HOW SHOULD COMPANIES EFFECTIVELY COMMUNICATE WITH THE CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENT?
James Hawkins, Senior Consultant, Public Affairs
If anyone had any notion that the Government would confine itself with solely defining its approach towards achieving the monumental task of Brexit, the Prime Minister’s closing speech at the Conservative Party conference should have expelled any illusions. Theresa May built on the themes that she iterated on the steps of Downing Street when she was first appointed Prime Minister.
One of those was the role of citizens and citizenship. In Mrs May’s conception, citizenship is not just narrowly confined to individuals and what their rights and responsibilities might be. It also includes the role of the state and that of business. In some of the most pointed and analysed parts of her speech, Mrs May took aim at business – specifically businesses seen as exploiting their position and contributing nothing to the economy or society in which they operate. This has significant implications for corporate communicators. Corporate communicators and lobbyists will no doubt always seek to present the company they represent in a good light, but this has to be based on reality. Corporate communications can no longer be a matter of cynically spinning bad news and providing a positive gloss.
In a rather sharp exchange at a fringe event between the Business Secretary and the Managing Director of one of the UK’s principal energy firms, the energy executive stated that his company had had difficulties communicating with its customers. The Business Secretary flatly replied that their communications were not the problem, it was their product! The message from the Conservative conference was that good communications has to be founded on a good product, produced or provided by a company that not only does right by its employees and pays its taxes, but where CSR is not just a box-ticking exercise.
Brexit has fundamentally changed the political landscape, and the Prime Minister highlighted the once in a generation opportunity to reform our economy and society. All suggestions on how to achieve that will no doubt be gratefully received. As ever, the most effective communications and lobbying will not only balance the challenges that lie ahead, but also provide suggestions for solutions. But if companies want to influence policy and contribute to political discourse, it is more important than ever that they have a sure-footed understanding of the positive contribution they make to the economy and society first, i.e. they are good corporate citizens.
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