What I’ve learnt from watching two press conferences a day

The announcements we’ve heard from different governments around the UK on the road out of lockdown since the weekend might have varied in content but they all made clear that the ‘new normal’ is here to stay. From the ‘big picture’ questions that COVID-19 is posing to government, businesses and our society, to changes in individual daily routines, every one of our lives is different to how they were since Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon gave national addresses in late March.

Two press conferences

For me, the ‘new normal’ routine now has two important daily additions – the press conferences and briefings held by the Scottish and UK Governments, beginning around lunchtime and 5pm respectively. Every day, the most senior people in government discuss where we are in terms of our national response to COVID-19, taking questions from both the media and the public. That in itself shows just how unusual our times are.

Government, parliament, politicians – and indeed politics – are central to our lives in a way that perhaps wasn’t the case for businesses and individuals back in March. The decisions made in these spheres really do affect all of us and have an impact on our businesses and organisations.

Where will we be in a few weeks?

Even as lockdown was first announced, could any of us have anticipated the scale of government involvement in every part of our economy that was to follow?

What will the situation look like in another few weeks?  What will the ‘new normal’ be in public policy terms then?

In the last few weeks, I’ve been struck by how often we’ve been asked two questions by clients – what is going to happen next and how will it impact on my business? How can we play our part in helping get the country back to business as usual?

Why engage?

The conversation governments are having each day via those press conferences mirror the conversations businesses are having with colleagues, customers and suppliers. It has never been more important that business and government understand and engage with each other.

That is what we work to achieve when we support clients with government, political and parliamentary engagement.

Why now?

At every level of government, there is genuine openness to hearing how sectors, businesses and individuals are being affected by COVID-19, how they are responding and what their plans are for the future.

The scale of the decisions being made on our behalf is enormous, yet there has never been a greater opportunity to inform and shape them.

The role of government has increased dramatically during the COVID-19 emergency. That seems likely to remain the case for some time to come. Talking to decision makers and being a part of the public policy decision-making process will increasingly be, yes, the new normal for organisations who perhaps haven’t always thought about government as a key stakeholder.

Government at all levels is listening. The time and opportunity to engage is now.

Neil Cardwell – Account Director

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