New Year = New Approach to Public Affairs?

Liam McCloy, Partner, Public Affairs, UK

Although the year is young, I’d like to offer the following thoughts on how businesses might develop their relationships with political decision-makers and opinion formers over the year ahead:

False dawns v. new horizons

With a Brexit deal done, approved vaccines starting to roll out across the country and a global summit to host on climate change, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been keen to trumpet 2021 as a year of opportunity for business. But opportunity means different things to different people. Are we trying to make up lost ground or seeking to chart new territory? How will the UK’s tax and regulatory regime reward innovation and risk-taking versus simply recovering the cost of keeping the economy afloat over the past year?  Even though we are starting the year in another national lockdown, now is the time for UK public affairs campaigners to engage decision-makers in a dialogue on these matters. This will shape the contribution their organisation can make to economic growth and social cohesion enabled by a policy and regulatory framework that is fit for purpose as we emerge from the pandemic in a post-Brexit Britain.

All roads lead to….

The UK Government has exercised extraordinary control over our working and personal lives in 2020. Perhaps it is unsurprising therefore that the appetite for political self-determination has therefore grown noticeably over the past year, not just in Scotland and Wales but in the English regions too. Despite the Conservative Government’s large Parliamentary majority, these voices are unlikely to dim in 2021. Understanding and aligning with their expectations are important for the business community, keen to promote and protect its political reputation among a wider cohort of politicians who resonate with the public at a local level. When communicating with these wider audiences, public affairs practitioners should articulate how policy asks and reforms will help their business benefit people’s everyday lives.

Turning over a new leaf

‘Out with the old, in with the new’– so the saying goes. But on many issues, Covid-19 has simply magnified, accelerated or distorted political challenges that existed before the pandemic. The difference is that the British public increasingly expects business and other organisations to be as much an ‘agent of change’ in tackling these challenges as the Government or civic society. Public affairs practitioners should use 2021 to demonstrate to political decision-makers and opinion formers how their organisations are cultivating creative partnerships to make progress in tackling these challenges in innovative, meaningful and measurable ways. This in turn fosters a more collaborative approach to developing supportive UK policy frameworks.

FleishmanHillard Fishburn’s communications approach to public affairs allows us to take a wider, strategic view of the political challenges and opportunities facing businesses in 2021. We can also help public affairs practitioners navigate this territory efficiently in new and innovative ways.

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