Trump as natural disaster

Managing government relations in the US is now like “dealing with a natural disaster” says one corporate leader.

Feb 06, 2017
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No-one is sure where the President might strike next and its impact on the share price. It’s forcing senior executives to rewrite rules on government relations and PR at the highest level.

Getting on the right side of the administration is complicated when parts of your international workforce and company brand values stand in stark opposition. Gillian Tett, the FT’s US managing editor, urges CEOs to make their voices heared. But how? Some executives are accused of ‘acting like a collaborator’; others insist that ‘We don’t know what Trump will do, but we need to get involved!’ John Gapper, the FT’s Chief Business editor, suggest companies ‘fight back, both in the courts if Mr Trump breaks the law and for public support; they must also be willing to suffer his abuse’ he writes.

Some are now taking the latter course. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick quit Trump’s business advisory council in the face of a viral social media campaign urging users to #deleteUber in protest against Mr Trump’s immigration order. But such decisions might prove trickier, for example, for finance chiefs relishing executive orders aimed at dismantling much of Dodd-Frank banking regulations. That said, ‘Mr Trump’s honeymoon with the C-suite extends only so far.’ What happens if the administration targets skilled-worker visas next?

So companies are developing a variety of tactics: repackaging existing plans in line with the Trumpian mood; negotiating their way out the direct line of attack; or simply praising policies wherever possible to make the President look good, and secure political access on the way.

Paul Lewis

Editorial director, Headspring

Paul Lewis is a writer and editor, specialising in business, management, economics and politics.