Former President Ronald Reagan once said, “Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem."
The quote itself, which has become a rallying cry for the Tea Party movement, is certainly one example of how Reagan shaped his legacy as “The Great Communicator.” The memorable phrase resonates to this day because it embodies a common, centuries-old theme—skepticism and dislike for all-things-government.
Despite the fact Reagan’s quote is brilliant from a tactical and political communications standpoint, it overlooks the importance of government and oversimplifies what amounts to a very complex issue. Whether you love or loathe government, the fact is our elected leaders and government agencies shape policy and public opinion that impact our everyday lives (and your organization’s bottom line).
There’s no question government at all levels can be a bureaucratic mess. The “red tape” is there—centuries of it in fact. If there was an equivalent to the BMV in the 18th Century, no doubt even Jefferson waited half-a-day to get his horse registered.
The people and companies who succeed in working with government are the ones that know how to cut through the red tape, or more accurately navigate around it. The fact is, government can work and does work (a lot more than you’d ever know). As a former public servant, I’ve seen first-hand how public officials and government workers have achieved tremendous results for constituents. Like everything else, whether you get results can come down to messaging and strategy.
Example: In my previous life as a senior congressional aide, I received a call from a local business that had concerns about a provision within a piece of federal legislation. In essence, the bill would have severely impacted the bottom line of the company, potentially leading to layoffs in their workforce. The business not only argued their case--they showed proof backing up their claim. After some research and internal discussion, the Congressman I worked for decided to pen a letter to then-House speaker Nancy Pelosi explaining the negative economic impacts of the provision in question. The letter went on to request that the Speaker support alternative legislative language from a related Senate bill, which addressed the very issue the company was concerned about.
Within a matter of a few days (that’s right, days—not weeks) this business went from not having their concern even on the radar of their federal representative, to getting a letter sent from their member of Congress to the Speaker of the House. It didn’t take big-time lobbyists. Rather, it could be summed up by these factors: #1. The company talked to the correct congressional aides (ones who were knowledgeable about the issue), and #2. The company was prepared when they got in the door with a solid message and proof to back up their case. (It also helps to have a responsive elected official, which was the case in this scenario.)
The fact is strategy matters in everything. And when you’re trying to maneuver through bureaucracy at any level, it’s even more critical. Despite the challenges inherent in working with government, TrendyMinds believes that by utilizing the right tactics and message, government actually can be part of the solution to your company or organization’s problems. (I think the Gipper just rolled over in his grave.)
What do you think? Have you or your company had positive interaction with government, or are have you shunned government to the point where you’re on your way to a Tea Party rally right now?
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