As we enter another year of the COVID-era, we reflect on all the habits, routines and practices that have been permanently impacted. One transformational change is the actual business of government.
Just like executives had to find a way to keep their businesses moving, so did our officials and administrators in the typically stodgy business of government. Local, regional and state governments that historically orientated toward “town hall” style meetings and prioritized in-person participation had to adapt rapidly. Governments large and small were conducting public business remotely, casting aside rules or traditions in place since our republic’s founding.
Citizens could not only watch meetings but actively participate from anywhere, not just in council chambers or the hearing room.
This evolution in the process of governing – which some may argue was long overdue – was undoubtedly accelerated and pulled forward by the pandemic.
It has never been easier to participate in your homeowner’s association meeting, testify at a zoning board hearing or file a statement of support to your state legislative bodies. But it’s also never been easier for your opponents, adversaries or competitors to mobilize, organize and change the narrative around an issue.
The political adage, ‘it’s easier to kill a bill than pass one,’ remains unchanged. Now, opponents can just do it over Zoom as they sip a glass of wine and guess the day’s Wordle puzzle.
It’s not enough to have one good article in a newspaper when the other side can post whatever they want on social media. It’s not enough to have a few community leaders join you in the audience to show their support when the other side can mobilize or buy 100 or 500 signatures online.
In this environment, organizations and leaders with ambitious plans must embrace a comprehensive public affairs strategy that brings together the disciplines of media relations and grassroots organizing.
The business of government adapted to this new environment, and so too must the approach we bring to our issues and campaigns.
This article was written by Patrick Skarr. With a knack for analysis, research and creative positioning of issues, Patrick has been in the trenches of public policy and campaigns for 15 years.