The first thing you need to know about government relations people is that most of them don’t like to be called the ‘L word’ – lobbyist. The services they provide are far more sophisticated than the cartoonish image of a backroom schmoozer.
There are many reasons a company might consider engaging government relations professionals. You may want to see changes to legislation that is hampering business development. You may want to campaign for tax relief that could spur investment in your sector. One important but often overlooked reason is to secure social and political license for a proposed venture.
No matter what your objectives, it is vital to keep in mind that politicians are people. While they of course carefully weigh the logic of situations that affect their constituents, they will also respond personally, positively or negatively, to how they are treated. That’s where the diplomatic skill of government relations specialists comes into play.
A good example of this in Saskatchewan was BHP Billiton’s proposed takeover of the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (PCS). As a former Crown corporation and one of the major potash suppliers to the world, PCS was an object of pride among Saskatchewan people, so the prospect of a foreign takeover caused widespread alarm among the voters.
Rather than trying to manage this social license challenge, BHP approached the Province with a monologue and not a conversation. Leaving the Province out of the consultation resulted in the Premier of the day using every legislative tool available to him and succeeded in blocking the merger.
If BHP had taken advice from a Saskatchewan government relations firm, one with good local political knowledge, the result could have been different.
In a very similar case, when a multi-national agriculture giant proposed to take over a significant Saskatchewan-based company, Martin Charlton’s government relations experts offered advice that resulted in them doing a deal that met their goals. Having good local knowledge helped the agriculture giant avoid some of the missteps of BHP.
For many years, Martin Charlton’s government relations experts have helped big and small, local and international, private and non-profit organizations meet their goals by effectively communicating with government.