Kudos to the brave new wave of corporate communicators




Neil Bayley

Chris Genasi, Head of Good Relations Property, questions what the future looks like for the brave businesses that have spoken out and challenged Government during an age of confrontational communications. 

As we hurtle towards exit from the single market in March of next year, global corporations are adopting a new confrontational approach to lobbying and publicly fronting up to the UK Government to call for greater urgency and clarity in Brexit negotiations. Virtually every day another large corporation appears on the Today Programme making dire warnings and threats, publicly criticising the Government and urging UK negotiators towards whatever deal best suits the interests of that business.

Companies that manage complex global supply chains have moved from private meetings between industry trade bodies and Ministers, to megaphone lobbying by individual company bosses through the highly public realm of our national media. This new tactic marks a shift in government relations, which sees a less supine business community willing to put a little grit in its dealings with Government. These firms are willing to shock the system, while recognising that it might burn a few bridges in the short term.

Indeed, the initial reaction from Government to the new wave of megaphone lobbyists has not been uniformly well received, with the Foreign Secretary making a robust and colourful dismissal of business’s concerns.  As a result, companies will need to rebuild relationships once the heat and noise have died down.

But for now, the dialogue is public and feisty.  This corporate expression is occurring on both sides of the Atlantic with business seeking to shape policy development in public, rather than simply responding positively to whatever new regulatory and legislative conditions apply and then privately looking to influence amendments based on evidence of negative unintended consequences.

Motorcycle manufacturer Harley Davidson incensed the US President recently when it announced plans to shift production outside the US to avoid new tariffs for export markets, triggered by Donald Trump’s trade war. There are signs too of US hedge funds, such as Donald Sussman’s Paloma Partners and George Soros’ Renaissance Technologies, supporting the Democrats in the hope of them gaining more control of the Senate and checking President Trump’s policy initiatives.

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