Government at any level — national (federal), state or local — exercises a significant effect on its constituents. It's perhaps most obvious when it opts to make new law, but even a decision not to make a law can have far-reaching consequences.
Government relations specialists — sometimes called lobbyists — represent their clients' interests, and educate lawmakers and their staff about the effect any proposed legislation or regulation will have on the people the lobbyist represents. Governments are increasingly passing greater numbers of laws: in 1907 the Australian Parliament passed 12 Bills; in 1992 it set a record with 264, the largest number in one year so far. Modern Australian Parliaments are passing around one new Bill every two days, as this chart from The Guardian illustrates:
The situation in New Zealand is little different; hundreds of Bills are introduced each year and increasing use is made or urgency, which means little or no consultation occurs before a decision is made.
Lobbying and government relations involves much more than just persuading Ministers and Members of Parliament. Its principal elements include:
researching and analysing legislation or regulatory proposals
monitoring and reporting on developments
attending Senate or Parliament or Select Committee hearings
working with coalitions interested in the same issues
liaising with government officials
informing the employees and corporate officers of client organisations about the implications of various changes.
What many people regard as lobbying — the actual communication with government officials — represents the smallest portion of our time; a far greater proportion is devoted to the other aspects of preparation, information and communication.
So, is it worth it?
Until recently, the return on investment derived from government relations activity has been an article of faith. Businesses have paid lobbyists and assumed they were getting good value; occasionally of course there'd be a measurable shift in policy, but no one had ever quantified the benefits of government relations until Raquel Meyer Alexander, Stephen W. Mazza and Susan Scholz, all of the University of Kansas, did so in 2009.
Their paper, Measuring Rates of Return for Lobbying Expenditures: An Empirical Analysis under the American Jobs Creation Act, found that for every $1 spent on government relations, the return to the business on whose behalf the lobbying was undertaken was in excess of $220.
That's a 22,000% Return on Investment.
America's National Public Radio (NPR) covered the story with the headline "Forget Stocks or Bonds, Invest in a Lobbyist".
Of course not all political systems are like those of the United States, where campaigns are now so expensive that money — and corporations — play a crucial role in electing almost any official. Nonetheless, you can't afford not to have MPs and other key government stakeholders aware of your company's or organisation's needs. The laws that are passed in our legislatures shape our lives in multiple ways, every day. And they can make or break businesses — just look at the way the Australian Federal Government's on again / off again aapproach to ceiling insulation and solar rebates sent some companies bankrupt, or New Zealand's overnight imposition of a capital gains tax on Auckland investment property.
A carefully crafted, credible government relations strategy through Shift Focus offers any business the opportunity to influence policy and decision makers while maintaining the credibility and integrity of the organisation.
Shift Focus draws on a wide-ranging team of skilled consultants, ranging from academics to experienced news journalists, researchers, writers, producers and others. They're assembled into a team created specially for your assignment.
That flexibility not only helps keep unnecessary overheads to a minimum (and thus reduce the fee paid by the client) it also gives us unparalleled flexibility, enabling us to offer services across a range of other complementary specialties, such as:
You can read more about us by clicking any of the links above, or simply contact us for a free, no obligation assessment of your needs.