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2024: The year of PolicyComms

By Michael Gonzalez

Senior Vice President, London


It’s never been more important for comms and policy to align 

2024 is a year of global elections, starting with the world’s biggest in India, with over one billion people going to the polls. Europe, the UK and the U.S. follow next. Changes in government policy are inevitable.

For organizations, this has significant implications for both communications and public affairs. It’s wise to take a more integrated approach to policy and comms strategies to fully understand the impact this complex environment has on reputation and brand.

How will elections affect businesses?

Major policy and regulatory issues will be scrutinized and debated - from technology and healthcare, to transport and sustainability. Every organization, regardless of size and sector will be affected, and their stakeholders - both internal and external - will want to know how these issues affect them. More than ever, they have a responsibility to inform and guide their audiences on the impact these issues will have. This means taking new decisions, and speaking out on these issues where appropriate. 

Authoritative policy communications

The choices businesses and their leaders make, and the things they say, must be rooted in knowledge and insight - only then can they speak with authority and meaning. In this case, the intersection of comms and policy is where the answer lies. 

2024 communications strategies must be created using insights from the policy and regulation world: a company operating in the AI space can’t create a plan without knowing how theEU AI Act might evolve as a result of EU elections. Neither will its spokespeople know what to say around the impact of risk-based approaches in AI without having a firm grasp on where regulation is going. 

A health-based company will not be able to take a decision on launching a product in the UK until it has fully understood regulations around registration with the correct Notified Bodies. 

A FinTech organization will have to understand the implications of new policies around digital assets  in particular the Financial Innovation and Technology for the 21st Century Act, part of a number of new US Crypto regulations

‘No comment’ is no longer an option 

Whether an organization chooses to engage directly and proactively with political stakeholders and the media  or more passively through trade associations,  awareness and knowledge of increasingly scrutinized issues is essential. 

The days are over when a spokesperson says in a media interview, “I can’t answer that question as I can't be political.” Especially leading up to an election, journalists now expect stories to be shared with them including a policy backdrop to every piece of data, announcement, and interview to pique their readers’ interest. 

Policy and regulation are part of the comms fabric, and organizations must take a stance. 

Uniting policy and comms teams is critical

This is not straightforward; many organizations are stuck in a tricky situation. On one hand there is increasing pressure to speak out: nearly 60% of consumers in the UK and U.S. think organizations should take a stance on social issues. On the other hand, policy and comms are still operating in silos in many organizations with little knowledge sharing between the two. 

This is an issue in both private organizations (many of which don’t even have a policy department, and might purely rely on external advice), and government, exemplified by the recent OECD’s comment that UK’s Government Communication Service (GCS) needs to close the gap between comms and policy professionals.

So, it’s high time that businesses and governments rethink comms and policy strategies, and push for closer collaboration between the two. The world will only get more complex, and organizations will increasingly be expected to take a more central role on the public stage.  

Back in 2016, HBR argued that every organization needs a foreign policy to tackle geopolitical risks. That was a very valid point then - and it still is. Whether it’s changing fintech regulation, ESG investor concern, environmental pressure,  or the impact of global conflict,  saying nothing won't work anymore, and putting your foot in it isn't good either. Perfection lies between the two.

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