By Natko Vlahovic, Founder and CEO of Vlahovic Group LLC
Let me share some lessons that I had to learn the hard way.
First, make your government relations plan in advance, long before your issue is even being debated in the corridors of ministries or the cafeteria of the parliament, or you will be run over by a political juggernaut consisting of different interest groups, stakeholders, and power players you have never seen nor heard of before. This scenario happens every day. There could be a new law being drafted or even an ordinance in the pipeline that could dramatically affect your business or even alter your entire business model. Be prepared.
For example, in Croatia, EU legislation is introduced and absorbed by Croatian institutions, regulators and other authorities on an almost weekly basis. Even so, there are areas in which Croatia faces possible infringements by the EC due to slow or ineffective handling (harmonization) of EU acquis.
VG’s methodological approach to government affairs starts with effective monitoring processes that provide clients with insights into the decision-making process, the timeline, and the nature of lawmaking. Our systematic approach and knowledge comes in handy for any government-regulated company. Lawyers and Public Affairs firms don’t do what we do, by the way.
The Second step in a government relations plan is the development of an overall action plan with a timeline. The plan consists of detailed situation mapping (identification of political, regulatory and target audiences).
Developing a narrative and drafting communications materials (correspondence, presentations and other briefing materials) that align with the ruling political ideology is the Third step. Without this step, you are out of the game.
Now we are at the Fourth stage, the outreach or tactical support and implementation stage. It includes preparation of possible government/embassy meetings in Zagreb. Sometimes those meetings need to take place in Brussels. The 2020 Croatian EU Presidency suggests an ideal opportunity for those meetings.
It is important to gather intelligence at every step. At VG, we provide information to clients as their project develops – we consider ourselves the “eyes and ears” of our clients.
In some cases, we suggest that, for the benefit of your project or issue, you become a permanent fixture in critical ministries or agencies.
At the end of last year, the government passed Operational Programmes for EU funds. Those strategic “business plans” were approved by the EC. Effective government relations plans, such as the ones we develop at VG, show clients how to navigate available funds.
Our methodological approach to these issues and steps makes the difference for our clients. Government relations activity is not one-off, rather it is a constant, thought-out process that aims to reach specific business objectives.