While much of Washington will focus on domestic issues this summer in the run-up to November’s congressional elections, a world of uncertainty lies ahead for America’s political, economic and security interests around the globe. Here are five developments on the global stage to watch closely over the next three months:
1. Europe: This is a year of global economic recovery – with growth weakly returning to the U.S. and many Asian economies. But sovereign debt concerns in the euro zone are making leaders, investors and markets nervous. The recent EU and IMF bailout program for Greece may be just the beginning of a long summer of economic uncertainty if Spain, Italy or Portugal experience a similar crisis. And the newly-elected British government of Prime Minister David Cameron faces difficult fiscal choices in the months ahead.
2. China: The Obama administration and Congress are pressuring China to float its currency, which many believe creates unbalanced trade flows between the U.S. and China (as well as with Europe). Quiet talks currently underway between Beijing and Washington must yield some results in the weeks ahead, or Congress will raise the pressure for the White House to act. Meanwhile, trade frictions are brewing as the U.S. investigates a variety of Chinese goods being dumped in the U.S. market, with China threatening to retaliate against any new tariffs. A deteriorating U.S.-China relationship could impact cooperation on Iran and North Korean nuclear programs or the prospect of reaching a global climate treaty (which in any event does not look optimistic for this year).
3. Middle East | Central Asia: The U.S. public is growing impatient for results in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. And with a continued stalemate over multilateral sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program and a seemingly stalled Middle East peace process, there are few good options for the U.S. efforts to create a balance of power across the region. Meanwhile, Russia is quietly rebuilding its influence in places once dominated by the former Soviet Union, and Turkey looks to enhance its influence across its neighborhood.
4. Mexico: Concerns over increasing drug violence and narcotrafficking along the U.S.-Mexico border is rising to the top of Washington’s foreign policy agenda. And with the Obama administration and Congress promising to take up immigration reform before the November elections, this could be a contentious period for bilateral relations with our southern neighbor, which commemorates its bicentennial of independence in September.
5. Africa: Regardless of what is happening on the global stage, for about 30 days this summer much of the world will be watching soccer pitches across South Africa, as 32 national teams compete for FIFA’s 2010 World Cup championship. This will be a moment of tremendous pride for all of Africa as it hosts its first global event, with many Africans hoping a successful tournament helps improve the continent’s image from one of conflict, corruption and poverty.
Oprah Winfrey offered some good advice for advocacy campaigns: “Surround yourself with people who are going to lift you higher.”
OK, she wasn’t speaking specifically about advocacy campaigns, but it is still good advice.
In planning advocacy and communications campaigns, we often recommend identifying partners, coalitions and third-party advocates who can support and enhance the campaign’s message and reach. Groups and individuals who share the campaign’s goal can contribute their reputation and communication networks to increase the credibility and impact of the campaign’s message.
It often benefits an advocacy campaign to have the target audience hear the message from various credible sources. On the 2010 Census campaign, we worked with Fortune 500 companies that used their national brand, trusted voice and resources to promote 2010 Census participation. This corporate partnership effort supplemented the 2010 Census paid and earned media campaign by leveraging each company’s connection with its customers to raise awareness and encourage participation.
Partnerships can also help advance campaign goals by taking big issues and making them personal and local. On behalf of Northrop Grumman, we bring together hundreds of companies from across the country that provide parts, services and support for U.S. Navy aircraft carriers. Members of the Aircraft Carrier Industrial Base Coalition (ACIBC) in their overlapping roles as constituents, local business owners and taxpayers, take a large national security issue and make it very relevant to their Member of Congress: “My business and its employees in your district need you to support aircraft carrier funding.” Members of Congress are often surprised to learn of their congressional district’s close connection to the aircraft carrier program.
From big to small, partners and allies are very useful in advocacy campaigns. Look for ways partners can be brought in to advance your campaign’s goals and advance your message.
Spring in Washington is always my favorite time of year. I generally feel renewed and think about tackling something really worth doing. But while I have the best of intentions, something always seems to get in the way. Sounds familiar in this town of partisan bickering and political maneuvering, doesn’t it?
This spring, however, I am approaching things differently. I am doing the second-most challenging thing I have ever done in my entire life: train for a half-marathon, a run/walk that will help raise money to find a cure for life-threatening diseases.
Our firm has had the honor of working with several outstanding patient groups over the years, including Susan G. Komen for the Cure. This year’s Susan G. Komen Global Race for the Cure, a 5K event, will take place in Washington, D.C., on June 5. Most of the funds raised stay in the area to fund breast health education and breast health screening and treatment projects.
I am participating in a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (L&LS) Team in Training event. The money I and others will raise will be used to find a cure for all blood cancers, including Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life for patients and families. For me, this event is another opportunity to honor our son who passed away last year from leukemia-related complications. My husband and I found the L&LS to be a very helpful resource of medical information and support. If this event is the second-most challenging thing I have done in my life, caring for Ben was my most challenging.
Won’t you join me and thousands of others and participate in an endurance event? By raising funds to fight life-threatening diseases, you could be helping a family member, friend or even someone you don’t know.
Like I said, springtime in Washington is a great time to tackle something worth doing.
While many are celebrating the enactment of healthcare reform as the culmination of a many-decade battle, others see it as just the beginning of a prolonged conflict. What can businesses expect in the coming months, and what are the communications implications?
1. Partisan polarization and anger will likely intensify.
Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle will be focused on scoring political points prior to the mid-term elections in November. With Republicans believing that major gains are achievable in the mid-term elections, there is little incentive for bipartisan cooperation.
Implications: It will take some time – and the election in November – to restore a level of comity to Washington. Companies should stay above the fray and avoid getting pulled into political arguments.
2. Legislative and regulatory changes have just begun.
Several state attorneys general are already challenging provisions of the law, and states will likely react with legislation and regulation of their own. Congress will soon begin the serious work of correcting “mistakes” and unintended consequences in the new law. With the government more deeply inserting itself into decision making, the opportunity for new legislative, regulatory and other political influences on the healthcare sector will grow.
Implications: Look for opportunities to shape the legislative and regulatory proposals that may proliferate — there may be emerging issues in which high-profile engagement could damage your brand, but there may also be opportunities to use visible engagement on key issues to enhance your brand.
3. Some companies will seek to get ahead of the curve.
Some companies will seek to create differentiation with competitors by getting ahead of the curve on changes required under the new law. We have seen this practice in other industries following enactment of major new regulatory requirements.
Implications: Stay alert to the activities of competitors. Develop clear messaging on your company’s commitments and intended direction — and re-examine it frequently.
4. Questions about the new law will abound.
Many of the new law’s provisions do not take effect for years. This could create uneven expectations, as well as much uncertainty and confusion.
Implication: Understand whether and how your products and policies could contribute to or ameliorate this frustration. Communicating implications of the law soon (and often) can reduce confusion.
5. Media and academic observers will start to ask, “how is it going?”
Stories and studies about the impact of reform on both consumers and businesses will shape perceptions of reform, as well as of industry players.
Implication: Be prepared to start answering the “how is it going?” question from the beginning. Start collecting information from your own business, industry and stakeholders. Look for opportunities to leverage your experiences into leadership and influence on key issues and controversies.
The oil slick threatening the Gulf coast may have an impact all the way up the Atlantic Coast to Washington and beyond. While the oil threatens homes and businesses, it may also leave a lasting impact on America’s national energy future.
The oil slick is another reminder of the great complexity inherent in the challenge to achieve American energy security. Disasters like this one and the recent West Virginia mine explosion remind us that meeting our nation’s energy needs is difficult and often dangerous. However, regardless of the risks associated with particular energy sources, America must have access to reliable, abundant, and low-cost energy — from a diversity of sources — to fuel the economic growth our country needs. The delicate balance between safety, environmental stewardship, and economic needs is at the heart of the energy debate on Capitol Hill and across the nation.
The question now is how these two highly publicized and ill-fated events will impact public opinion and public policy. The Obama administration has temporarily shelved plans to open up more coastline to drilling, and two prominent governors --- Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Governor Charlie Christ of Florida -- have already publicly denounced their prior support for offshore drilling. Congress and the Obama Administration are also considering new mine safety rules. Are these developments the front-end of a wave of policy changes to limit domestic energy exploration fueled by renewed public safety concerns?
For the time being, the energy debate has moved away from the nation’s energy future to the current disaster. BP and the Obama Administration have moved into overdrive to show “they care.” The president and his cabinet are flying to the scene and issuing statements. Congressional committees are calling investigative hearings. BP’s CEO is “on the scene,” sleeves rolled up in the middle of the desperate search for answers. Energy producers and politicians both have a great deal at stake in how they handle their response to the latest disaster and public perception of their roles.
But as difficult and complex as the clean up process is, the work will continue long after it is complete. Our national resolve to secure America’s energy independence has either been shaken or emboldened. Americans will either turn away from the expansion of domestic fossil fuel supplies or come to accept the risks associated with our energy needs. Only time will tell which — but either will require sleeves rolled up and a collective commitment to search for answers.
One aspect I love about our nation’s capital is how we as a country pay our last respects to our national heroes. I’m lucky I am too young to have grieved with my fellow citizens in the 1960s when we lost JFK, MLK and RFK, so the lens I’m viewing the funerals of our national treasures may be a bit more upbeat than that of my elders.
What I love about the funeral of a hero – of someone who made a contribution that positively changed our nation – is that it’s another opportunity for that person to educate, recruit, persuade, unite or do whatever it is that made the person a hero in the first place.
Our nation’s goodbye to Dr. Dorothy Irene Height is the latest example. I staffed the “Celebration of Life” for Dr. Height as Shilo Baptist Church on April 28th helping run clearance for the media in sanctuary so they collect high-quality pictures they needed to tell their viewers and readers about the ceremony.While appreciation from the press corps for the help were welcome words, being a witness to the historical night was inspiring.
What made the night so valuable was to learn about the life and work of Dr. Height from those whom she worked with on her journey. The 1,500 mourners assembled at Shilo Baptist, as well as those watching the speeches live on C-Span, learned from Rep. John Lewis that without Dr. Height the March on Washington wouldn’t have happened. Mr. Lewis said that the egos at the table in the Civil Rights leadership back in the day were large, and it was Dr. Height’s presence, grace and forcefulness that made things happen.She was, as Secretary Clinton pointed out, a doer.
And so on a chilly April Wednesday evening on 9th Street in the presence of the icons of the Civil Rights movement, at the funeral celebrating her 98 years of life and work, Dr. Height was once again teaching, recruiting, raising money, inspiring, uniting and persuading -- just some of the attributes that made her the national (s)hero she is.
It was a hero’s celebration indeed.
Executive Vice President and Senior Global Corporate Strategist
Senior Vice President
Chief Communications Strategist
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