So I want to start with a poll about coalition building. So let’s start there when you think of coalitions put a one in the chat if you only build coalitions with groups that are like you, who think like you had the same positions, put two in the chat, if you like, diversity of thought and opinion and your coalition. And then put a three in the chat if you really have no preference at all it’s about the issue, not about the group itself so let’s see all right I’ve got it some to some threes. All right, okay twos and threes are tied, I think, oh I got a one okay. Two, three, Joshua three, Michael three. ll right.
Okay, so I think we got two ones, the rest are all twos and threes alright awesome. Well listen, thank you guys for that. Then, given the twos and threes and even the ones, and hopefully this is going to be a really, really great chat this afternoon and keep questions coming in the chat I will check that. Love interactive presentations.
Let’s jump in and I’ll keep this open just so I can see what everybody is saying to me in the chat. So the reason I asked really the one, two, and three question as to how you organize your coalition is because my goal this afternoon is not about undermining coalitions. Instead, I want to think about coalitions in a very different construct than what you’re used to.
But first, let’s agree on some baseline principles. When you share responsibility, goals, decisions, and agree to work towards a common goal, the coalition has a potential for great success and I think you guys who did the twos and threes you just, I think that’s where you were coming from in terms of who you work with and how you share a common goal.
Forming coalitions with other groups that have similar values, interests, and goals as you guys know allow you to combine your resources and become more powerful than if you acted alone. Alright, so, generally speaking, we can all agree, we tend to think of building successful coalitions involves a couple of steps. So let’s just cover the main three, and then we’ll move on.
The first is that your goals are similar and compatible. The second is that working together will enhance your abilities and help you reach those goals. Third, the benefits of coalescing around a particular issue are going to be helpful for the entire group. Let make sure my timer is going here so Patrick does not pull the hook on me. Patrick if I go over because we’re a little bit late just pull the Zoom hook and I’ll stop.
So we got sort of our baseline three steps there. Now let’s agree about the benefits of coalitions, because this building block is going to be so important for how we really set the stage for what we’re going to do this afternoon. So we can agree, I think all of us can agree, that building coalitions has its benefits, whether you’re trying to increase alignment, whether you’re simply trying to increase the impact of your organization or other organizations, or you’re trying to increase available resources — not only physical resources but financial. But you also may gain access to new contacts, connections, and relationships established by the other groups.
You may want to raise your public profile by broadening the range of groups that you’re involved with. The activities of a coalition are likely to receive more media attention than those of an individual organization. I’m working in a coalition that’s doing that right now. You may also want to build a lasting base for change so that you’re seeing very differently as a company or as a group than what you’ve experienced in the past. So we can agree that there’s a baseline sort of steps to building a coalition, baseline knowledge or benefits of the coalition. So, now that we’ve covered our common knowledge of coalitions I really want to ask you to put all of that aside. I built that baseline and I asked the poll because I think we all can agree coalitions can be useful. it can also be a complete disaster and we’ve all been on both sides of that.
So if you’re wondering why I’m asking you to put this aside it’s because yeah I’m setting you up for the punch line this afternoon because I would submit to you that traditional coalition-building techniques, no longer meet the moment we’re in. Stakeholders are hyper-connected. Campaigns are now fast-moving and digitally empowered. News information and opinion —listen, accurate or inaccurate misinformation or disinformation —it all fills the traditional digital and social channels 24/7. Individuals and advocacy groups have unprecedented levels of information, access and influence. You guys know that.
But at the center of this craziness policymakers and business leaders are pressured to quickly address these issues and deliver outcomes. And I actually want to just take a minute here and have a little bit of a moment of levity before I get into how I want you to think about different constructs. So if you guys follow Chris Hayes on Twitter he put out a tweet last week that said, ‘I really can’t tell if the country is going through a slow motion nervous breakdown, or if it’s basically like this and we now have lots of documentation to prove it.’ Amy Walter like literally 30 minutes later said ‘Remember when everyone was like September is going to be the worst on Capitol Hill? Well, December called and said hold my beer.’ And listen I’ve sent those to clients. I’ve sent that in my newsletter this week to my clients because we can underscore that this is not your typical moment right now. I went over the baseline really of coalitions to say, we can all agree on the benefits of it, we can all agree this is necessary. But I would argue that today’s political environment has disrupted the traditional top-down hierarchy by opening up new connections and channels of communication that distort, up-end, and, in some cases, completely recreate traditional approaches to public policy.
I would argue, those traditional approaches to public policy are different now. So I want you to think of a new term instead of coalition-building think of networks of influence. Let me repeat that I want you to think about a new term—networks of influence.
Networks of influence are ideas-centric. They are value-driven communications that concentrate on principles and shared benefits to transparency and clarity of purpose, honesty, and presentation approach, and fact. Three establishing a sense of mutuality. Creating a sincere sense of we and common interests. Engaging in genuine exchange, seeking to empower and enlist at the center of the network, rather than to dominate from the top.
And I tell you this network of influence, I really want you to think about that term and I learned it a couple of years ago, when I first started my firm. I had a client. And they hired me to manage their clients and their public affairs clients, and so we had several companies that would come to us. Some who were in coalitions now that we’re not working, others who truly had no experience with the government. And so, when we started talking about ally groups, the media, how to leverage federal stakeholders, how to leverage state stakeholders. For the folks who were in the coalition that was not working, that well, it was sort of music to their ears that they can branch out and actually expand that network of influence, to be able to create a dynamic environment that enabled them to reach their goals.
For the folks and the clients that I worked with who truly had no government experience at all the network of influence idea was appealing. But they truly had no idea how to go about it, hence my role there. But regardless of which two spectrums those clients were on they were all companies, some public company and some private. This idea of a network of influence appeals to them because it did come from a very different construct than perhaps what they were used to. So as you think of how to build a network of influence consider I want you to consider these 12 groups as your new network. Listen, some of them you already work with. But I want to put this network of influence and I don’t have my graph today, but if you guys send me a note after this I will send you a graphic, literally a PowerPoint slide, I’ll take out the client name, so I don’t get in trouble, but I’ll send you the PowerPoint slide with the headline that really talks about how you think of this network of influence and how it sort of all intertwined but for now I just want to describe the 12 groups who are in your network of influence. Because I think those 12 are really, really, really going to start to hone this idea and bring it together.
So the first of the 12 are state legislators. For you all who already have a state apparatus, you know how this works, you know how powerful the team of state legislators can be. And I will tell you I realized the power of state and federal and the network of influence between those two. I used to lobby federal, state, local, and international. And my sweet spot was going to a state capital and talking to them about what was going on in their home district. And they would ask me questions about Washington and I’d ask them questions about their home district then I’d come back to DC meet with a member of Congress in that area, and I say look I just met with your speaker and they said X, Y, and Z, and so the federal lawmaker would then want to get into a conversation about
‘Oh, so you know a lot about my district,’ and then we get into a conversation about the district. So the federal wanted to know what the state said, the state want to know what the federal said and I became really that sort of network in between the two. So if you work with state legislators, you know, there is a sweet spot there and how you can leverage the federal and state together to really make a power center that benefits you and certainly your company and your goals.
Number two stakeholders (say that five times fast) states stakeholders. Alright so For those of you who have a global or local reach, having particularly strong teams on the ground in key regions involved in both your strategy and your implementation, With the right mix of capabilities in relationships is a key. For those of you who work in franchise networks or if you’re an association with members this is really where this comes to bear. I’ve worked in franchise systems for years now, I represent some now and really leveraging the power of their operations managers or their local, regional managers, or even the franchisees themselves really is where that local reach comes in, with a state stakeholder.
You may even want to say local stakeholders so if you don’t work on the State level, but you have local operations, think of a local stakeholder and how that would work in terms of how you leverage them. When I worked for Dunkin Donuts years ago I led their federal, state, local, and international capabilities. We, I mean my partnership leading government affairs was with the local teams.
I talked to the local teams as much as I did the executive leadership team. And we were on a mission at Dunkin’ to create an 18-month plan, where I literally went to every single franchise meeting. I met with every franchisee around the country, all the operations managers, all the marketing people, and we created this center of influence in those local markets so that we were seamlessly aligned between corporate franchisees, field teams, and everyone in between. So really think of that local stakeholder if you’re in an association or company construct that they can really be your eyes and ears, but you can leverage the power of that local reach to benefit you.
Number three is trade press. Compelling narratives, we all know that motivate and inspire diverse audiences to act is key to your network of influence. Trade press can be very powerful allies in terms of planting your stories, having your objectives captured, and press that you can then send to the Hill or the state and local stakeholders or to state and local officeholders. So I think the trade press piece really sort of goes without saying.
Number for our technical experts. Look we’ve already said it, we’re in a data-driven world that has transformed the ways in which public affairs campaigns and messages are designed and even validated. If you’re not taking advantage of the data that’s available to you, it really is an opportunity missed. And I know, listen you guys have heard this for years we’ve all heard this for years — data, data, data, data. But people used to ask me all the time when I worked at public affairs for the restaurant industry —’You’re a democrat, how can you work with the Trump administration, how do you have such a great relationship with them?’ and I would bring it down to one-word—data.
We have the numbers to back up our asks. We had the numbers to back up and the data from literally what was going on in restaurants around the country to back up our ask of the administration and of Congress. It is a surprising, and you guys know this, you can go on with your talking points and they’re just talking points. When you go in with data behind it, when you use data in the trade press, the national press, when you really have those facts and figures to back up your approach it really does expand but also adds credibility to your influence that you may not have had previously if you’re just sticking to those objectives and talking points, without any underlying data underneath.
Number five — customer vendors, franchisees, and agents. I think I’ve already touched on this one, but it bears repeating come back to the groups that you have on the ground. They’re going to be the most powerful allies you have and they’re going to be most importantly the folks who can help you carry your message. When I used to go state and local I would bring a franchisee with me, I’m bringing a local OM operations manager with me. So don’t forget about those groups.
Number six let’s think about national decision-makers. I want you guys to think of leveraging Congress. I don’t mean the enforcement agencies, we’ll get there in a second. But national decision-makers in terms of the admin and in terms of Congress. Listen in some cases for those of you watching, it may be international decision-makers and that’s a whole other ball of wax in terms of how you interact, how you influence, how you create a network with international folks as well as national, but for purposes of this conversation think of national decision-makers as to how you leverage them not just to achieve your business objective, but really how you can create a network where those folks are your champions.
And I mean champions in such a way that they’re not just curing your water on an issue but they’re truly, truly using your talking points. That’s when you know people say to me well, how do you know you’ve been affected. When they’re using my line and using my talking points, and they are truly are all bought in to my point of view or the point of view I’m asking them to adopt that’s really where the influence between the coalition or the group or the company or whatever, whatever apparatus you’re in really starts to leverage Congress in a particular way.
I’m working with a client right now, we’re in the middle of this and we are absolutely doing the exact same thing. We’re actually taking a little step further, actually leveraging Congress, I should probably watch what I say I don’t know who’s on this thing but I’m going to go with it and, hopefully, I don’t get in trouble. We’re actually leveraging Congress, with the admin and the admin with Congress. And now talk about influencing those two and leveraging those two. There is a sweet spot to that and there’s certainly you know, a technique to that, but when you start to really figure out how you leverage those groups and then you bring it enforcement agencies really into that construct as well, that truly is how your influence is leveraged but also echoed and expanded across your federal stakeholders.
I see somebody asked me in the chat yes share that with us, okay Kim I will put my email in the chat, Brittany yeah I will do the same thing, Denise absolutely I will do that, I will do the same thing when I’m done here, and when we get to questions I will definitely put my email in the chat and I’ll send that to you guys and you can email me and I’m happy to share an answer, obviously, you know any questions you guys may have at that. all right I’m going to move on, for the sake of time.
We’re going to talk about interest groups number seven — NGOs. I think it goes without saying, the way you leverage some of these NGOs and other non-state actors again, it depends on are you a public company, private company, association, are you a nonprofit. Depending on your construct and who your typical industry or allied agencies or allied groups are there’s a powerful role for NGOs to play, quite frankly. now obviously they have some lines they have to walk and some lines they can’t cross. But I would ask you to think of that group as a very different ally than just your industry group you work with every day, just the association you work with every day to really expand who’s in your network and who was also being that voice for you as you go talk to these regulators, as you go talk to these these these federal or state and local, obviously, legislators.
Number eight I want to go back to the enforcement agencies or regulators because some people would say to you and I’ve had clients so to me all the time, I did it when I worked in corporate. Why would you ever go to a Department of Labor? Why would you ever go to an FDA and ask for their help? I get it. It’s a little different, a little outside of the realm because usually those are the folks you’re lobbying, not the people who are actually in your sphere of influence that you’re leveraging to help pass your goals.
But think of your enforcement agency and your regulars as a very different construct, they are your partners. If you work with them and leverage them appropriately, they can be very powerful partners not only with Congress if you’re trying to pass bills, but with the admin as well.
I’ve done this in the past on numerous occasions, I’m doing it right now with a couple of clients, where we really have partnered with FEMA or with FDA or SBA, to use them as basically leverage and is our really our voice to Congress to say look even the agencies understand the need for this. Yes we’ve had the secretary up on the Hill testifying. We gave her talking points, we actually talked to them about their testimony before they went. There’s a way to talk to the enforcement agencies and regulators, that you may be against on Monday, but you’re working with on Tuesday to help leverage your message and increase your influence and they are very powerful mouthpieces for you guys.
Number nine—the national media. Obviously the diverse content right stakeholder engagement platforms from social media to high-level stakeholder forums, viral videos, government white papers, all of this is used to run an integrated campaign that mobilizes allies and advocates. So the national press—I’m going to put social media in there, I saw we had some of our social media friends here yesterday who joined us for some of this session so they might like this plug —but any campaign any influence, you see, to exert influence these days —listen coalitions can do it, too, but I’m going to ask you to go a level above and think of the network of influence that sort of can play off the traditional coalition construct, social media has to be a key piece of your influence network.
Traditional media. Don’t forget about the print newspapers, don’t forget about the traditional forms of media that still play a very vital role. Now they’re a little bit like the enforcement agencies, where if you have great relationships with certain reporters —labor reporters, food reporters, energy reporters, tax reporters—they become very powerful allies in your network who helped carry your message. You can even really move legislators to act by leveraging the national press, leveraging social media, to your advantage, and there is a sweet spot to how to do that. I’m not going to get into that now, because it was proprietary when we did it and we did it in a former role but what I’m going to tell you, is there is a way that you can literally go the national press use some of these reporters. You can plant stories that they will carry to the Hill for you and they’re going to make the Hill think ‘Oh, wait, we missed out on this? This is already happening? And it’s going to move the Hill to act in a way that they may not have acted otherwise so.
If you leverage the national press and social media effectively, you can create a sense of urgency on Capitol Hill that you wouldn’t have had otherwise, because now, you have the press attention and social media attention around it. So I’m going to go quickly you’re gonna we got a couple of minutes left, I want to get two questions.
Number 10—the private sector. I’ve already talked about NGOs, have talked about working with different interest groups. I wouldn’t look over your other private sector allies who don’t fit nicely in those other groups, who don’t fit nicely an interest groups or state stakeholders or local actors. But I would think of the private sector in a different construct simply because and it kind of goes back to the vendors and customers, but there are others who’ve been in this bucket who can help you create that influence and they’re just sitting there waiting to be asked. There are other groups at your company — your association, your franchise, whomever you are — you may want to leverage a very different private sector ally than what you’ve had before, who you’ve had involved in these groups—not to be in a coalition, not to actually be someone who’s decision making, but to have another powerful touchpoint who’s reaching out on your behalf. Again you’re creating an echo chamber. That you’re influence is stretching far beyond what really your coalition can do, because now you have these ally groups work your echo chamber for you.
And that’s the power of really creating a network of influence, above and beyond the coalition is you really are creating a network that really and truly you sit at the center of as your company or as your association or whatever capacity you’re in, multi clients if you work with various clients. Your clients are at the center of this network of influence and how they leverage that network out and then bring that information also back in and you’re constantly in this network of influence and working really this web, so to speak of different groups —that’s really where the sweet spot is. And listen, this is even a coalition doesn’t have to be individual companies, you may have a coalition that’s a traditional coalition. They’re lobbying, they’re doing all the traditional activities, but you want to take it up a notch. This is where this network of influence idea can really sit on top of traditional coalition building or replace traditional coalition building in some cases, because you have a very different sphere of influence you’re bringing to bear on whatever your objective may be.
So that then it’s not one, and you know you’re not replacing the coalition. You can or this can sit on top, but regardless you’re creating the influence and the power center that’s going to just take your issue to a new level, your objectives to a new level. and look if you’re in a C-Suite, they love this kind of thinking. They love the power of, how do you leverage all of these different groups to achieve your goals. I’m doing it right now, at a public company client of mine and they love leveraging and pulling the levers at the right time to bring these different groups to bear to help them in DC.
Let me finish with two things key influencers was number 11 and number 12 the public.
Key influencers. Some people just think of influencers of social media. That’s not what I’m talking about. Social media influencers are great. I’m thinking more of industry influencers, so who are folks in your industry that carry a lot of weight, or who are people in your world that currently aren’t engaged right now that could be fantastic spokespeople for you. They’re just folks you need to think about, who are those industry influencers? Right now, I’ll just say I’ll use a fitness industry, for example.
When, you know, gyms and fitness facilities closed those industry influencers really took to social media to do their online workouts, to have online clients to really continue the work they were doing before the pandemic happened. So as a fitness industry we’re working on a couple of different things on Capitol Hill. Having those industry influencers now because the members identify with these people they’ve seen online for 18 months, who are doing all the workouts and who are keeping the customers engaged. Those folks become a very powerful ally as an industry influencer in this regard.
Number 12 is the public. And I know we typically try to influence the public, I totally get that but I think if there is the right issue and the right objective get the public involved, on your behalf. Listen, it takes a little bit more work to really educate the public about what you’re doing. It may take a little bit more work to actually get them to understand your objective. But I will tell you, I have two clients, right now, and the most powerful allies, we have are the public who interact with them. Some are members, as a member construct, others is a patient construct. They are patients pf a particular group that I represent, and they are,I mean there’s no more powerful ally on Capitol Hill, with the administration ,or even state and local level, than the individual public who’s coming to say look, X is doing the right thing and I’m there with them and here’s my story and to combine that personal story with it is so powerful. I have a client right now, we’re trying to get a bill passed in Congress for pandemic aid and we literally have gone to our members and said we need your help. Do you want your local gym to stay open? Do you want your local fitness facility to stay open?
Then you need to write to your Member of Congress and ask them to help us. We need some aid to keep us open but also we want to make sure that you have access to your health and wellness that’s available to you. And we literally sent out an email, to half a membership base. We didn’t even go to the full, you know I don’t know 20 million members, we went to only half. And out of that, we got 300,000 Members who emailed their member of Congress all through Quorum. Shout out to Quorum.
I drove them crazy trying to get 300,000 people to write to their member of Congress, but shout out to the Quorum team they made it happen.
And talk about just the power of influence, bringing the public bringing, in that case, the member perspective. It’s not the facility that’s talking, it’s our members, has created some powerful synergies on Capitol Hill for some bipartisan action now that, you know, was nowhere on the radar screen, a year ago, and now we’re creating the power structure that we need, we’re creating champions, that we need to actually get our objective done.
I want to go back over those 12 real quick, just so folks are taking notes. Just think of this network of influence:
- state legislators
- state stakeholders.
- The trade press.
- Technical experts
- Customers and Vendors
- National Decision Makers
- Interest Groups
- Enforcement Agencies
- National Media
- Private Sector.
- Key Influencers
- The public
I just want you guys, as we wrap up here because I want to stay on time with the program. Just know that success in this network just demands a different way of thinking again to either replace coalitions or just to make the coalitions more powerful in terms of how you’re leveraging the influence of the coalition. Obviously you know the dynamics of the coalition you may be in so you will know whether it’s an added benefit to really think of these 12 and how you leverage them to reach your goals or whether you start with these 12 and you know build a coalition later. There’s all kinds of structures and ways to leverage these 12, but success in this network of influence really does come from the center and that’s why I said whoever is listening to this, you are the center of that influence and that all of these 12 and listen there’s more if you can consider international sort of actors there, but at least the center of this 12 network of influence, you master it from the center, not the traditional top-down, but from the center out. And that is truly how this network can work to your benefit.
So just to sort of recap here. We all agree there are benefits to coalitions. I’ve absolutely been in great coalitions who do great work. We’ve also been in some that have some opportunity to do things better. I want you guys to think of this network of influence is just a very different construct to achieve your goals, whether it’s in the context of coalition-building, whether it’s an extra layer on top of the coalition, or whether you’re leveraging it continually in an entirely different construct altogether. As I’ve said I’ve levereaged it in coalitions but I’ve also had companies that I’ve represented who’ve leveraged as well just on behalf of the company so again very different constructs. This afternoon, I just want to leave you with that idea to create a network of influence, how you master and have success in that network.