Corporate communications is a complex game. A litany of internal and external stakeholders, with different perspectives and needs, never fail to keep company leaders on their toes. From shareholders to employees, each audience has influence on how a company executes its communications strategy. However, during this particular time of year – especially in the aftermath of an election cycle – governmental bodies play an outsized role in influencing corporate communication planning. The impact of election cycles on corporate communication strategies, whether it be local government or the current resident of the White House, can have the potential for tremendous impact on several areas within any organization’s operations. So, it’s understandable that a change of administration, and who they appoint to key areas can be a notable event for any corporation.
Opportunity to sharpen your corporate communications strategies
At a moment like this, a fresh assessment of your stakeholders and their priorities poses an opportunity to sharpen both your organization’s corporate communications and public affairs strategies. Any organization that is assessing a new paradigm of political influence need only look for the opportunities that present themselves with a new administration. Priorities that were once put on the back burner to avoid conflict or waste can now be elevated. At the same time, the priorities or pet projects of a previous administration may now need to be de-prioritized in an effort to stay ahead of alienating new policymakers.
What is unlikely in today’s political and public environment is that a company can or will remain neutral on high profile issues. Whether the influence towards action comes from customers or employees, companies are being forced to take sides on issues that they may have otherwise avoided in the past. With a new administration, how your organization prioritizes issues is key, as well as how you plan on responding may influence your relationship with these new players.
Taking a hard look over the next four years to emerge on the "right-side" of potential conflict
As companies begin to take a hard look at policy or business issues that will impact their bottom line over the next four years, it is critical that they retain a sense of perspective and global awareness of each of their stakeholders’ attitudes towards any specific topic. Communications should be crafted in a way that deftly acknowledges those attitudes and positions the company to emerge on the “right side” of potential conflict. To do this, corporate communications managers must be both forward-looking, while still remaining apprised of the current landscape. One of the most important tactics to accomplish this is to regularly meet and discuss these issues with public officials and stakeholders alike. With new administrations, there is no benefit in waiting to establish those lines of communications. Company leadership needs to understand where an organization’s audiences are on any given issue, which will help guide the creation of the communication strategy and plan.
Regularly conducting research into stakeholders’ sentiment on issues of importance
Another important tactic to stay ahead of any potential policy pitfalls is to regularly conduct research into stakeholders’ sentiment on issues of importance. Having data not only informs the decision-making process and provides guidance to an organization’s leadership, it can be used a door opener to establish those early relationships with new players who may otherwise not fully understand the reality on the ground.
Remembering the impact on all parties
Finally, while organizations want to establish strong working relationships with new players, they must also be positioned for potential of fallout if those relationships turn out to be more adversarial than they hoped. This could simply be a result of the industry they operate in being a target for an incoming administration reforms, or the company may simply have the weaker relationship than its competitors. Having communications plans in place for potential emergencies allows an organization to quickly respond and mitigate detrimental impact on their business or reputations.
Ultimately, an organization must remember that stakeholders are always changing. While a new administration may have the potential of both stronger and weaker positions for an organization, those former players and their allies will continue to play a role. While new relationships must be formed, those old relationships should never be tossed aside.
These dynamics are what makes corporate communications such a complex game.