At no time in our history have we had so many ways to communicate, either as individuals or businesses.
Take social media as an example, whether you love or loathe it, it is an essential part of the way we do business, providing instant access to knowledge and increasingly a platform for businesses to flourish and grow. It is also the source of more information than we can ever hope to process.
When the current Liverpool Chamber of Commerce was originally founded in 1850 by a group of local merchants to provide a voice for the local business community, to guide and debate issues of the day and to influence and lobby government policy, they had very few communication options at their disposal but, I would argue, probably faced fewer barriers in meeting those objectives which continue in the Chamber to this day.
It is even more important in the current economic and social climate, for the business voice to be heard – so how do we do that, rising above the media clamour and prioritising what is really important for business? Based on the feedback we get from members we have identified four simple principles:
- First of all we need to listen to what businesses themselves say they need and not to make assumptions. Too frequently, solutions are agreed before the problems have even been identified, ignoring the wealth of expertise and experience available in the private sector.
- We need to understand the practical barriers to economic growth and expansion and not to impose top down solutions developed in a policy or political silo and which, more often than not, have not been business proofed.
- We need to respect the daily realities of running a business which mean many businesses simply do not have the time to disseminate what really matters from the daily information overload.
- Finally let’s look at the language we use, avoid the jargon and make communications more focused and relevant to the business audience.
When the former PM Boris Johnson, made his now infamous comments about what he thought of business objections to Brexit, it wasn’t just the headlines he was grabbing. He also exposed the real challenges business faces in influencing government policy. Whilst there is a genuine willingness to work with business organisations like the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), CBI and IoD, too many departments still work in policy silos and the commitment to have meaningful consultation with the business sector can be patchy. We work closely with our policy colleagues in the BCC who do an excellent job in challenging and grilling Ministers and senior officials on your behalf but we need to support them by providing real world intelligence, reminding Ministers that our members are voters too.
The issue is not just one confined to Whitehall. Whilst there is a real commitment from the city and city region leaders to engage the business sector, recognising the valuable contribution they can make, we need to make it simpler and less bureaucratic. Working collaboratively and proactively with local business organisations would enable local policy makers to reach a wider, more diverse and representative group of businesses.
It’s good to talk as long as someone is listening.
To be part of the conversation contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Michelle Cameron, Head of Policy and Representation