4 Things Tech Must Consider With Trump

— Mark Martin, EVP 

Technology leaders recently finished meeting with President-elect Donald Trump and three of his children (who, of note, will have direct control of his business following his inauguration and likely have strong influence in policy discussions afterwards). If you haven’t been paying attention to the murmuring amidst the business, and more specifically the technology, landscape as the nation prepares for a new administration, you’d better start. Any company worth their salt must consider the impact on communications and positioning facing a new political landscape. Whether local, national or international, political realities of new leadership create profound impact on businesses, and in a climate more critical of technology’s reach, that impact is uniquely felt in the tech sector. Companies should consider these four elements in the face of pending political change:

Know Your Strengths: Identify and Evangelize Your Public Good

  • Regardless of size, your company will make a mark on the economy, and you’ve got to put your best foot forward. If you’re small, you’re inspiring growth and innovating, drawing new attention to your market. If you’re a large firm, you’ve made a major impact on employment, and are funding new developments while driving a public discussion in your area of expertise (you’re already doing this, right?). If you don’t tell people, no one will know. No one is telling the good side of your story except you. Make sure you’re taking your public good and getting credit for it in the marketplace — both ahead of and during administration shifts. Via owned, social and even paid channels, re-affirming your place and benefit in the community helps showcase your value (and political capital) to incoming administrations and can help earn you a seat at the table. If you’re not at the table, you might find yourself on the floor.

Open a Dialogue: Establish the CEO as Chief Diplomat

  • During any time of change, businesses and markets look for clarity, purpose and direction from respective leaders. Having the chief executive out in front evangelizing your company’s contribution to the community and market is essential. It’s also paramount to connect the dots across multiple channels and with multiple stakeholders to ensure a consistent message — especially as U.S. companies have a leading role in shaping the global industry with its policies. A strong CEO platform centered on your company’s key differentiators also establishes a reference point for administrations to engage your company as an industry expert. In the case of controversial or contentious issues like security or manufacturing, a strong CEO message can create an open door for discussion and compromise.

Get in the Game: Participate in the Public Affairs and Policy Conversation

  • Being present and available to the public is great, but now, more than ever, having a direct presence in the policy discussion is essential. Understand that we’re likely to see less emphasis and regulatory benefits on innovation across the industry and more focus on producing and creating jobs. How does that affect your brand’s day-to-day, and what kind of adjustments must you make, if any? As the political climate becomes more transparent, faster moving, harder to predict, and in some cases more contentious, having a finger on the pulse and a voice in the room is a must. Do you know which leaders are favorable to your positions? Are you involved in the right consortia that will defend your interests? Are you making regular visits to representatives that will indicate you want to be a part of the discussion and, ideally, a mutually beneficial solution? Doing so is especially important as we see a growing role of technology in governance. So moving forward, how can technology contribute to that in the new administration? Any engagement advances your ability to stay relevant and avoid having a political landscape happen to you vs. happen with you.

Watch Your Tone

  • For technology experts there is often the temptation to be sure you’re the smartest person in the room. In certain circumstances, it might be true, but this approach can make you appear elitist and alienate not only those in the administration who you need to make in-roads with, but the public as well. It’s all well and good to come to the table with a point of view, but come willing to discuss, contribute and compromise to reach your business goals. While a firm tone might help in the meeting room, it might hurt you with your customers.

Not surprisingly the core theme is: engage. While the tension, and in some cases divisiveness, can cause companies to consider avoiding it altogether, participating in the political process and presenting your company’s value to incoming administrations will pay dividends not only in the political landscape but also for your company’s overall public presence. All of this becomes even more paramount as the technology sector, which is the world’s largest economy, is seeing massive shifts in expectations for job creation and regulation by an incoming administration. We see the short-term focus on production as a “Back to the Future” mentality. Brands and their leadership must take the realities this new administration will create and try to anticipate a path forward where innovation – and expanded communication can better enable our future.