Carrick Graham: political influence beyond the election

Two weeks out from the General Election and it’s not looking good for the incumbent National Government to pick up a fourth term. The winds of political change seem to be flowing across the landscape.

Right now, the bureaucrats will have sniffed the winds of change and will be thinking about all the things they’ve wanted to do for the past nine years, but know the Nats wouldn’t have a bar of them.

They now see an opportunity to push these ideas for an entirely new government and cabinet with literally no cabinet or ministerial experience among any them – perhaps aside from Winston Peters. This means they’re ripe for influencing. Just watch Yes Minister to see how it works.

So how can agencies across the land benefit from this change?

Under a new regime, new regulations and taxes are likely. Client companies are affected.

Clients will be sitting around wondering how this impacts the business and what changes a new government will do over the next six years. They will also be wondering what can they do about this.

If a company is smart it will quickly get into a ‘show and tell’ with the new minister. It will also seek to build public support for its business in New Zealand and show the new government that it’s a good corporate citizen, particularly as Labour has indicated they’re going to go guns-blazing after multi-nationals for more tax.

Therefore, the strategic rationale for action is simple. Wellington bureaucrats don’t understand business and distrust multinationals – sometimes with a passion. But they’re not the target audience. It’s the pollies that matter.

While this could be the realm of PR, there’s few that have the political nous to drive a strategy like this through client companies. On the other hand, marketing directors love this stuff.

To them, it gives a chance to showcase their brands and their company, and to show a local success story. For marketing directors, it further cements their leadership position in companies, as above-the-line strategies like this support broader business objectives of enhancing the value of the company to job seekers alongside boosting the culture and morale of employees.

More to the point, marketing teams have the money. PR or HR teams don’t.

The objective is also simple. Showcase a business, its brands, its people as playing a great role in New Zealand. Showcase the value the business brings to local communities. Showcase the importance of not stuffing things up by taxing things more or introducing punitive restrictions on various sectors until they really understand the impact on the businesses and the people in these sectors.

So, while this may seem straight from the PR playbook, it’s far more strategic than that. The question is will companies see the blatant opportunities before them to influence a new government, or will they just wait and see what comes down the line.

  • Carrick Graham runs Parnell-based public affairs firm GMS Management.

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