Effective Public Engagement – 3rd in a series of 5 posts

Old-School-GovernmentFighting a government threat is a lot like any important undertaking involving any constituent group. To be effective, you must first seek to understand before you work to be understood (this is a key takeaway in my book, Building a Winning Business). That’s why my first lesson is (1) Pay close attention to the issues and government proposals before they become laws!

It takes time to read newspapers and to follow the many proposals that are described, particularly at the beginning of the legislative season. If you don’t have time to personally monitor the political landscape, engage a professional to do this on your behalf (larger companies have public affairs teams in house who routinely do this important work). Don’t take a blasé approach to a potential threat in the early stages because the best time to influence a legislative outcome is before a proposal becomes a law.

Part of understanding proposed legislation should include an appreciation for what a politician is seeking to accomplish. Thus, my lesson #2: Seek to understand both sides of the issue so you can provide a reasonable, balanced perspective.

In the recent B2B debate, the Governor was clearly concerned about the long-term viability of our state. He repeatedly stated the need to make sure every single Minnesotan is prepared for the future with a solid education. Those are goals I, and many in the business community share.

This also explains why lesson #3, “Work to document your company’s contribution to the local community,” is so important. We need to prove that we have “skin in the game” when discussing what is best for our businesses, employees and the communities where we operate. During the B2B debate, we gathered information about where our employees live, how much we contribute in taxes and charitable contributions and other key data. This was woven into my articles and into direct conversations with members of the Minnesota State Legislature.

Next time: lessons 4-7