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On Nov. 9, 2021, the FiscalNote Executive Institute hosted “Integrating Your GA Strategy into Your Company’s DNA” in partnership with the National Institute for Lobbying & Ethics. Moderated by NILE’s President, Tommy Goodwin, Vice President, Government Affairs, Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance, the discussion highlighted best practices for aligning government affairs with a company’s goals and strategic planning, including developing strong internal communications, optimizing reporting structure, and building relationships across teams to convey the value of the government relations function. 

Featured guests included Nichole Francis Reynolds, Vice President/Head of Global Government Relations at ServiceNow, Inc.; Jennifer Diggins, Director of Government and Community Affairs, Albemarle Corporation; and John Rauber, Director & Counsel of Federal Affairs, John Deere.

The program explored how the pandemic presented new challenges and opportunities for companies and government affairs executives, including embracing new technology as a part of digital transformation and harnessing the power of multimedia communication to strengthen relationships with key stakeholders. The conversation also covered how government affairs executives can lead by example in the ways they demonstrate diversity and cultural understanding within their companies, on Capitol Hill, and in their communities.

Key takeaways:

Government affairs leaders should “know the business as well as their business people”

  • You need to understand the core business of your company to relay your top priorities and educate your leadership team about the legislative process. Chief financial officers don’t necessarily have time to hear about the play-by-play developments of subcommittee meetings and amendments to bills: they want to know what the impact to the company will be, how they’ll answer to shareholders, and how they’ll keep people employed. 
  • Align your team’s goals with those of the business — when all the metrics are the same, you’re all working toward the same result.

Internal communication is key to making your government relations strategy relevant, useful, and integrated across teams

  • Make sure you’re conveying that government affairs work is more about long-term processes than immediate outcomes, and keep your C-suite team in the loop about how issues are progressing. 
  • Conduct meetings and business reviews with senior leadership several times a year so there’s a regular cadence with reporting and how government affairs is making an impact in the company’s overall efforts.
  • Recruit internal sponsors for every issue you work on, and not always at the C-suite level. You need key stakeholders throughout the company at different levels.

Having a dual reporting structure to the CEO and General Counsel is ideal for the GA function 

  • Reporting to the legal department allows government affairs to be part of a cross-functional team that includes HR, risk, and compliance. This structure gives government affairs leaders added visibility and connects them to potential advocates across the business.
  • Directly reporting to the CEO is critical. CEOs want to engage and offer direction, especially since GA leaders often grapple with not just bottom-line business concerns but also reputational issues. Being in sync with your CEO’s vision helps you better execute your corporation’s goals. 
  • Demonstrating the value of government affairs to CEOs requires linking business strategy to policy areas with the greatest impact on the company. Corporate tax reform, global minimum tax, GDPR, and data localization requirements are all specific examples where CEOs should understand the impact of government relations.

The pandemic created a virtual-first world where companies are embracing digital communications and an entrepreneurial approach to solving problems

  • There’s been a shift from using newsletters and briefs to more informal, conversational channels, such as the chat function in Microsoft Teams or Slack. These channels make it possible for government affairs executives to be much more responsive, proactive, and efficient in how they communicate, as part of stakeholder management.
  • The pandemic reiterated the power and creativity of video — for example, briefing senior leaders unable to travel to a new international business location by doing a virtual tour of the facility. Using video also introduces more opportunities to collaborate with other teams, such as corporate communications.
  • The pandemic presented an opportunity for companies and governments to reorient their operations. For instance, ServiceNow’s NOW Platform allows federal government agencies to execute programs and processes more efficiently by providing visibility into all points of the enterprise through integration with legacy IT systems. 

Championing diversity in government affairs means leading by example

  • GA teams and consultants need to be diverse — both culturally and through the experience they offer.
  • GA leaders must embrace diversity to bring out the best in their people and their companies. Look to offer cultural awareness training for a full employee base. Increase diversity hiring, but seek competency first.
  • Championing diversity is also about recruiting future hires at a variety of colleges and universities and thinking more strategically about the pipelines to accessing opportunities in government affairs. 

Related Resources:

Setting Yourself Up for Success in a New Government Affairs Role

There’s no question that starting a new position is a defining moment for senior executives in government affairs. This guide has selected insights from leading executives to inform your government affairs strategy.

Fundamentals of Global Government Relations Insightful ASAE article by NILE President Tommy Goodwin, moderator for this program.

Corporations Need a Better Approach to Public Policy, Ben W. Heineman, Jr., Harvard Business Review