Winston Churchill once explained that politics is the ability to foretell what’s going to happen next week, next month or next year – and then explain why it didn’t happen afterwards.
Granted, 2016 wasn’t a stellar year for political predictions. Who’d have thought this time last year that we’d start 2017 with the inauguration of president Trump and with Britain leaving the EU? Despite this, there’s still a lot to take from the first half of a typically glib quote from the wartime prime minister.
The reality is that, during what will likely be a political maelstrom over the next couple of years, the businesses and charities that will do best will be the ones that not only predict the political changes that will affect them, but will also do something about them.
The prize for proactivity in political communications is a valuable one. In the UK, Brexit will continue to dominate the headlines and airwaves. Negotiations over the terms of the UK’s departure will determine access (or lack thereof) to the Single Market, which will affect trading relationships with countries both within and outside the EU. Rules governing the free movement of people will affect recruitment and talent retention, whilst decisions on the licensing of UK companies to operate in EU member states will affect access to potentially lucrative markets.
Meanwhile, the UK government has to decide what European regulations and laws we keep, and which ones we reject. This has fundamental implications for how almost every corporate and charity does business.
Domestically, we’re facing questions over the state of public finances. The chancellor identified a black hole of tens of billions in his Autumn Statement, so government departments and public services will be expected to make more savings. Businesses could face anything from rising costs to reduced demand if inflation affects the cost of living for consumers.
The point is that political change will, as it always has, affect business. But businesses can certainly be prepared – and by being proactive in their political communications, can ensure MPs and officials understand their concerns and act on them to ensure the best trading environments possible.
That might mean making sure issues get through despite the noise of Brexit. But it might also mean ensuring MPs and officials understand the European regulations that help businesses innovate and win market share. It might mean highlighting the importance of the Single Market or the opportunities to trade with different countries.
Ultimately, the businesses – and charities – that do this most successfully will be the ones able to explain why their view is good for government. MPs, ministers and officials will be inundated with briefings and requests for meetings, perhaps more so than any point previously in their careers. Many of these requests will focus on the negative. The ones making a positive and evidence-based case are those that will achieve greater attention and traction.
As Winston Churchill also said, history is written by the winners. That’s probably truer than ever when it comes to political communications over the next 18 months to two years. The winners will be the ones who are proactive.
Article written by Chris Rogers, associate director at PR firm The Whitehouse Consultancy
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