Keeping up with Government Decisions: The Importance of Government Relations

On Feb. 7, I skipped class for the second time in my college career to shadow government relations specialist Margaret Durkin on Pennsylvania’s budget address day, an event that would surely spark excitement into an otherwise dreary morning. After dodging raindrops, I hopped on a train from Philadelphia to Harrisburg feeling eager to get my first insider’s look at government relations.

When I met Margaret, she filled me in on what to expect. We would join a client for a meet and greet with a freshman senator to gain support for the client’s mission and watch a live broadcast of the governor’s budget address. But first we would take a tour of the Capitol to see the beautifully detailed architecture I had only heard about before.

My expectations of the Capitol were met as Margaret guided me with a comfortable confidence up, down and around, breezily greeting familiar faces and swapping business cards with new ones along the way. I was impressed to see her typical composure in an atmosphere I assumed to be frantically fast-paced.

I was prepared for the meet and greet thanks to resources Margaret had emailed to me a day earlier. Sitting in the senator’s wood-paneled office with Margaret and the client felt very professional, and the conversation flowed just fine. Once our time with the busy official was up, it was time to ready ourselves for the main event.

We returned to Bravo Group’s office to watch a broadcast of the governor’s budget address equipped with packets detailing the proposed $32.3 billion spending plan for the 2017-18 fiscal year. Members of the government relations team and other areas of the firm were present to watch intently and understand what changes meant for different areas of the company.

There were many adjustments to make sense of in the nearly 600 line items. After skimming the 12 pages of differences in budget spending between the 2016-17 and 2017-18 fiscal years, I noticed the varied reactions of the people around me: clients, Bravo employees and state citizens all hearing of ways they or their work would be affected by proposed changes if put in place. As a New Jersey citizen generally unfamiliar with Pennsylvania budget matters, I was struck by the impacts these governmental decisions could make.

There are a few months before the budget is approved. This gives time for alterations in the spending plan, hopefully in ways that will aid our clients’ missions. In the meantime, our firm will continue building relationships with decision-makers, a crucial step in managing how government action affects the objectives of client businesses and organizations.

I began the day unfamiliar with government relations duties but ended it with a greater respect for the importance of being on top of government decision-making. One month later, approvals, denouncements, questions and opinions have been raised on Pennsylvania’s proposed budget’s short- and long-term impacts. As I follow news and opinion pieces from Pa. publications that relay these standpoints, I’m reminded to consider the significance of government action outside of my home state as well as the strong influences government relations forces can implement, as I witnessed during my shadow day.

Elizabeth Krotulis, Wayne PR/Communications Intern

Image credit: Shutterstock

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