Many intelligence practitioners don’t recognize the many opportunities available to create advantages for their organizations by applying intelligence to influencing the public policy or nonmarket environments. Like many other environments that are influenced by the presence of better data and information, the nonmarket one responds very favorably to unique and valuable insights, and elected and appointed officials are almost always looking for better insights when shaping policy.
In this webinar, Tommy Goodwin, who has been practicing intelligence-driven government affairs work for a number of leading organizations since the start of Y2k, shares his views inside the beltway and what kinds of techniques and methods can be difference-making in favorably shaping the landscape for your organization to compete.
Many businesses do not understand the importance of non-market advantage in the market place, and don’t use intelligence to the fullest potential to harness the advantage. “Non-market” is really the forces and the factors that affect marketplace actors. Non-market doesn’t just affect businesses – all companies, nonprofits, NGOs and other organizations are affected. Public affairs is more than the environment the business operates in; it includes the non-market ecosystem and how a company manages the overall business environment. Putting it together really influences a company’s business environment, and allows a company to reach big picture goals, change policy in a favorable way for the business, build a strong reputation, and more.
How Intelligence Drives Public Policy Change: Webinar Transcript
Craig: Welcome everybody. I’m Dr. Craig Fleisher, for Aurora WDC, looking forward to share another excellent Intel Collab webinar with you today. This one’s a really exciting one for me and I know it might be for some of you as well. It’s funny because I’ve worn two hats for many years, actually, so many years that I was called a grandfather of this field of public policy intelligence by one of my Australian colleagues not so long ago. So whether I have gray hairs or no hairs, it’s one that interests me and I hope it’ll interest you as well. For those of us in the intelligence field, we don’t often think of the non-market or public policy environment as one in which many of our processes and our capabilities can be applied to. For that same matter, and having taught in a fair number of business schools through the years, we often find folks over in the public affairs, government affairs, issue management, or the lobbying side of the equation that don’t often give deep consideration of the kinds of processes and capabilities that can be applied to perfecting their art, and frankly, making them even more influential at generating the kinds of results clients are looking at. So today it’s going to be terrific because we’re going to be right at the synapse of those two exciting fields, and I’ve got the best person, I think, out there to really give this a shot. Tommy Goodwin, who’s a government affairs leader and lobbyist of the Project Management Institute.
For those of you that are maybe new to our Intel Collab webinars, I’m going to give you a little bit of sense of what we’ll be doing today. We’re going to be going for about an hour. And for those of you that have questions, what we ordinarily do is in the back half of this, usually this is the second half hour, if you want to ask questions, you can do that at any time during the speech. I promise you in that second half, Tommy will address them. There is a questions pane I hope you’ll see in your control panel there. Don’t hesitate to use that. Like I said, do it any time you want throughout the webinar and we’ll get to them hopefully before the end.
For those of you that are in the Twitter-verse, you can monitor our hashtag #intelcollab, or if you want to eavesdrop, you can use the tweetchat.com url that you’ll see on this second bullet point in the slide up on your screen. For those of you who can’t attend, maybe you have a colleague that thinks they should attend, or maybe you want to share it with them. I know we get a lot of people that do this. We make these slides available after the webinar. It usually takes us a few days to get them all produced for you, but for those of you that are interested in doing that or directing a colleague to it, you could see it there at the third bullet point, which is the slideshare.net/IntelCollab url. And for those of you that are interested in any of the other archived webinars we’ve had, we’ve been doing them for years now, and actually I believe they’re somewhere in the range of 84-85 of them that you can access freely. You can do that by registering for a trial membership there at the intelcollab.com site in your fourth bullet point. Here again, some of the ones we did even a few years ago, I know have been of value to some folks out there, and we certainly encourage you and recommend that you take advantage of that.
Okay, let me go back to Tommy here. Tommy is, again, and government relations manager and works for the project management institute, which is really neat too because, again, a lot of times people think the kind of work that he does is only working for profits, or only working for businesses that are out there, working out in the commercial marketplace. He’s a perfect example of somebody who’s over there in the third sector, in the not-for-profit sector and making this kind of stuff work. Tommy’s background is terrific, he’s not only worked at PMI, he’s been in a lot of other associations and organizations, some of which you would be very aware of, like the AARP, Oracle. He’s also got an absolutely blue ribbon and stellar educational background where he’s got certificates, coursework, diplomas, and degrees from places like George Washington, Auburn University, I guess it’s, “go tigers, right?” Samford, UNC Chapel Hill and Georgetown. So Tommy’s seen a lot. Actually I’d argue he’s one of the people that seen this vantage point of strategic non-market intelligence in an unusually valuable way.
So, really, really excited to have Tommy starting with us today. At this point, Tommy, I’m going to go ahead and hand over the controls to you, and we’re looking forward to you speaking for the next 30 minutes or so. And again, for those of you that have questions, don’t hesitate, send them in to me into that back half of the webinar, we’ll get to them. So, Tommy, it’s all yours.
START OF PRESENTATION
Tommy: Dr. Fleisher, thank you very much, it’s really great to be here with everybody today. And as somebody who remembers taking part in some of the early Intel Collab webinars some time ago, I’m glad to here again in the center. So thanks to you, to Arik Johnson, Derek Johnson, and the entire team for the opportunity to have time with you today and talk about a subject that, I think is pretty important and pretty timely to think about. And that’s how organizations are managing to leverage what we will call ‘non-market’ to create public policy change and to achieve competitive advantage. And then of course, how the intelligence is at work, and having kind of being in and around public policy making and public affairs for about 20 years now and also doing some intelligence work on my own; I’ve seen and been lucky enough to be a part of some the organizations that have been really successful in navigating these really unique environments and talking about how companies and organizations do that in a really strategic way is probably what I want to chat to everybody about today.
So, if we take a look at what our roadmap is going to look like today, we’ll talk a little bit about today how to frame the obligations that are necessary, why it matters, look at a couple of organizations who’ve been doing this work and have had good success with these varying strategies and tactics, and then go deep on the idea of intelligence in the non-market environment. Before we get to that, I want to take a few seconds to define some concepts I’m going to be talking a lot about today. The first one, when we talk about that non-market, what I want you to think about is really the forces and the factors that affect marketplace actors. And like Craig said, that can be company, that can be nonprofit, that can be NGO, whatever the case may be, but we’ll use business a lot today, but you can insert organization and nonprofit business ubiquitously here.
Now when we look at what public affairs is, rather than the environment the business operates in, and that’s kind of that non-market ecosystem, public affairs, when I think about as how you manage that business environment. So, think about it as strategy, tactics, that when you take them all together, it really influences a company’s business environment, to you see some of the big picture goals you see here about exposing policy and building a strong reputation and the like.
So, with all that being said, I want to kick things off by hitting a pretty important question I think, and that’s why is this idea of strategic public affairs being engaged in the non-marketplace really matter. For a good summary of that idea, this is a quote from a May 26 Harvard Business Review piece that talked about kind of, new paradigms for public policy world. I think that there are a couple of key take-aways that are worth pointing out here. I think one of them is that the non-marketing environment we talk about is growing bigger and more complex every year. And the second piece of it, is that all of these actors who operate in this environment, whether it’s wider in a non-market base or not, are affecting talent. Sometimes it’s directly, sometimes it’s indirectly, but this broader environment is having an impact. If we sit here in the middle of 2016, I don’t think you have to look very far to see where those non-market forces are affecting businesses today, and will into the future; and if we got folks on the line here today, I think they could certainly attest to what that looks like these days.
Now, with that being said and those ideas out there, how big of an impact are we really talking about here, in terms of what the non-market can do. I think what you’ll see here is a pretty doggone big one. A few years back, McKinsey was doing some surveys, and White papers, and the like, just trying to shed some light on this idea of why teaching public affairs matters more and more, and a couple of their insights you can see here, are pretty jarring. I mean it really speaks to how CEOs in particular, view the impact that the non-market has on their businesses.
So, whether it’s having the second biggest effect on a company’s economic value, or, you know, if you look at the Financial Services sector, I think half of a company before depreciation, amortization and the like. You could see the huge impact, and with them come very huge risks that really need to be effectively managed and litigated. The third data point you see here is very interesting, and it comes from a paper that was published a couple months ago by a gentleman named James Bessen at the Boston University School of Law. And his research found that lobbying and regulation had the single largest impact from an economic perspective on company profits and valuations; and if you take a second to think about what that really means, it means that the impact of how a company manages its business environment has a bigger impact than access to capital, advertising and marketing, IT investments, and even R and D, which is completely mind boggling to think about.
So, we can see from the data here that strategic affairs are important, but let’s look at it from another angle. Let’s look at it from a competitive context, and like Dr. Fleisher said companies, NGOs, nonprofit pressure groups and the like have realized, just like those CEOs realized that the non-market has a pretty outsized impact on the global environment. And so you see, there’s a proliferation of players in this space, and I think it’s pretty safe to say that if the organization that you’re with isn’t pursuing strategic advantage in the non-market space right now, I think it’s pretty fair to say that your competition probably is, and there are a couple numbers that I think bear that out a little bit. Right now, I’ve been to Washington DC and there are more than 12,000 registered lobbyists in town, and behind them you’ve got an army of strategists, researchers, communications pros, and many, many others who are involved in this ecosystem. And all these people represent a huge wide range of interests who are petitioning U.S. lawmakers and regulators for business environments that are more conducive to their company’s operations.
It’s really the same story in the European Union, you know, across the pond they’ve got more than 30,000 of what they call the European interest representatives, that are in Brussels and Strasbourg and try to influence private policy within the EU commission, parliament, and council of ministers. It’s really the same wherever you go around the world. Organizations are vying for a seat at the table, when these non-market players are determining what their business environments look like; and that’s because there’s a senator here in the U.S. named Mike Enzi from Wyoming, who had a very, very famous quote a few years back that basically said “at the end of the day, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” and he is totally right. So you can see that strategic public affairs engagement is absolutely critical to achieving business goals and objectives in an organization. And I want to take just a minute and show you how.
Now, if you look at this slide, I don’t want to have this feel like management 101, but if you pull up and take a 30,000 foot view of the CEO or business union manager or anybody running a P&L; it kind of comes down to two things, really. The first is to maintain the value of the company created, whether its market share, competitive advantage, or what have you. Job number one is making sure you’re holding onto the gains that have been made over time. The second goal involves adding existing value to the business. Again, it’s market share, you know – moving to adjacent space, increasing profitability, whatever. It’s critical to keep expanding and growing. I know there’s nothing really earth-shattering behind those ideas, but if you apply them in a strategic public affairs context, and I emphasize the word strategic here for an important reason. The goals for a strategic public affairs and business are really exactly the same. If you’re effectively linking how you run your business environment, how you manage it, to the business goals of the company, there’s no daylight to what business managers are out there doing or corporate managers are out there doing, protecting value and generating new value, and what strategic public affairs managers are out there trying to accomplish, which is protecting value of the business and generating new value of the business. So rather than some sort of activity that’s kind of peripheral to your company’s mission, strategic public affairs engagement in this non-market environment is really just another platform, another playing field in the works, to maintain and grow an organization with competitive advantage. And when companies and organizations and NGOs are proactive in managing this environment from that perspective, you know, the opportunities to strategically protect value and generate new value become apparent pretty quickly.
Let’s take a look at this list of business goals and think about it a little bit further. I don’t want to go through all of it with you, but let’s look at a couple of them and talk about them. Let’s do the first one for example, let’s talk about freedom to operate. You’re talking about removing constraints that affect a business’ performance, whether that’s operational or public affairs. And any business or organization I’m sure can probably identify a few laws and regulations, or a few dozen laws and regulations off their top of their heads, that impede their companies’ performance. Well, that’s where strategic public affairs comes in.
Let’s go to another one here, let’s think about market opportunity or advantage, how your company comes up with a business climate that’s more conducive to your operations than others. And you know, increasing non-market space is pretty effective and you see a lot of activity in this area as well. One example, Fedex employees for instance, are governed by more flexible, different labor laws than UPS has. One was a transportation company, one a shipping company, and they’re regulated differently. Fedex believes that this is a competitive advantage for them, and you better believe that they have defended that advantage vigorously on Capitol Hill. So these are just a couple examples, but if you look at this list, it’s pretty obvious that each one of these business goals can be effectively pursued by a strategic engagement in which Dr. Fleisher calls the non-market.
So now that we’ve seen that, let’s change things up a little bit and go from thinking about strategic public affairs goals down to the strategy tactics that can be used to achieve them. Start here, I want to begin at the bottom of this slide. And it’s really important to pick up on the fact that public affairs is an art and not a science. Each and every strategic public affairs engagement by a business is going to look different depending on the answers to a whole lot of questions. Are you out there playing offense or defense? Are you involved in a very high profile issue or are you doing something that’s a little more technical and low key? What’s the venue for engagement? Are you engaging in your own backyard, or are you engaging around the world? And maybe most importantly, who are the stakeholders involved? Are you going at it alone or are you working with others? Do others in this non-market ecosystem support what you’re trying to do? Are there those who oppose it? And all of these questions help determine that external context for how an organization chooses the strategies it has for their pursuits.
But what about the internal context? Because that’s just important, just like in a private business strategy, internal capabilities and assets are critical. It’s helping an organization determine how they’re going to go out and attack the external forces and factors that we’re talking about. And the slide here, I think is really important to the dialogue we’re going to have today, because when you think about competitiveness in the market place and when you think about how we can generalize and look at that, you think a lot about benchmarking, and those look how it matters in the non-market ecosystem choose for organization. But I’m actually going to argue that it’s more important to think about what are the internal capabilities and assets that set an organization apart, rather than focusing on what others are bringing to the table and comparing yourself to them. Because I found that, whether it’s companies or NGOs nonprofit, they all come at this from a very unique angle. That it approaches sort of public quality change and creating this non-market advantage that sets it apart in a very competitive, in a very crowded space. But what does that really mean? And, you know, I can tell you, from my experience, that organizations in this environment, they come in all shapes and sizes and they bring different things to the table to affect this change that they’re looking for. At AARP, which is a very large nonprofit here in the United States, with about 40 million members, their organization has just had a huge push to implement public policy; you can get literally millions of them to call their elected officials, and hundreds of thousands of them to show up at events and political rallies and help us communicate what our priorities are to lawmakers and regulators. Very, very effective.
Now, today I’m here at PMI and I don’t have millions of volunteers at my disposal, but what I’ve got is a really amazing research and thought leadership platform. This serves as the foundation of our policy change proposals. And it really drives how we talk to lawmakers and regulators about the policy changes that we’re looking for and the opportunity to help our members and our profession. Two very different angles to come at it with, but both can be equally successful because every organization is different and every organization has different leverage.
So, when you consider the external playing field in which your internal capabilities are, then you have the opportunity to match it to these tools that are in the public affairs’ tool belt that can be used to drive execution. You see just some of them here on this slide and I don’t want to talk through the whole list again, but I will call out a few things that I think might be very interesting here. One gives you the relations where company employees, like myself, or those working on a company path making policy change cases directly to lawmakers. And, these days they are also supported really well and really technically by (inaudible 19:22). In recent years, organisations have been very, very successful on calling attention to certain issues and getting folks outside of your sphere of influence to take action on your behalf. And if you think from a U.S. perspective, some of the digital copywrites and laws from a couple years ago, really it was digital communications graduates that shut those down. So they can be very, very important. And we’ve got corporate officials responsibility up here, which might seem a bit out of place, but an organization using our platform is a really great foundation for engaging with stakeholders. Not only can we could find common ground and create changes outside the policy making world, but it also helps you find what I call strange bedfellows, some of these non-traditional allies really support in the opal to the cause of the change you are making and the advantage you are trying to secure.
So, we’ve talked about all these pieces one by one, but how does it really come together in this non-market environment to, as the title talks about: creating public quality change in non-market advantage. And I’m talking about a couple of companies here, but for me one of the most interesting companies in this space these days is Uber, and that’s because Uber has a little bit of a disconnect between how you sell and how those who affect it’s business environment. Now you sit down with the CEO of Uber and he will tell you that Uber is a technology company. If I sat down with Uber’s regulators, they would tell me it’s a transportation company. Uber would tell me that they have a global platform. The lawmakers and those who determine what Uber’s external business environment is, they would tell me that since it’s really a replacement for taxi cabs, a core business, its subject to local regulation, the change, the intensity, country by country. So what would that mean? That would mean that Uber operating in a competitive environment changes in every single geographic market where it operates. So, Uber has to actively manage its business environment on many, many fronts.
And so, how do they do that? Well, let’s have a look at the framework we just talked about. So from a business goals perspective, Uber’s looking for freedom to operate in a level playing field with other transportation options, like taxi cabs for example. It’s looking to create new value in every market where it wants to operate, and when it enters a market, it’s a very high profile thing. People are interested, they’re aware of Uber, they know what it’s about, and more often than not, it tends to be the only market entrance. Sometimes it works with another company’s offers, but often it goes at it alone. So to help it achieve these goals, in the recent time, Uber started out with, basically any army with the local lobby to help carry its message of ride sharing choice, helping these local officials and regulators who determine their environment and support their work, they’ve turned to their customers, or would be customers in places where they’re not operating yet, and they try to turn them into grass roots volunteers who are out there contacting their lawmakers, emailing them, hitting them up on Twitter or Facebook, to pressure them into allowing Uber to operate in their city.
That all seems like a lot of data and insight and intelligence for their efforts and what they’re doing here. They stick to a ton of their own data about trips, riders, the drivers who work with them, who tell their story about how commuters and residents and economy as a whole benefit from having Uber around. They also go for a lot of publicly available data to develop some insights and advocacy messages and sometimes complaints about local taxi cabs. They’ll got through crash information, price fixing, discrimination complaints about whether taxis are willing to go into certain neighborhoods or not, to show lawmakers the taxi cab cartel, the Uber opposite, isn’t meeting the needs of their constituents. And this is really important work because taxi cab operators, historically anyhow, have been very formidable in local politics at least here in the United States. And to give credit where it’s due, I think they’ve been very successful about pursuing the policy change in non-market that they’re looking for and are building down from the framework. Now they’re operating in over 450 cities these days, and sure they’ve had a few of high profile failures in Europe and India and the U.S. here most recently down in Austin, Texas. But the company has done a good job of expanding its freedom to operate and levelling the playing field for its services. They have been very effective in their policy changes in non-market advantage work.
I think it’s particularly interesting when you look at it historically and really deem that Uber initially didn’t really want to get involved in government. In it’s early time, they felt that public affairs wasn’t really sensitive to its operations and so it kind of thought it would stay above the fray by not getting involved. But after taxi cab operators in a few cities were potentially shutting down, they began to understand that strategic public affairs and government engagement was absolutely central to their goals.
Another company, we’ll use another one from the technology space here too, was a bit late to embracing the value of this work; was Google. In the early years, Google kind of did the same thing that Uber did. They avoided the non-market environments, but pretty quickly, their challenges began to rack up. They almost went under for tax, tax avoidance, copyright issues with its Google book search, manipulating search results, by some external stake holders who were using the non-market environment to pretty successfully address their grievances against Google. But things really ramped up for them when the U.S. government started going after them for anti-trust concerns. Big potential for fines, big potential for how the company operates and the restrictions they can place on them. Google became very quickly very active in this non-market ecosystem.
Well, how? You have to think about framework again. The company is actively seeking to avoid added cost and maintain a market advantage, particularly around its search engine business and the Android operating system that it has. So again, sort of leveraging the organization assets of the company, Google started distributing some pretty extensive information about its operations and using some publicly available information on the operation of competitors, like Microsoft and Apple, to show regulators the company wasn’t actually violating anti-trust law. A lot of public affairs professionals were deployed, lobbyists, including myself, and also very interestingly, they started working with a lot of lawmakers and a lot of Advocacy Groups in D.C and Brooklyn, and sort of teaching them how to how to affectively use Google, whether it was search engine optimization, Youtube channels, mobile advocacy to help these folks better get their messages out through the digital clutter. Which I think is a very effective and interesting use of a company internal access and information to influence the non-market. When you’re out there making friends that way, you’re showing that you’re adding value to them, so clearly, you must be adding value to the global market.
How has Google done in this area? I think it’s fair to say that their results have been pretty mixed. In the U.S., they have avoided anti-trust problems, but in Brussels, the company is currently subject to two very large anti-trust investigations, one for favoring shopping links and Google searches where affiliates come from. And the other form is when cell-phone manufacturers will put Google apps on their new phones that Android operates. And it’s probably not surprising that the results of these two investigations, there’s no surprise learning that last year Google spent more money lobbying the European Union than any other organization on Earth.
Now those are just two examples, but there’s thousands of companies that are out there in this market trying to do exactly what Google and Uber are doing. But I called these two out for a couple reasons because A, they’re very high profile, they’re companies everybody knows. But B, hopefully you picked up on the thread of using data insights and intelligence in their work to pursue that public policy change in the non-market advantage that they are seeking. And it’s really no surprise that there’s some good information out there on the interception between the non-market world and the intelligence world come together. And I’ll call out some of the seminal work in this area which very interestingly comes from Dr. Fleisher, our moderator today.
And if you look at the flag there’s a couple of things I want to pull out here for you. One, look at the middle language of this abstract and starting on the second line, you talk about the public policy competitive intelligence providing early warning of threats and opportunities that affect strategy and allowing decision makers to take action. If you think about that language, you could easily pull public policy out and insert market intelligence and it’s exactly the same.
The second thing I actually am going to call out here is that if you look at the citation date here: 2001. So, this idea of linking intelligence and strategic public affairs has been out there in the world for quite some time. And organizations who are doing this and are who are effective in doing this have a pretty solid head start in this area.
So after all that being said, let’s get down to really the key question of what today’s webinar is about, which is how can intelligence help drive the policy change and non-market advantage that organization are looking for. And if you look at these potential areas, I think somewhere we were just chatting about, huge overlap here between market and non-market intelligence. And, maybe let’s go through and dig into a few of them. Thinking about new product and market opportunities, oftentimes, public policy change can create opportunities for a company, either individually or collectively. When I was at AARP, we did a lot of work on prescription drugs for older Americans, and it helped create the Medicare part D prescription market place, which is a multi-billion dollar business in America now. And, having intelligence and understanding that, helps you see where those markets are going and where there are new opportunities to create value.
Perfect opportunities, from an early warning perspective, non-market dynamics should help you identify these threats whether its government entities, whether it’s outside pressure groups that are focusing on their social change effort in the areas that affect you. You have to think about food supply chain, there are interesting stories going around about how McDonald’s has changed some of their work because some outside groups impacted them. Well, intelligence in this area not only can help people anticipate where these are actually going to come from, but they can help the company prepare for changes that are coming on the horizon. Whether evaluating issue prospects or non-market information, to be able to kind of determine whether things out there are really signal the noise or similar, kind of down on understanding non-market share trends, those can help organizations see around corners and anticipate social changes, that’s of incredible value to an organization.
So, we talked a little bit about what non-market intelligence is and I think going to take just a few seconds to talk about what it isn’t; because there are some terms that get bandied about, but I think it’s important to show what non-market intelligence isn’t. One of them, it’s called opposition research, and it’s where information is collected about people to discredit them. Oftentimes it’s used in political campaign not necessarily in the area we’re talking about, but it’s important that this non-market intelligence is collected, analyzed and disseminated using the high ethical standards. Similarly to political intelligence is the practice in some countries including the U.S. where individuals and firms are seeking out primary intelligence oftentimes very highly privileged primary intelligence, in order to make investment decisions in the financial market from profit. Again, avoid, avoid, avoid. Neither one of these cheap settings are what we’re talking about today and should enter into the thought process around what non-market intelligence is.
Now, while not market intelligence, but market intelligence is fairly similar, there are some differences that are worth calling out, and one is that, not surprisingly, there’s a lot of specialized impressions out there about this. One the next slide page there are some examples from the U.S. market, but leveraging these specialized information source is very important, it helps contextualize all of our information. There’s also a ton of information that is publicly available. There’s a lot to wade through as a result of that, but you can find some very important insights going through the scads of publicly available information that’s around.
But if you take a look at the first and second and realize there’s a lot of information out there, a lot of specialized information, that a lot of people are using and accessing, it actually has the effect of creating really an even heightened value on the importance of primary source information and human intelligence. They’re practically filling the market bar hunt. It is critical especially in the policy change world, you know in the world that I operate in here in Washington DC, there’s kind of a generalization of what once this information shows up in the newspaper, it’s just not that valuable anymore. You need to be ahead of curves, thinking around corners, and making sure that human intelligence and primary information, is the cornerstone of what non-market intelligence means to you.
I think maybe the most important issue last here is there’s a unique analytical lenses here. There’s specialized analysis that goes on, and whether that seems to have an understanding of where the public policy process works, how the different players in the ecosystem act, understanding books out there on company strategy and behavior and the importance of timing, or just having a sense of you know, what the kind of data and insight and intelligence that you all put together that creates a change in the non-market environment which moves me on to, being able to do this is an incredibly important and value skill to supporting the work of strategic public affairs. Now, to be fair, skills like that take time to develop, but as you learn more about how non-market actors and processes really work, the benefits to a company or an organization will grow exponentially.
So, in a previous slide we talked about specialized information sources and what you see here is a list, just a very brief list from the U.S. market about what we’re talking about. For those joining us from other countries, these specialized publications are replicated in your market, whether it’s at the local or state level, or up at the federal level; you will see different publications that cater to these policy making bodies. Beyond that, I will just take a second to call out the importance of the government filings, like regulatory filings. You would be really amazed of how much information companies put out there to the government, a lot of which is searchable online, so they’re definitely accessible, this should be a part of your regular collection process.
Also, there is a lot of exposure that is required in this area. I as a lobbyist am required to disclose my activities quarterly to the U.S. Congress, and it’s very similar in other areas. The European Union just started putting out a new lobbying register; and organizations like the Foundation for Transparency and others that do some very, very good information collection and analysis about who is doing what here.
Well, we’re kind of coming to the end here, I definitely want to answer some of your questions and comments, before we do, I just want to kind of wrap up with one more idea. It is a little bit about how strategic public affairs and intelligence can work together in a really integrated way. For me, the key take away on the slide here, is really just about the importance of constant and consistent communication. Whether it is coming up with what the key intelligence topics are, working with public affairs on what their issue management profile looks like, you know, making sure you have a seat at each other’s table. Keeping each other updated about what is going on. There is sort of an analogy about poker, that goes, “Hours of boredom followed up by minutes of pure terror,” and I don’t necessarily think that that’s entirely non analogous to the public affairs environment; sometimes things can move slowly, but when things get rolling, it can move very quickly. Making sure there’s that communication, and you’re feeding the right information to the right person at the right time becomes very, very critical. The ongoing presence and strategy of planning your reporting, you guys want to be ahead of the curve with folks who are doing this work as soon as possible, and similar, they want to bring you in at the earliest possible moment to make sure that we’re really talking about, the right thing at the right time for the right audience.
And finally, you know we talked about analysis, we don’t really need to go into this, but let me just touch on the communication vehicle aspect: it is very, very important that, the data and insights and intelligence that the practitioners create can be delivered in a way that focusses on how the final customer, that external non-market, is going to consume that information; how it will receive and process it. Oftentimes, that is really not that often a data insight. Out here in my world, people tend to consume narratives and stories, and infographics that communicate the intelligence and the data, but do so in a way that people tend to respond and take action to. So, when you’re delivering intelligence internally, make sure you do it with a lens on how the outside world and all these stakeholders are going to best consume your information. So not to just focus on the inside, not just the internal customer, but think about the external customer.
I guess with that, you know, like other lobbyists, people in my line, I have probably been talking entirely too much; so let’s go ahead and put a stop to that, because what I would really like to do is hear from all of you. So with that, what I would like to do is turn things back over to Dr. Fleisher, and we will go from there.
Craig: All right, well listen, thank you very much, Tommy. That has been a whirlwind through an environment that many of us may not think about quite as often as we ought to, and I think you’ve made a really strong case for why that should change. Before I actually get to the questions, and for those of you who still have any questions, we still have time in the remaining portion of our Webinar for you to ask those. I know I’ve got half a dozen sitting here already, and like I said, hopefully we will get through all of those. For those of you that I won’t have time to get to your questions, again you do have Tommy’s information, you can email him, and he will certainly get back to you as well, you know, afterwards, needless to say.
Anyway, let me jump right in to the first one, that just, kind of comes to my mind, and then I am going jump into the ones that have been shared here, Tommy. The question I want to ask is, why do you think more companies aren’t taking these kind of intelligence-driven approaches to doing government affairs, or public affairs or lobbying kinds of activities? Do you think this is ubiquitous, or is this rather rare, or, what is your view about it?
Tommy: I think my sense is, what we’ve talked about today, is becoming much more common, about making sure that the public affairs and lobbying is really viewed as a strategic element to the business. I don’t think it’s any different than you know, talking about Google and Uber earlier, I think a lot of organizations over time viewed the engagement in this world as either something the CSR people did, or the public affairs people did, and it all kind of happened on the periphery, we did it out there in our Washington DC and our Brussels offices. Their job was to make sure, that you know, it was kept on the periphery; it was kept away.
But now, this world we are operating in that’s so complex, it requires so much transparency, companies are more and more beginning to adopt what we talked about today, and beginning to understand, that you need to make sure things are more strategic, and more focused; and what that allows you then to do is to bring in this data and intelligence and insight into the piece; because you are able to ferret out what matters so much more. It’s easy to say “We’ve got this big broad issue out there,” but when you are able to use your internal information and say, okay, we’ve got an advantage in this market, and we want to sustain it, here’s how we can do it. You can are much closer to aligning with those business goals. So, I think it makes, you know, organizations out here in Washington DC sort of have a joke, that you know, sometimes plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery. But, as organizations have seen others do this successfully, we are really seeing a huge move into this environment, to make things more strategic and as a result, that requires a lot more data and intelligence and insights internally to make that work.
Craig: Yeah, no doubt, and needless to say, I loved your plagiarism reference. I think that came up in this particular environment within the last few days, so, the need to avoid that, right? All right, so let me go to our questions from our audience here, starting out with my colleague, Derek, he says: “Tommy, I really like your statement that, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. As insights and intelligence professionals, we are always striving to be at that table, but it is far easier said than done.” He asks, “In your experience, how does one go about building stronger rapport with key decision makers, to help ensure that they’re not on the menu?”
Tommy: That’s a great question, you know, I can remember that from back in my Intelligence Practitioner days. That was always in one of the key questions, making sure you were in the room at the time when these conversations happen. What I can say, you know, coming at it from a public affairs perspective, I have the distinct advantage of being in an operating world, where information and intelligence is key. You recognize that your organization has a treasure trove of information and insight that can be brought to bear on that process. It is very easy for folks like me to very quickly understand the benefits that can be brought.
I think the challenge, perhaps more so than being at the table, is making sure that there’s that ongoing communication and collaboration, because that allows intelligence practitioners to make sure that they’re going after the right thing, and using the right analytical lens to be able to process that information; and making sure, you know it ultimately, at the end of the day, the information is valuable to the customer internally.
Let me use an example: in the U.S., Congress runs every two years, and you know, every January on an odd number of years, what happens is we press the reset button, and everything starts fresh and new. So, if someone releases a proposed bill or a piece of legislation that could potentially impact your business, you know, in that early timeframe, well that is very important, and you have to put that on your radar screen, you have to be prepared to defend against that. If someone does it at the end of those two years, well that’s really not as important, you kind of want to understand what’s behind it; maybe they were trying to make one of their constituents happy, or maybe something happened that they wanted to use. But you don’t really have to worry about it from a strategic perspective. Having the analytical capability to not only, go out there and collect that information, but then being able to understand it and put it on these radar screens, saying, “Hey, I know its October 2016, and Congress ends in a couple of weeks, but let me just put this out here, it’s not something you need to worry about right now, but just put it on your radar screen, and we will keep monitoring it until next year.” That is a tremendous value addition to someone who does the kind of work that I do, and it makes you want to engage more and more.
This is really, at the end of the day, a virtuous cycle, that, once your inside the door, under the hood as it were, in this non-market intelligence space, and you sort of have the initial in to demonstrate some value, this is one of those areas where, you’re going to get a seat at the table, and you’re going to stay at the table and, hopefully you make sure your at the table.
Craig: That’s excellent, you actually just gave me the best segway to the next question which comes from, Justin, he asked: “As a CI professional, I am wondering where to find experts in the non-market world within a company organization.” He then asked, “Is non-market strategy within a company mainly concentrated within its marketing or PR departments, or, are there other places within the organization that a CI should look to for this kind of expertise?
Tommy: You know, it obviously depends company by company, but most often companies of a certain size will have either a Government Affairs, Government Regulation, or Regulatory Affairs group, and I would say that that is probably one of the best places to jump off, because I think Justin has hit it right on the head. There is a wealth of information out there about markets, and competitive influences, that are not applicable in the non-market environment, but it can be hugely applicable in the competitive traditional market intelligence environment.
Just for a couple examples, you know, I will go back to my time at AARP. AARP had more and better information about older consumers than any other organization in the world, and an old colleague of mine, and actually an old Intelligence pro, named Jodi, is probably, I would say the world’s foremost expert on consumers over the age of fifty, so if I’m out there looking for information, and I’m looking for a company that sells into the states; you know, I’m not just looking at the current market research, I want to find people like Jodi. There are tons of people like her out there, there are internal experts at your company. I would start at the Government Affairs Group and fish around and try to find them, but as you’re looking at secondary source information, you’re seeing people referenced in the news and the like, in Washington DC and Brussels in particular, and really capitals all around the world, there are tons of experts on non-markets that probably have information that’s as good or better than some of the industry analyst types, who aren’t necessarily in the traditional analyst mentality. These are people you should probably mine for information about what’s going on in your own company’s competitive environment.
So, Justin I think you’re dead on, look for internal sources in your company, start with Government Affairs, Regulatory Affairs, but then also, you could use this jumping off point, looking out there beyond the walls of your particular company can be mined and leveraged to make sure you’re getting the state of the art intelligence.
Craig: Tommy, I like that, because you’re talking about where to look inside the company. Here’s a question that kind of takes us back to the external side, because what you’re talking about is always about boundary spanning and building bridges. This question comes from Webinar participant, Rich today, he asked: “Certain industries have traditionally been impacted by public policy, for example Pharma, airlines, etc.” The question he wants to pose to you, is: “What industries have you seen in recent years that have seen dramatic growth in the impact of public policy or the non-market, on their businesses?”
Tommy: The technology sector, I think is first and foremost, and to use the example that, you know, I started my career in a company built by Oracle. At that point in time, 1999-2002, the technology sector had this amazing change, you know, it was new, it was out there, you know, the dot-com period. And lawmakers were very loathe to hopping on the bandwagon, do something that might potentially adversely affect that sector at that time.
We are seeing a completely different world there today. Whether its privacy concerns, whether it’s hacking, information sharing, and cyber security – policy making in this space has gone up exponentially in the last few years. I would say that it’s not even just in new markets. The financial services sector provides a very good look at this, where, you know, an existing regulatory regime basically turned upside down, and now you have all these new actors out there, new regulations, that even in sort of a fairly old line industry, sees new public policy change coming all the time. I would say that there’s really, at the end of the day, we don’t see too many sectors exempt from this activity, these days. I think you know, technology and being able to share information and form communities online, and find out, you know, if someone has a concern about a company’s practice, or an industries’ practice, it is probably not just them. There are probably folks around the country are feeling the same. You know, this allows them to come together a lot more quickly, and put a lot more pressure out there on lawmakers in ways that, as I said, you know when I was in the technology sector all that time ago, you didn’t really see.
Craig: Yeah, that’s helpful, and actually, again, another kind of segway to another question here from Justin, who comments, “You mentioned Dr Fleisher’s article on public policy changes was published well over fifteen years ago” he says “…but I suspect that many organizations don’t either see, maybe they don’t understand, or possibly they don’t factor in the non-market into the corporate strategy planning.” His question is, “What do you think are the problems or road blocks in getting an organization to pay the appropriate attention to this?” He kind of gives an example that I like, and I do want to pose to you as well, he goes: “In other words, does an organization actually need to go through a major crisis in this environment in order to pay attention to the non-market areas of their businesses?”
Tommy: It’s sad to say, that the answer to that question is often no. I think it comes down to the biggest challenge being, you’ve got different perspectives at play here. Publicly traded companies are thinking quarter to quarter, maybe year to year. They’re thinking about what the next hit, what the next marketing strategy, what the next new product innovation that gets us from one quarter to the next is.
When you’re talking about public affairs and this non-market, it’s the long game. Public policy change can take many, many years. Up until a few years ago, the common rule of thumb here in the U.S., was that a law can be passed by Congress, and to be signed into law generally took between three and four Congress sittings; that is six to eight years. It is very easy for company executives to be dismissive of this environment: you know, it’s great that you’re out there talking about all this big picture mumbo jumbo, I am trying to figure out how to deliver 10 cents earnings per share next quarter. If you’ve got them beyond that, great, but if you don’t, well it is not going to hit their radar screen. But as the non-market environment continues to proliferate and add more legislation to produce, or more NGOs are getting involved, and you’re finding a lot more of this activity occurring, kind of in the periphery and maybe outside of traditional policy-making environments. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for executives to ignore this area going forward; it is a completely different time horizon for them, but I think that they are beginning to understand more and more the value of it. But like Justin said, it often takes some kind of jolt, or some kind of crisis to get them to say, “Oh yeah, this really does matter.”
Craig: Outstanding. All right, here we go. I’ve got a question from Amad that he asked, and I really like this, I am going to kind of paraphrase it a little, he says: “What is the relationship between non-market value creation and big data? Can you actually use big data, large data sets, in order to generate business advantages from the non-market?”
Tommy: You can, and I think big data is incredibly helpful and increasingly becoming more and more helpful in this space, because as you get down into some of those technical changes you can make, you know regulatory changes and tweaks; you’re able to mine your own internal information to understand not only where the road blocks are, the road blocks may not necessarily be visible, but it also helps you understand at a more granular level what the potential business impact is. When you’re in a non-market, you know, like I am, and you are able to go and say to your CEO, not “hey, I think making this change is a good idea, and could really be helpful going forward,” but you’re able to say, “listen we missed out on a $60 million dollar opportunity last year; because this information wasn’t available to us, or we were not able to participate in this way.”
All of a sudden, it becomes much more granular, much more tangible, if you’re able to determine what the impact of that engagement is. Kind of similar to think of it as analogous to capital budgeting, if you’re thinking about, okay, you’ve got a finite amount of resources to deploy here in this space, what is the hurdle rate that you need to hop over to actually get engaged and be involved in an issue. Is it something that needs to create, you know, a certain new marketing opportunity for you, of X amount of size in the market. Is it cost savings, you know, X million amount of dollars more, and by mining your internal data, you’re able to understand exactly what that world starts to look like, and whether it’s worth your time and effort to get into that market.
What’s also interesting on the practitioner side, where I sit, is we are increasingly starting to see some start ups get into this public affairs space and use big data and publicly available information to help folks like me in my world. There are a couple of them that are starting to operate here in DC, which are starting to mine tons of publicly available voting information. Bill code sponsorships in Congress, and you’re able to say, okay, well you’re working with legislator X. They can go back and mine twenty years of data and say, “if you’re talking to legislator X, you need to talk to these four other people, because we’ve shown in the last ten years, these folks sponsor bills at about a 90% consistent rate. And all of a sudden for somebody like me, that creates incredible opportunity that allows me to say, well great, my hunting list just got bigger. I know that if I am successful in delivering a message here, I’m probably going to find some success in delivering a message over here too. So, it’s not just internal big data that’s starting to change the public policy world, it is external data too, the analysis of which is really starting to create some really unique opportunities for folks like me.
Craig: Oh, absolutely. Hey, I got a more tactical question that I really like, I came across for people that have to do this kind of work that you’re talking about. The question comes from Derek, and he asks: “When constructing an issue brief – something I’m guessing Tommy that you’ve seen one or two of – what are the top two or three things to really keep in mind in making those as impactful as they truly need to be to their executives?”
Tommy: That really goes back to what we were just talking about, explaining what and understanding the hurdles are for your organization, getting involved in the issue is. To the degree that you can quantify that, and make it important, make it meaningful to not only the folks in the public affairs world, but also to the senior executives. Saying, “Listen we’re going to get involved here, because we think that there’s 200 billion addressable market out there.” You want to make sure you’re contextualizing up front the information you’re delivering.
I would say behind that, it goes back to that communication element, you know, the insights that you’re coming up with, that help you understand how you can best position your organization out there in the non-market ecosystem to win and create that advantage. It’s like I said, the data and insights that are collected don’t often ever get shared externally. If you’ve got things that can create a narrative, if you’re thinking about a piece of information, and you’re able to contextualize it and say, “this data is important because it goes along with what our company is doing out here, in trying to solve this problem.” Okay, well that becomes very easy for someone like me to pick up a list, put out in our materials and messaging, and then blast that out there to the external world. In some ways, you’re kind of working for the public affairs group, in a sense. In staffing them, and saying “if you can get a good piece of information, if you can show me what it means to the company and can tell me why it matters to someone on the outside”, that creates three legs of a very powerful, very strong stool, that we can stand on with a bullhorn, and put that message out there into the world and create what we are trying to create for our company, NGO, etc.
Craig: Love that, love that; and Tommy I got a question again, this one comes in from Justin, he is curious about whether and how non-market forces can be included and factored into analytical techniques. He mentions one in particular, he mentions business war-gaming. The question he asks is, “Would you suggest factoring in non-market actors, for example, folks like yourself, government regulators, lobby groups or stakeholders, as teams or affects during a business war game or a simulation?” And let me add to this too, a little bit. Talk to us about some of the analytics that you get involved with, in particular those where you’re socializing with folks that may not be as aware of the non-market environment as they ought to be.
Tommy: To answer that war-gaming question, the answer is absolutely. If you think about some of the roles that non-market actors are playing these days in various industries: if you’re an energy company, or you’re a chemical company, and you’re out there running a wargame, and you do not have someone representing an environmentalist group, or an environmental point of view, your wargame is not going to be terribly effective. I think that you could probably say the same thing if you’re in, in any sector. If you are in the financial services sector and you don’t have the new financial regulating board here in the U.S. who are out there trying to disrupt the markets you’re trying to reach, you are just not going to have the richness. You’re going to have something that, you’re out there considering all these marketplace environments, you’re considering other competitors and what their moves are, and seeing those as something that potentially impacts you when really, it could be something that kind of comes up and gets you from a blind-side, from the non-market sector, whether it’s a pressure group or whatever. That could really be the thing that you should really be out there basing a wargame around, so I would strongly encourage folks out there to use these areas to go out and do it.
If you’re not looking at the political, environmental, social, technological trends out there, particularly the environmental trends that are out there affecting your work. To Dr. Fleisher’s point, you know, looking at some of the analytical tools, I think you really need to make sure that you’re cognizant and aware and beefing up those sections of what you’re putting out in your analytical reports to help people understand “okay, this is kind of what the traditional competitive forces look like.” Going back to the old quarter paradigms, but if you’re not looking at these forces out here, you’re really not getting a good look at the market, and you’re really not informing the people that you are collecting intelligence for in the best possible way in preparing them for all potential things that may be coming their way.
Craig: Oh, that’s terrific: look, we’ve got time for one more question, cause we’re kind of nearing the top of the hour, so let me just remind everyone in the audience, for those of you who want to be attending our next IntelCollab Webinar, it is going to be on August 17th, and the topic is going to be, “How to Use Financial Early Warning Indicators to Understand Competitor KPIs.” And this is a session that we ran at our RECONVERGE G2, just this last April, being done by Ryan Macumber, Senior Manager of Competitive and Market Insights at Best Buy. Having been there, I can tell you, it is one of the most valuable sessions I think I’ve interacted with in years, so I strongly, strongly recommend that you sign up for that. Again that’s Wednesday the 17th of August, Ryan Macumber, Senior Manager of Competitive and Market Insights at Best Buy, who is going to be moderated by my colleague, Derek Johnson, Aurora’s CEO.
All right, Tommy, we’ve got the last question up in here, and this is a good one – it’s sitting there behind a couple of other questions that I have here – it is this: “You talked a little bit about technology, and it made me think of the effects of social media, like Facebook and Twitter. The question is, do you consider social media networks as non-market actors, and if so, how important is both the social media as well as the non-market activity that might be actually going on there in a company’s strategy development? Is this something that can influence regulators? Can it influence politicians, or public policy decision makers, and if so, should this be part of the intelligence driven approach that you would advocate?”
Tommy: Absolutely, first though, before I get to that question, let me talk quickly first, I want to thank everybody for being here today, and for all the great questions, and by all means, please let’s keep the dialogue going after this, you guys have my email address, please shoot me questions.
To your question on social media, Craig, absolutely, I don’t think people are going to need to look any further than the fact that, in the U.S., one of the two Presidential candidates basically ran his entire presidential campaign on tweeting. I mean, that was really the foundation of getting his messages out, and using it to a great effect. I can tell you that Capitol Hill has become increasingly aware of the impact of social media, and every member of Congress in the government has a Communications Director, who does nothing but look on their phone, and look at what’s happening on Twitter, and what’s happening on Facebook, and whatever people are pinging them about all day long. I mean, it is absolute. They are 110% aware of it, and I would argue in some cases paranoid by it.
The role of social media in this space cannot be overshot. You really want to think about how your message interacts with other messages already out there. Are you hopping on hashtags and information streams that are effective in getting your public policy change or your nonmarket messages out there? Are there those with very large megaphones that you need to tread very lightly around? Who, with one Tweet or one Facebook post, to sink a strategy that you’ve been trying to get off the ground for six months, 12 months, two years, whatever the case may be. You absolutely need to be aware of this environment, and I would argue that this space is becoming…the awareness and intentionality has never been more heightened, and I think it is only going to become more pronounced. I don’t think you are going to ever see the impact of social media impact on the non-market space wane anytime soon. So, definitely be aware of it, definitely be monitoring it.
As you are doing your analysis, you know, let’s say, if you’re an energy company, you better be aware of what GreenPeace is doing on social media. You need to be aware of what the Environmental groups and Nature Conservancy folks are out there doing, because it just creates one more blind-spot where you really need to be three-hundred-and-sixty-degree aware.
Craig: That’s beautiful, Tommy, hey listen. This has been a most enlightening hour, and I just want to thank you on behalf of everyone in the audience, and all my colleagues at Aurora WDC for taking the time and sharing with us your insights, which I think are incredibly well-informed, about the non-market environment, developing strategy there and applying intelligence driven approaches.
Again, for all of you who want to join us again, next one is up August 17th, same time and place, as we say, 12:00 noon Eastern Time. You can always register at IntelCollab.com. For those of you who we didn’t have time to get to your questions today, the contact information for Tommy is on the screen. I know he will be happy and pleased to see your questions or comments, so please don’t hesitate to contact him. I want to thank everybody for joining us today. For those of you that are out there doing great work, we hope that you keep it up and we look forward to speaking to you again at the next IntelCollab Webinar. Have a great day! Bye everybody.