Managing an Issue Amid Political Change

Managing an issue implies working on roller skates. Just don't get stuck in the rut of rolling in the same direction all the time.Election upheavals of the amplitude we saw this year can put a kink in the best designed issues management plan. The key is to anticipate and not place all your eggs in one political basket.

For example, the new Republican majority in the U.S. House wants to repeal or scale back the health care legislation enacted earlier this year under Democratic rule. If your business or medical practice depends on providing medical tests for cancer patients, you may want to see the provision regarding pre-existing conditions retained in law. So how do you do that?

First off, you should have been able to see the GOP electoral tidal wave coming, so it would have made sense to start talking early on to Republican leaders who will be in a position to decide on details of rolling back health care legislation.

A good tactic would be to conduct a poll, which presumably would show broad support – including among constituencies important to Republicans – for the provision to disallow health insurers to deny anyone coverage based on pre-existing medical conditions. Favorable polling data for the provision can win support among Republicans and maintain support among Democrats. Credible polling data also can be slipped to targeted political columnists and editorial page writers to create air cover for politicians.

Instead of seeing the ebbs and flow of political fortunes as a problem, use moments of major change as opportunities to broaden and solidify support for your issue.

Managing an issue implies working on roller skates. Just don't get stuck in the rut of rolling in the same direction all the time.