The robo calls have stopped and I did not receive any campaign literature today. With the  2012 election cycle now over,  we now have a flavor of how the year ahead will begin to shape up from a public policy perspective. Soon, the Democratic and Republican Caucuses will select their leaders and set their agenda for next year, before going back to work for the next several days in their "Lame Duck" session.

As Congress and State Legislators go back to work, here are some tips for preparing for a new legislative session:

  1. Don't sit on the sidelines, be proactive and get aggressive. As we saw over the past 17 months, politics is a contact sport. And while our politicians can talk a good game that "We need to come together and reach across party-lines," there is no doubt, that policy-making is just as divisive as campaigning. So it is important that you get out in front of the issues that affect your business, let your members of Congress or the legislature know how and take a stand to support your industry and your company.
  2. Building relationships with those with the power to influence

    Campaigns are all about education. They are our chance to learn as much as the candidates and their positions or plans as it is their chance to learn about the issues that matter to you and me. If you missed the chance to share your issues with the candidates, it is not too late to get to know them as a Senator-Elect. Send them a handwritten congratulatory note, request that they meet with you at your office or plant before they take office or schedule something shortly after they take their new position and early on in their term to make a memorable impression.

  3. Strengthen ties with those who may remain in power

    It took Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Twitter a few years to realize that they need a strong presence in Washington and in key states, to anticipate issues, where they may be vulnerable and establish relationships with those with the power to influence before they need to influence them on an issue. Likewise, although a number of incumbents recently won their re-election, it is not too late to get to know them, introduce them to your company and start building a relationship with them as well.

  4. Develop a specific policy agenda to advance in the early days of a new government While Congress and most state legislators are getting back to work, what ever they do will be steamrolled through as they try to fit in everything before they leave for the Thanksgiving Recess.  So if you do not have any issues in the hopper, spend this time planning and preparing for next year. Begin to create your agenda. What issues will you support next year or which issues will you bring to ones attention. Then create the road map to building support and cultivating relationships to use legislative and regulatory solutions to meet your business objectives.

Public Affairs rests at the intersection of Wall Street, Main Street & K Street. A Public Affairs Counselor can help you navigate the treacherous waters of Congress or a legislature. They not only have the relationships to anticipate risk but have the tools to help manage reputation risks given the changing policy and political landscape.

Now more than ever, the success of a company not only rests in part on the world economy, but also through government oversight and government regulation, special interests, and media scrutiny.

U.S. companies and CEOs typically search out a government relations firm or a public relations agency for support and guidance when in fact they should be searching for a public affairs firm that can create and implement multi-channel strategies across each discipline of law, policy, media relations and politics.

For example, lobbyists seek policy and political solutions, Lawyers seek legal and regulatory remedies and public relations counselors seek to debate the issue in the media or now on Twitter. Public Affairs is a discipline that offers a wider net of tools to engage key stakeholders. And it offers a more pro-active approach to engage key influencers in a broader discussion of the issues.

A public affairs strategy involves identifying, assessing, prioritizing and responding to both opportunities and risks that emerge from Congress or the Legislature or even through public discourse.

CEOs may choose to respond to such opportunities and/or risks by seeking to influence that policy through one-on-one meetings; through coalition building or in the media. At least they are choosing to response.

Elections Come and Election Go & Yet Our Issues Remain. So now that we know who we need to influence it is time that we empower ourselves with tools to engage in positive changes that affect our companies bottom line.

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