Courtney Tyne and Mallory Ward

Ballots are still being counted, but it looks increasingly likely that we will once again have a divided government leading to legislative gridlock. In turn, Congress will exercise its oversight responsibility and the Administration will look for opportunities to regulate through agencies and Executive Orders. Through all of this, it’s important to remember that while Election Day has come and gone, the politics underpinning it will remain at play and continue to influence the policy conversation.

As health care organizations think about how to approach their policy positions, advocacy and public affairs, Reservoir has pulled together the following rules of the road:

  1. When it comes to Congress, educate and build relationships. As of publication, Senate and House races are still outstanding. Based on current consensus, the House will likely be more evenly divided than expected, and it’s possible the Senate and House could be under the leadership of different parties, making legislating particularly difficult. Use this time to focus on relationship building and educating lawmakers on both sides of the aisle on complex issues that may not need immediate Congressional intervention. Introduce yourself to the new members and show them the political opportunities and consequences associated with your issues.
  2. Understand Administration priorities and key stakeholders. The Administration will likely look outside of the legislative process to advance their agenda. It’s important to understand how best to communicate your case by being mindful of the totality of Administration priorities. You’ll need to make your case to stakeholders and policymakers that will be persuasive to the Administration. The Reservoir Advocacy and Alliance Network (RAAN) can help you build the relationships you need to be successful.
  3. Go local and go micro. More and more legislation and regulation are being done on the state and local levels, and these are the elections that most impact peoples’ daily lives. Companies need to pivot to more local and state engagement and explore micro-influencers (leaders who have close connections to targeted and specific audiences).
  4. Ensure your corporate policies and positions are communicated with an awareness of the political environment. Companies need strong corporate affairs leadership to ensure that they are thinking through policies and positions in ways that recognize the political dynamics and motivations of the day. At the same time, it’s important to understand and recognize different views and political leanings across your stakeholders—employees, investors/shareholders, activists, communities in which you operate, media, policymakers and so on. Reservoir’s research team has a proprietary process to help companies ensure they have the right insights to achieve societal alignment.
  5. Be smart about your stakeholder strategy. The old political categories no longer apply. Be intentional about your ability to engage with Republicans and Democrats, progressives and conservatives, across the spectrum. If you’re working with coalitions, make sure the coalition showcases a variety of political views. And importantly, be aware that a company’s federal stakeholder engagement approach may differ—sometimes dramatically—from the state and local stakeholder approach.

Policy and politics are becoming harder to separate. Successful public affairs and communications will combine depth of policy knowledge with a keen understanding of the motivations of political sub-groups. While 2024 is two years away, the campaign kick offs are right around the corner and will have an impact on how policymakers make decisions today.