A lot of companies are asking if they should approach policymakers about their agenda during these unprecedented times. Many worry (correctly) their issue pales in comparison to the gargantuan task facing elected officials at all levels. We find ourselves asking the question: “Do we or don’t we ask about our legislative agenda or sales goals?”
While there is no universal answer to this question, here are my suggestions. If you are a CFO or a Sales VP, you might want to stop reading.
If your goal is to talk about sales, don’t.
No matter how innovative, revolutionary or cutting edge your thing is, if it costs money, it’s a non-starter. Now, there is one huge caveat. If buying your thing will allow state and local policymakers the opportunity to not buy other things, or reduce headcount, or save money in the NEXT BUDGET CYCLE, they don’t want to talk about it. If it does any of these things, then yes, go see them. If it saves money over the next 10 years, but doesn’t save money next year, it’s probably not going to get the desired result.
If your goal is to talk about policy, be patient. Elected officials are under siege like never before and, as important as your issue is to you, it is not their priority right now. Now, this too has a caveat. If your issue will streamline operations for their government, save them money, or help them through this crisis, then yes, go see them. If not, you run the risk of coming off as insensitive or tone deaf and you may hurt your cause more than help it.
If possible, under either scenario, try to go in with “an offer and an ask” that helps both of you. This is certainly not a “quid pro quo,” but it’s always good to find a way to allow everyone to come out of the meeting better than how they entered. If you can offer support that will help them meet a current challenge -- perhaps by offering to publicly endorse their approach on an issue they are having a challenge with, or organizing a coalition of corporate or organizational support -- lead off with that. This action will almost certainly result in the conversation turning to them asking you, “Is there anything I can do for you?” Then you have your opening without running the risk mentioned above.
The possibilities are endless and every situation is unique, but this is how consultants with local knowledge can help you position yourself to maximize opportunities and minimize risk during this unprecedented time of challenge for our state and municipal governments.
Thomas Ratliff has spent more than 20 years as a go-to independent lobbyist for clients in Texas in a wide range of industries, including trade associations, high-profile individuals and Fortune 500 companies in telecommunications, Internet and software technology, electric utility, insurance, nursing, and other industries. Thomas has significant experience working with the Texas state government, such as working in 2013 to pass the Michael Morton Act, a major criminal justice reform in Texas. Thomas also has served in the Texas state government from 2010-2016 on the 15-member Texas State Board of Education, which represented 31 counties and 1.6 million Texans. During this time, Thomas’s colleagues elected him to serve as Vice Chairman for two terms.
Book a private consultation with Thomas at Poligage.com to discuss government relations strategies involving Texas and its municipal governments, including effective public/private partnerships (P3s), coalition building, and advocacy campaign development.