An ever shortening news cycle.
Public policy made 140 characters at a time.
Nomination fights that go on through the night.
A record number of phone calls hitting the House and Senate circuits.
A Supreme Court nomination battle upcoming, along with debates about tax reform, financial regulations, the future of Obamacare, and a few must-pass pieces of legislation.
Given all of that, how can you position yourself for success? How do you ensure your issue and message breaks through to and resonates with the elected officials and government officials who make or break public policy debates impacting your company, coalition, organization or industry?
First, it requires a strategic campaign recognizing the multiple angles and layers through which policymakers retain messages. There might be value in an ad on Morning Joe if you think President Trump is watching. And there is always value in sitting down with the elected officials with jurisdiction over the issue, and in an earned media campaign targeting those officials’ local newspapers and news broadcasts. But if those different tactics aren’t part of a coordinated effort, they can be lost given everything else going on in Washington and state capitals across the country.
Second, the strategy must be politically attuned. Like it or not, we are 631 days away from Election Day 2018. With Republicans holding the House, Senate and White House, you must look for ways to ensure your issues align with their agendas and messaging. Additionally, given the need for 60 votes in the U.S. Senate to pass most legislation, you need to frame your message in a way that resonates with a minimum of 8 Democrats. Deals will be, as they always have been, made in the middle, by building consensus. Whether passing legislation or impacting an agency rulemaking, teaming with the right champions and timing your efforts can make all the difference. The 2018 Senate map points to the “Trump 10” as the Democrats most likely to work across the aisle on issues of need in their state, if they want to be reelected in states that President Trump carried in 2016.
Lastly, you must tie your message to “home.” My old boss, then Senate Finance Chariman Max Baucus, had a sign on his desk that read “Montana First” and it was that mentality that allowed him, a moderate Democrat, to be reelected time and again in deep red Montana. If your outreach to Congress doesn’t include a local tie targeted to each Senator and Representative, then you’re missing an opportunity to ensure your issue is a priority.
We saw this coming years ago. From balancing our lobbying team between Republicans and Democrats to adding resources to frame the debate in states, every move we have made at Forbes Tate Partners has been to prepare our clients for this environment. We worked the middle because that’s where the deals were done. But we also knew that we must be able to go end to end on both sides of the aisle, and built the team that allowed us to do that for our clients. With more and more policy decisions being driven in the states, we’ve grown our state lobbying practice, working with governors, attorneys general, and state legislatures to impact the policy environment outside of Washington. And because lobbying, while incredibly important, is one piece in the broader puzzle, FTP also built out a public affairs and development team that works with leading trade associations, companies, and coalitions to run comprehensive grassroots, third-party, thought leadership, and media campaigns – both earned and paid.
While we’ll always remain focused on delivering results for our lobbying clients, the world has changed and we welcome that change. Forbes Tate has become Forbes Tate Partners, a full-service public affairs firm. In doing so, we created a new website that reflected those changes. So today please take a look at our firm’s new and improved Forbes-Tate.com, which now features client testimonials, a blog, more about our growing team, and a deeper look into what we are able to offer our clients. Also, while you’re there, follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, and continue to check back in for the latest.
Thanks, and we look forward to continuing our good work for you.
Jeff Forbes is one of the founding partners of Forbes Tate Partners.