There are some things we can control and others we cannot. But we are all susceptible to risk. Some are natural, like the Tsunami that ravaged the pacific, the Quake that destroyed Japan or the Tornado that ripped through the south. Others are economic, such as the credit crises or the recession.  While others are political. While we may not know when we will be hit by a crisis, we can plan and prepare for them by monitoring the news, engaging our business, political and economic leaders, meeting with our employees and vendors on a regular basis and talking to others to  see where are vulnerable. With 2011 now behind us, we need only look forward, yet a new year brings new crises. In fact, on January 3, Iowa voters will turn out to support their candidates for the GOP Presidential nomination and so beings a year of extreme political risks. Candidates will say anything to win a vote, promise to make key decisions without the advise and consent of a Congress, while we have a Congress that will delay important issues only as to avoid any political fall out, leaving the issue yet again for another day. As business owners, we need to be mindful of the politics behind the policy, the issues behind the people and the issues that affect our bottom-line and ability to build a sustainable company. It is our job as business owners to ask the candidates the difficult questions about job creation, business development, creating a sustainable economy, long term solutions over short-term fixes and holding those that we elect or that are elected, accountable for improving our economy.

However, with all these uncertainties, it is important to identify and asses risk across the country. Public affairs plays a vital role in identifying, managing and avoiding risks.  Public Affairs professionals can spot risks that may be overlooked. They are familiar with the big picture, know the politics behind the issues and the key influences behind them. Public affairs professionals are able to offer a company a broad view as to how they fit or could fit into the big picture and where risks may exist now or down the line, so companies a can better prepare and plan.

They can also communicate the companies key messages to key decision-leaders and influencers in the political sphere, as well as to the public through the media. Companies can mitigate risks by improving stakeholder-relations with government leaders and through community engagement. Risks can emerge whenever decisions are made.

A New Year and an election year is the perfect opportunity and excuse to become more engaged in the political process, and develop deeper relationships with the candidates or elected officials. It will help a company protect and enahnce their reputation in the media and before the public, while raising awareness for the products or services it provides. To begin, we suggest:

  • Building relationships before you need them
  • Monitoring legislative, regulatory and political action
  • Attend fundraisers for candidates you support -- not to win influence but to develop relationships and expand your network
  • Talk openly about the issues that matter to you personally and to your company
  • Invite candidates to visit you in your office or plant to see first hand the work you do, the jobs you create and the benefits you provide to the community