Part of a special series of articles on government affairs during this national crisis. Here are 3 concrete suggestions for getting your work done.
We’re all adjusting to the new normal. We’re spending every hour of every day in the same four walls as our entire family. It’s the same for your clients. It’s the same for Members. So what can you do about it?
Stay Connected / In-The-Know
A big part of staying on top of your issue areas is maintaining constant connections with people. If you’re outgoing, you pick up all sorts of information. You synthesize everything you hear from all the different sources, and you turn it into a real depth of knowledge.
It used to be easy. You’d just talk to everyone you saw all day every day. You’d have conversations with colleagues over coffee, hallway meetings on the Hill, and of course the small talk with clients, staffers, and Members.
But how do you do this when there aren’t any more hallway meetings?
The only thing that’s changed is the world isn’t serving up dozens of opportunities to chit chat every day. You have to make them yourself now.
So make the opportunities. Talk with people. I guarantee they still want to chat with you. They’re just as bored and starved for human interaction as you are.
Check in with people
- Text and Instant Message are fine, but calling is even better.
- Don’t have an agenda. Just check in.
- Ask the same questions you would have asked around the office or the Hill. What are you working on? What are you hearing? What do you think about X? What’s new? How can I help?
- Listen. Really listen.
Advance warning: Actively making time during your day to check in with people takes more effort than casually chatting while you both make coffee.
Firm recommendation: Do it anyway. It’s worth more than gold. You need this constant flow of information even more now than you used to. Plus, the people on the receiving end will be genuinely grateful to you. If someone is calling them these days, it’s only ever to deliver bad news or to ask for something.
You may be exchanging text messages with a Member of Congress, and you might normally reserve texts for friends and close co-workers. You may be attending Zoom meetings with executives from a less-than-formal location. Don’t let these less-formal modes of communication cloud your judgement.
You are, first and foremost, someone to be trusted. Your respect and professionalism are calling cards that keep your reputation as an industry expert safe.
No matter how hard you might be tempted to screen shot a text or pay less attention to what’s behind you during a meeting, don’t do it.
The current situation may go on for quite a long time, and as our set-ups become the real new normal, we need to maintain our standards of professionalism.
Treat every day like you’re going into the office. That’s part of how we’ll get through all of this.
Help Clients Adjust
Does this sound familiar? At first, your clients were trying to figure out how many weeks this would last because they had some major policy priorities to implement. Now, the priority is saving the company and new strategies are starting to come down from executives.
Your clients do understand that everything is different now. What they need help with is understanding how this affects Members and the work of government affairs.
Here are some things you can do:
- Point out that Members’ lives and work have been disrupted much more strongly than the rest of us. We cannot expect anything to be what it was.
- Explain that, when a major relief bill is going through either chamber, every Member and their entire staff will be under immense pressure to focus only on that bill. If you don’t have business that directly touches that bill, give them some space. They will appreciate the professionalism and will be even more ready to talk with you once the bill has gone through. Use the intervening time to lay some groundwork and prepare.
- Be sensitive to the fact that Members’ own legislative priorities have been put on hold while they tackle this national emergency. When they do finally get a moment to think about other issue areas, they may be a little testy or a little short. Do not take this the wrong way. Work with them. They will recognize your cooperative spirit and will want to work with you.
No matter what, don’t lose sight of the fact that we will get through this. There will be a vaccine. A cure will be found.
Until then, just keep at it. Do your best every day. There’s nothing else to do.
is a Vice President at government affairs consulting firm Alpine Group. He focuses his practice on telecommunications and technology issues. He has both managed and served as a spokesman for a coalition of high tech companies and has been a key figure in major policy decisions across wireless, video, competitive broadband, and music industries, as well as every facet of the high-tech industry from software to hardware to network equipment and IOT.