. Mr. Arthur provides clients with hands on state government relations support from strategic planning and issue management to lobbyist management and direct lobbying. He is one of the leaders of Stateside’s Attorneys General practice, guiding clients through the process of working with, and lobbying, state Attorneys General.

Odds Are You Are Not Doing This

May 13, 2014

By Josh Fisher, Esq., Manager of State Issues

blog-silhouette-of-peopleEarlier this year, the Public Affairs Council (PAC) released its 2013 State Government Relations Benchmarking Report, which is filled with great information on the corporate and association state government relations (SGR) practices. In particular, the PAC report found that “SGR work is usually broad in scope and in territory covered, so those surveyed rely heavily upon external relationships and services for the fullest coverage and tracking of their particular public policy concerns.”

Examples of these external services include contract lobbyists and consultants. We are consultants at Stateside and much of our work involves helping clients hire and manage lobbyists. During the course of the year we provide dozens of qualified lobbyist referrals to our clients. Consequently, we know the importance of consultants and lobbyists to SGR professionals.

With that in mind, what really stood out in the report was the finding that about half of corporate and nearly three-quarters of association respondents have NO formal process for evaluating their contract lobbyists and consultants.

Let me cite some more figures to draw out why this is a surprising number. The PAC report found that for its corporate members the average SGR operating budget allocated 22% of its resources for contract lobbyists and 5% on consultants and vendors. Additionally, the ratio of contract lobbyists/consultants to total SGR staff is typically 2:1 according to the PAC report. Association respondents, on average, allocated 19% of their SGR operating budget to contract lobbyists and 9% on consultants and vendors. For associations, the typical staffing ratio is 1.8:1. These numbers demonstrate lobbyists and consultants outnumber your SGR staff nearly 2 to 1 and account for about a quarter of your budget. And there is no formal evaluation?

It is clear that a large portion of resources are devoted to contract lobbyists and consultants. And yet the report tells us that 54% of surveyed corporations and, even more striking, 73% of associations do not have a formal evaluation process. Both corporations and associations cited results as one of the top evaluation criteria for their contract lobbyists and consultants. It seems most people just want to know if the bill passed or failed. Bottom lines are impossible to avoid, but one day your bottom line may be in danger if you cannot justify the expense of a lobbyist or consultant you hired. To judge performance solely on outcome misses the mark.

In previous blog posts we have examined the importance of audits and the reasons you should use them. Let these numbers be a not-so-subtle reminder of the importance of being able to support your decision to hire a contract lobbyist or consultant beyond saying the bill passed. While the time for evaluations and audits is typically after sessions have ended and budgeting for the next year begins, now is a great time to gather the information you need as part of the audit process. Let’s be honest, how much of the whirlwind session will you remember come September?

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Josh Fisher is Manager of State Issues. His work at Stateside Associates has given him an intimate knowledge of the legislative process in all 50 states. He works with clients on a wide range of state and local government affairs issues and was most recently Manager of the Legislative Information Division at Stateside Associates.


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