As preparations for the next Congress get underway in DC, businesses need to remember that corporate grassroots is a necessary tool to mitigate political risk.
Having an effective grassroots program of employees, consumers, and influencers can directly halt not only attacks from legislators and regulators, but a robust program can also ward off competitors seeking to use government intervention as a trojan horse to gobble up market share.
Corporate grassroots is also a defense mechanism against backlash from the media or the general public. Whether conservative or progressive in nature, corporations and collections of small businesses should invest resources to build grassroots programs for a variety of different reasons that lead back to their bottom line.
Grassroots, when done properly, can be not only a defense but reinforcement for corporate communications that are going on the offensive. The volatile nature of modern politics and the rise of populism makes grassroots outreach a requisite for a sound government relations strategy.
As companies prepare for a new Congress in 2019 and divided government, they should consider ramping up grassroots outreach to:
1) Positively affect their bottom line
2) Address corporate social responsibility needs
3) Add a tool to their crisis communications team
4) Mitigate political risk and respond to political risk with action
5) Diversify their corporate voice on government relations issues
6) Remain competitive against industry foes that are scaling grassroots resources
7) Defend against media or public backlash
8) Provide a vehicle to assert influence in advocacy beyond halls and walls lobbying
9) Increase the reach of corporate communications messaging
10) Provide a greater sense of authenticity to corporate messaging
The barrier to entry into the grassroots space for corporate entities is low when it comes to actual cost. But there’s still a sense of fear in certain sectors to take the leap into building a proactive grassroots program. By its very nature, grassroots is centralized communication by decentralized voices.
It requires the acceptance of some risk in order to offset greater risk. It requires some cost and nurturing to get a greater rate of return. Corporations should meet with the plethora of vendors in the advocacy software space to assess the right fit. There are many options ranging from a few thousand dollars to $100,000-plus, coupled with consulting guidance.
Corporate grassroots makes sense for a variety of different reasons and companies that have not already ridden the wave, should get on board for the 116th Congress. Political risk at the local, state, federal, international, and regulatory level exists and corporations need a response plan of action that includes grassroots.
Joshua Habursky is assistant vice president of advocacy at the Independent Community Bankers of America, chairman of the Grassroots Professional Network, a contributing editor at Campaigns & Elections, and an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.