Below, you’ll find our approach to successful government relations engagement. You can even use it to be your own lobbyist, although it’s a little like home dentistry—even though you could do it, it’s better left to professionals.
Will you engage?
Are you going to find Washington, or is Washington going to find you? Will you act or react? All too often, the question on whether to engage with Washington policymakers and regulators comes in reaction to a problem. The issue can arise from your own necessary business practices-or even a competitor trying to gain an edge.
Usually, that problem comes in the form of a press release, a bill, or regulation that would do harm to your company or industry. It could be accusations made against your company by a policymaker in a speech or an investigatory letter. Or even on television, with an invitation to defend yourself at an upcoming congressional committee hearing.
And therein lies the biggest problem of engaging in Washington – it typically happens in response to a big problem that threatens your brand and your bottom line.
The best defense is a better offense. The ideal time to engage is before engagement is needed. Don’t wait until a big problem threatens your brand and bottom line. Because in Washington, you’re either at the table, or on the menu.
Once you decide to engage, you’ll need to make a plan.
Make a plan
There are different ways to achieve a goal in Washington, and together we will figure out the best way to achieve your goals. First, we get to know your company and your issues as well as you know them yourself. We need to know your business model, plans for growth, where your employees work, your engagement in the community, and what keeps you up at night. The better we know your company, the better we can issue spot and see around corners for you.
We do a threat assessment of your company’s vulnerabilities in Washington, as well as opportunities to gain ground. We put together a written plan that defines early objectives as well as long term goals.
We work with you to prioritize the options we have identified to implement our strategic plan. For example, if your company is pursuing a legislative strategy, an appropriate design may involve identifying congressional champions and supporters based on constituent and/or policy interests, as well as stakeholder partners that could broaden your base of congressional support. If we think the company should be identified as the thought leader on a specific policy issue, Invariant focuses on aligning that thought leadership with a particular trade group and/or think tank and develops initial avenues for collaboration.
Our plans aren’t cookie cutter, and they will evolve to reflect an ever-changing (you may have heard about this) political environment in Washington. So we keep in touch with you. A lot. Scheduled biweekly calls, and calls in between that, too. Quarterly action plans with clear metrics. That way, you know how we are moving forward on your behalf and can hold us accountable.
You’ve got a clear, winning message written in English. Now we have to translate it into Washington-speak. We take every written thing you have— your website, your PowerPoints, your news articles, papers by prominent think tanks and nice things that anybody has ever said about you—and distill them all down into one powerful, coherent message.
We create a simple one-pager: a summary explanation of who you are, the problem you’re trying to solve, and how it is beneficial to the folks in Washington and their constituencies. Invariant knows the rules of the road around here, and also knows the roads where rules have yet to be written.
We tie your business interests to current policy priorities. Sometimes, it’s as simple as knowing the nuances of a provision of a piece of legislation, or a regulation, and how small adjustments can have big benefits for your business. More and more, emerging industries bring issues to Washington that government hasn’t had to think about before. In both cases, the way your story is framed is critical. We help develop themes and messages that will be value-added to your brand and business, but also resonate with the goals of policymakers on both sides of the aisle, and all over Capitol Hill.
Once we’ve got the message, it’s time to engage.
Pack your comfortable shoes and your business cards. We have a plan, a powerful message, and now it’s go time.
We start by introducing your company to key policymakers. You get to tell your story. Key Members of Congress in states where you’re already operating will understand who you are and the difference you’re making back home. Members and staff from the key committees with jurisdiction over your issues will have a better understanding of why those issues matter to you. Depending on your issue, we may also head over to a federal agency or have a meeting with a key White House staffer.
Invariant doesn’t just set up these meetings. We pre-brief these offices and do the follow up to make sure these meetings are more than grip-and-grin photo ops and advance your strategic objectives.
Because trade associations, think tanks, and other nonprofit groups play an increasingly critical role in shaping the policy environment and defining the debate in Washington, we are going to spend time with these folks too. These groups can act to magnify or diminish an issue or legislative agenda. We would leverage these conversations to grow both policy and business opportunities. And if you’re having a problem in another country, we are going to engage with the diplomatic community too.
Now you’re in the mix and part of the conversation.
Getting to yes
We have built our business on getting to Yes. We love a quick yes, and occasionally, we get one. But we will also take a soft no, a probably not, a maybe, a let me get back to you, a still thinking on it, and a so sorry I haven’t called you back I’ve been busy but you know I’m working on it how are your kids all as routes to Yes.
We are tenacious in getting your message heard the right way by the right people. One door closes, we find another one to open. People change jobs and new faces appear. Sometimes, a Senator will literally change a position overnight thanks to new information we provide; other times, it can take years to achieve the goal that will transform the bottom line of your company. We keep trying until we get there. We are relentless. We are Invariant.