Decision 2020: Start Public Affairs Planning Today
The concurrent effects of the novel coronavirus and sweeping demands for racial equity are, arguably, creating the greatest social disruption America has witnessed in the last 50 years. While the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the Great Recession of 2008 each had a profound and lasting impact on our country, it’s not clear that either caused as much wide-spread disruption as events of the last several weeks. Only with the benefit of hindsight will we know for sure.
But hindsight is not what we need. Instead, with the healthcare industry being buffeted by these circumstances many organizations are so focused on the here and now that they have not yet taken the necessary steps to start planning for the potential impact of November’s election.
As the Economist noted in February 2009, “Precisely because peering into the future is harder today than it was a year ago, managers should be using every available means to gauge what the world could look like in the coming months and to establish targets using this analysis.” Those words are truer today than they were a decade ago.
Make no mistake, the 2020 election has the potential for a huge change in the nation’s approach to health policy. The vision of President Trump and Republicans so vastly diverges from the positions of presumptive nominee Joe Biden and Democrats that it is realistic to believe there will be no “purple road” representing joint consensus on health policy over the next four years.
Today, with four months until the election, handicapping the race is nothing better than an educated guess. Given that the coronavirus was barely on our radar four months ago, the only thing we know for certain is that we don’t know what November and December will bring.
Why? Well for one reason, we may be in the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the first of which is shaking healthcare to its core. The second reason is the chance we will not know who the President is and what the make-up of Congress will be until well after election day. With the potential that tens of millions of Americans will be voting using mail-in ballots it is likely there will be a delay knowing the final results. Will the delay be as long as Bush v. Gore in 2000? It’s impossible to know, but with some polls suggesting control of the Senate in play, health policy may be entirely controlled by a Democratic Congress and Administration next year..
With so much uncertainty, waiting until the results are clearly known may not leave enough time for organizations to plan strategy and begin implementation by January 2021. Remember, planning and forecasting is not about trying to be 100% correct. Instead it is about capturing the richness and range of possibilities, understanding the assets that can be deployed and pushing organizational decisionmakers to implement processes that will enhance the speed and accuracy of response. Those organizations that have done their advanced planning will be able to make the minor changes necessary to their public affairs programs to be up and running from day one.
At JPA Health, our public affairs team has a five-step process to work through short-term strategic and longer-term scenario planning that delivers customized plans with actionable strategies, messaging, tactics, communications tools and success metrics. If you want to know more about our approach, please reach out to me to learn more. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.