Kelly Bobek VolvoWith 2020 fast approaching, AEM Director of Public Affairs David Ward sat down with Volvo Group Director of Government Regulations Kelly Bobek. Bobek discussed how Volvo -- one of the association's most active members and supporters of AEM's industry advocacy work --  is readying itself for a critical election year. In addition, she shared some basic tips to help other AEM members prepare for 2020.

Ward: A lot of groups spend time on their 2020 election strategies, what’s your advice for members looking to prepare their advocacy teams for next year?

Bobek: Well, there’s a lot of research that shows that some organizations aren’t always great at communicating their strategic plans from the top down. For example, a couple of researchers at Harvard Business School found in their analysis that, on average, 95% of a company’s employees are unaware of, or do not understand, its strategy, or how their role fits into that larger plan. So, one of the most important things you can do is make sure you’re communicating internally, or in some ways overcommunicating with your staff, about what your 2020 strategy is and what each team’s role will be. At Volvo, we make sure we’re always looking at what big picture issues our company is prioritizing, like autonomous vehicles, mobility, or electrification of equipment, and look at what public policies we can get involved with or how we can educate our workforce about these important issues as it relates to candidates’ positions.

Ward: A big step in making your strategic plans a reality is budget planning. What’s been your experience in managing resources ahead of time to make sure groups are in the best position to take advantage of all the right opportunities?

Bobek: Good question. Managing your budget, especially from the advocacy perspective, is certainly an important step to work through as much as you can in advance. Just like a lot of industries, we work in an environment where there can be upturns and downturns. It can often be a cyclical environment. So in cases when the economy isn’t as great, we may need to put something on hold. Or when things are going well, we can do something really unique and creative. It’s also another reason to lean on the association, including AEM, to help you achieve your advocacy goals in ways you may not have fully realized was possible. AEM and its I Make America campaign are always coming up with really great opportunities to engage with our elected officials or inform our employees about the issues that are really going to impact us.

Ward: How about from your team’s perspective? Are there ways leaders can start to make strategy implementation for them and their staff?

Bobek: Yes, certainly. Talking through these goals on a regular basis, especially by this time of the year is very important. It could very well be the case where some folks’ roles shift a little bit given the unique importance of a presidential election that comes around only every four years. It’s also important to remember that talking through roles, who is doing what, and any new ideas to take advantage of the strategic goals your organization has lined up is an ongoing conversation that never really ends. We have a public policy committee at Volvo, so we’re always talking with them about the issues to focus on. And what we end up wanting to do from an advocacy perspective can sometimes vary depending on our product line, we can sometimes have different strategies given the unique locations of those facilities, and we’ll make sure each member of our team knows how they’ll be able to help.

Ward: How about keeping on top of key dates next year? There are so many important election dates, whether its primary election dates, registration deadlines, the conventions, or a number of other things. How do you stay on top of those important dates in making sure you’re not missing an opportunity to get your employees out to vote or ready to vote?

Bobek: Yes -- especially when it comes to the primary election dates in 2020 -- it’s going to be important to stay on top them. For us, we have a very specific focus in about a dozen states, given our footprint. So when it comes to everything from your advocacy work and “get out the vote” education work to if you have a Political Action Committee (PAC) program, it’s important that you line all those dates up and everyone knows when an event is happening or when a communication is going out so your message is consistent and your employees know who has been championing the issues that most impact them.

Ward: Finally, there are a lot of new tools out there to help teams make their plans more manageable or how they can more easily communicate with their employees. Are there any tips or resources you can share with our readers?

Bobek: Well, there are certainly a lot of new resources out there. It depends of course what makes sense for your organization and your team. I know some groups have used applications like BetterWorks that make it very transparent for our every person’s annual goals fit in within a larger piece of the puzzle for an overarching strategy or goal. Elsewhere, there are apps and tools that can help communicate your strategy or advocacy messages internally. For example, at Volvo Group we recently started using Yammer to facilitate internal dialogue, and I think there’s a lot of promise with that. We created a Volvo Voices platform, for example, internally that’s available for all employees to share news about advocacy events we’re doing, engagements with elected officials, or really important educational resources about policies impacting them is helpful, too. It makes the content very shareable and a bit easier for them to digest, so it can be very helpful for communicating important voter-related educational materials they may otherwise never see.

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