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The Business – Government Speed Differential

One of the biggest hurdles for business is the slow nature of Government at any level.

For a company or corporation time is literally money. Waiting for paperwork to be processed, or promised legislation to be passed is time during which new customers can’t be engaged, production lines cannot start and delivery schedules are not able to be made.

This is because government is not as acutely affected by time as the private sector. The annual nature of funding government initiatives is part of the issue.

State and Federal Budgets are produced with great fanfare as they place the priorities of a government clearly on the table.

However, Treasury remains the government’s profit centre and department heads only need to consider income by way of an annual submission to express their ability to implement policy.

Conversely, business, while having a basic concept of what income they should expect in a financial year, does not have the same luxury. A downturn in sales, or a new competitor entering the market impacts profits and means costs need to be mitigated.

Changes in policy can also affect the bottom line as new regulation is introduced, or as in the case of Uber, a massive change to regulation occurs in response to a judicial decision.

In a clear demonstration of the speed differential, the County Court passed judgment on the legitimacy of ridesharing in May 2016, but a Government sponsored bill is yet to be introduced to the Parliament. In frustration Fiona Patten from the Sex Party has introduced a Private Member’s Bill to get the discussion moving.

Even in true crises, such as the unfortunate events in Bourke Street on Friday, 20 January, where there has been an urgent rethink on bail laws, it will be some weeks before the process of parliament allows a bill’s passage into law.

The democratic process needs to be transparent for people to have any trust that law is being created with proper scrutiny.

If a Bill is referred to a committee, momentum is slowed further, but an opportunity arises for business and other organisations to engage in the process by providing expert advice and experience.

 

RMK+A boasts an experienced team, able to provide invaluable insights and development of strategies to ensure that when your business is seeking to work with government the experience is smoothed and the outcomes are optimised.

political-storm

Disruption The new normal

How to stay on top of politics that can impact your business

In a global political environment that is veering towards the highly unpredictable, government relations and keeping track of the political players with the potential to impact your business has never been more important, or challenging.

2015 and 2016 will be remembered as years of seismic change and upheaval to the comfortable traditional political orthodoxy of the Western world. Brexit, Trump, the rise of the right in Europe, failed plebiscites or referenda in Greece, Italy and Colombia, a belligerent populist in the Philippines, the list goes on.

Here at home, a first-term Coalition Government that was expected to romp home in a double dissolution election was lucky to survive. At a State level, we are becoming accustomed to one-term governments.

Much has been, and will continue to be, written about the root causes of this disruption to the previously somewhat predictable course of politics. However, for businesses with exposure to State or Federal Government policies and regulatory actions, the key challenge is to stay both on top of and in touch with the key players on all sides of politics and what drives them.

In such volatile times, it is insufficient to be cosy with one side or another in a dominantly two party system. Equal attention needs to be paid to both major parties, and now to the minor players who are increasingly carrying critical influence. Further, if the right levers are to be used when policy or regulatory proposals present a business threat, there needs to be an understanding of the competing agenda within the parties.

For many businesses, political observation and developing relationships within the political sphere are not core functions. Given the almost frantic modern pace of political change, even some political commentators struggle to remain fully abreast of the sometimes labyrinthine allegiances, dependencies and deal-making; that is where expert advice is becoming valuable.

In the effort to garner fickle electorate support, politicians will sometimes consider actions and reactions with unintended consequences, or scant consideration of commercial impact. Careful and considered engagement may then be required to avoid outcomes that can damage particular businesses or sectors. Simple opposition to a proposal is most often not enough. Clear and well-thought through proposals need to be put forward, cognisant of the political agenda at play and of the need to find workable solutions.

RMK+Associates have spent decades developing a detailed understanding of how our system of government works and building the networks necessary to facilitate political engagement. For businesses with a need to engage with government, or even to simply understand the political drivers and administrative processes, seeking such expert counsel could help avoid significant difficulties emanating from unforeseen political action.

 

donaldtrump2016

Trumpocracy – the 101 Lesson for Communicators

Who was it that said: there are none so blind as those who will not see?

Maybe it was the Huffington Post, which reported of Hillary a day before the US election: “She’s got it!”. Or the New York Times, whose election-eve odds were 84% favouring a Clinton White House?

Ok, let’s not be too cute on the morning after, when all has been revealed and it’s easy to say, I saw that.

For the record, I didn’t see that.

But far more significantly, those self-assured and self-described indefatigable seekers of Truth – the entire American 4th Estate – didn’t see that.

Never have so many witnessed so much, so closely, for so long and seen so little.

But the outcome is not just a critique of media or journalists; rather there is a truly vital lesson for professional communicators everywhere.

This is a lesson in top down communications and engagement, versus bottom up.

The American media turned its full skill, experience and attention to reporting, analysing and interpreting; essentially commenting and telling the American people what was going on.

You get the model? We (the media) know what’s happening; we give you (the people) the benefit of our stunning insight, opinion and wit.

Yeah, right!

We talk these days about the importance of engaging, understanding and enfranchising. That applies to the public, whether it be stakeholders, communities, customers, clients … or voters.

But in hindsight what the American media didn’t do is clear – and also, for that matter, what the UK media didn’t do in the Brexit debate. It didn’t stop, ask, observe and listen, instead of tell, tell, tell.

This is the essence of good modern communication. It is about understanding first, then talking.

Governments in Australia and around the world, and to some extent Corporations, are learning this – sometimes the hard way.

But if there’s any real lesson from the US election for communicators, it’s that engagement, consultation and enfranchisement are not just the latest buzz words for the same old same old.

Things must truly be done differently in 2016.

We are a long way from the idea of developing a position, turning it into simple key messages, pumping it through news media and, if they don’t listen, buying space to time to say our piece.

The message no longer comes first. What comes first is … the open ear.

Engagement means listening and hearing, looking and seeing, and mostly shutting up yourself.

Things change slowly, of course. Organisations still expect a thing called a “communications strategy” that has positions, statements, and all the key messages tied up in a neat, pretty bow.

After Trumpocracy, and Brexit, the opportunity is for communicators to educate their paymasters about why they need a strategy that first gives the microphone to their audience – and starts with a key messages page that is blank.

I Got Mine and I Got Yours Too.

Narcissism and leadership

A sub-optimal combination or How words and actions betray the self-obsessed

Irrespective of one’s political leanings, or view of the desirability of a second Clinton Presidency, the one thing that the current USA Presidential campaign is making very clear is that even in the age of self-obsession voters soon tire of obvious narcissists.

Someone needs to tell Donald Drumpf (yes, that is the original family name) that ‘leadership is not all about you’. As The Donald’s unravelling campaign demonstrates, people want leaders to be all about the concerns of the populace not the projection and protection of the candidate’s ego. So, no Donald, it’s not all about you, just as it was never, in our own example, all about Kevin, nor is it still.

The particularly disappointing thing about the Trump campaign is that it is so bad that it allows the Clinton campaign to do nothing other than say – ‘ well you can’t let him into the Whitehouse’. Policy discussion has not just taken a back-seat, it has been left at the curb.

The cult of personality is a shallow and lazy way to pick leaders. Perhaps the Trump candidacy, fed as it has been by the media new and old, will finally demonstrate that there needs to be some focus on more than grubby political blood sport. Yes, nasty narcissists have been, and still are, elected. However, ultimately, all have failed to be leaders of any quality and reputation. The shame of it is the damage done on the way through.

There has certainly been no shortage of such characters in the world of commerce.

What does all this tell business? Well, apart from driving more disillusionment with the political process, the lesson on leadership is plain. Words matter, a lot. Actions matter, even more and attitude matters, the most.

And, right on cue, up pops another example of actions not matching words.

When the, for now, CEO of Wells Fargo, John Stumph, faced a Congressional Hearing on the issue of the bank opening over 1 million accounts without customer’s knowledge – and charging them for the privilege- he claimed that the buck stopped with him. What he did, though, was to blame the 3,500 low level staff he fired for the breach (but only after regulators found out the bank was engaged in the massive fraud).

Senator Elizabeth Warren didn’t let him off lightly. She pointed out that he had not suffered one cent of penalty (he is paid over US$20 Million in salary and bonuses per year) and that not one senior executive had resigned or been fired. That, she scolded him, showed a total lack of accountability. Now he is unlikely to hold his job much longer and the bank’s board has ordered him to pay back $41 Million in bonuses and stock options.

Leadership is having and demonstrating the right attitude, saying the right words and matching them with the right actions. Egomaniacal rants about how “I alone can fix this”, ego insecurity that demands vicious and venal retorts to real and imagined slights and demeaning, disrespectful behaviour to ‘friend’ and foe alike, are not the marks of a truly successful and respected business leader. We can only hope that they prove to be just as unsuccessful in modern democracies.

RMK+A is highly experienced in assisting senior executives and CEO’s with strategic communications, including key message development and all aspects of stakeholder engagement.