8 Facts About Government Affairs Managers

Government and business institutions are interdependent. Businesses push forward the economy while governments shape how they grow.

Although governments regulate all businesses there are some that are more greatly affected. The food industry for example is regulated in many regards by the government. From a food safety perspective the government sets regulations and standards which businesses must adhere to operate. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency verifies that food sold in Canada meets Health Canada’s requirements.

Another example would be that the government impose minimum wage pays that businesses must follow. Keeping up with regulations might be easier for small businesses but things can get much more complicated when it comes to larger ones.

Those that navigate this complex landscape are known as a government affairs managers. Similar to a policy affairs manager they help to ensure that businesses keep up with new government regulations. As well, help to influence policies if they won’t negatively impact an industry.

1. Government affairs managers advocate for organization

Government Affairs Managers (GAMs) help organizations by keeping up-to-date with the latest changes in government policy and regulations and relaying this information to the organizations that they work work for. By understanding the intricacies of governmental policies they can help organizations develop strategies to ensure compliance and avoid negative consequences. GAMs must have a strong understanding of how government works, including the legislative process, regulatory agencies, and political trends.

An important part of a GAM’s job is to build relationships with key government officials, industry leaders, and stakeholders. GAMs attend meetings, conferences, and events to introduce themselves, establish trust, and offer solutions that align with their organization’s goals and objectives. They manage their relationships with government officials and policymakers by keeping them informed about their organization’s activities, priorities, and positions.

GAMs also develop strategies to advocate for their organization’s interests. They may engage in activities such as educating lawmakers and regulatory agencies, building campaigns to engage the public, or working with other industry groups to build a coalition of support.

Overall, GAMs represent organizations in government affairs and play a vital role in shaping how policies affect the food and beverage industries.

2. Government Affairs Managers monitor legislative and regulatory developments

In Canada legislations (also known as an acts) are forms of law and can provide the authority to make regulations. For example, in 2022 the Canadian government created a new food safety initiative known as the Food Safe Act which was responsible for improving food safety measures for the food and beverage industry. This act shook the industry forcing companies to improve their food safety standards and in many ways change how they do business.

Government Affairs Managers were the first in the know when it came understanding how these changes would affect businesses. By keeping up with the legislative changes they were able to help develop strategies their organizations could take to ensure compliance. As a result, they were able to work with different department heads of the organization to ensure that they were prepared and following the new legislation.

Overall, these professionals stay-to-date with the latest developments in government policy and regulations. If they didn’t this could mean huge consequences for the business. As a result, they must have a strong understanding of how government works, including the legislative process, regulatory agencies and political trends.

3. Government Affairs Managers build relationships

A Government Affairs Manager role is a relationship heavy one that involves building connections with key government officials, industry leaders and stakeholders. As a result, GAMs need to have excellent interpersonal and networking skills. They must be able to communicate effectively, build trust and establish positive relationships with a diverse group of people.

A few core things that GAMs do to help build and relationships:

  1. Networking: GAMs attend meetings, conferences, and events where government officials and policymakers are present. They use these opportunities to introduce themselves and bring awareness to their industry with those individuals.
  2. Establishing Trust: GAMs work to establish trust and credibility with government officials and policymakers by demonstrating their knowledge, expertise, and commitment to their organization’s mission.
  3. Offering Solutions: GAMs approach government officials and policymakers with solutions that align with their organization’s goals and objectives. They provide data, research, and other resources to support their position and demonstrate the potential impact of their proposed solutions.
  4. Being Proactive: GAMs stay informed about government activities, legislation, and regulations that may affect their organization. They reach out to government officials and policymakers proactively to offer information, insights, and expertise on relevant issues.

Everyone has their own unique perspectives and interests so government affairs managers must keep this in mind when conducting business. If the government official is not in the same mindset as them then the GAM must undertake persuasive communication styles to have protect their organizations’ interests.

4. Government Affairs Managers develop strategies

Sometimes when a new policy is proposed by government it can cause negative effects on a food business. For example, the government might be looking to crack down the consumption of sugar of their citizens. As a measure to combat this the government might impose a tax on the production of baked goods which have a certain amount of sugar contained within. This tax would increase the cost of producing sweets making them less competitive compared to other food items that are not subject to the same tax.

If a government affairs manager worked at this baking company it would be their job to develop strategies that with prevent this tax from happening. There are many tactics they could take to help prevent this from happening. First they could look to educate lawmakers and regulatory agencies on the potential negative impacts of the tax on both the company and its consumers. This could involve sending letters with research and data to support their meeting or even setting up a phone call to chat on on one.

Additionally, they could engage the public by building campaigns that bring awareness to the tax hike. This could involve working with other industry groups and trade associations to build a coalition of support to advocate the tax. Together the group could put out print ads, share the messages on social media and even attend certain community events.

By combining these different tactics, a government affairs manager could create a comprehensive strategy to combat an imposed tax on bread products and effectively advocate for their company’s interests.

5. Government Affairs Managers have varying levels of education

Overall, the education required to become a government affairs manager will vary depending on the organization. Some organizations will require the GAM to have a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as political science, public policy, international relations or communications. Though the food industry offers a unique opportunity that individuals have the opportunity to work their way up within in an organization. There are some cases where a GAM started their career on their production line and worked their way up into upper management eventually taking on a role in policy engagement.

Related: FoodGrads Podcast – Doug Alexander, Vice President Sustainability and Government Relations at Belmont Meats

However, this position is not one that a student typically enters right after graduation. Due to the knowledge required to take on this role having working experience working within an organization is ideal. This will allow the student to have a better understanding of the food industry landscape and the vest ways to navigate it.

6. Government Affairs Managers represent organizations

Government Affairs Managers (GAMs) play a crucial role in representing organizations in government affairs. They attend government meetings and hearings to provide testimony and represent their organization’s interests on relevant issues. For example, if the government is introducing new policies related to an industry, GAMs will attend meetings to discuss their concerns and advocate for their organization’s interests.

For example, GAMs play a vital role in educating government officials and decision-makers about new developments in their industry. For example, if their organization is involved in a new technology, such as improving vegan eggs than GAMs may meet with officials to explain how the company is doing things differently and how new policies may affect their organization directly. Their goal is to work with the government to work collaboratively in a way that lifts the entire industry while protecting their interests.

GAMs also help to raise the profile of their organization by engaging in outreach, education, and engagement with government officials and decision-makers. They establish a network of contacts and build relationships with industry members, business associations, influencers, and external SMEs to advance their organization’s goals and objectives.

7. Government Affairs Managers typically work on boards

Typically, government affairs managers will be apart of industry boards and committees. For example, in Ontario a prominent board within the food processing industry is Food and Beverage Ontario which represents multiple food businesses across the province. Although these businesses might be at direct competition with each other way there may be issues that directly affect them across the board. An example of this is the recent local labour shortage which has affected the Ontario Food Manufacturing Industry. The board worked together to create a proposal to have the government to help support an initiative CareersNow! to raise awareness about this industry. It’s up to a government affairs official to determine what ways that boards can assist their organization and help the industry as a whole.

8. Government Affairs Managers write well, listen actively and conduct research

Being a Government Affairs Manager requires a wide range of skills. However, there are a few which are more essential than others. Important skills for a government affair manager to have include:

  • Written communication – Government affairs managers continuously write emails, proposals, memos and reports to government officials, internal staff and the general parties. They must ensure that their writing is concise, clear and adequately describes the points they are making. Overall, they translate complex information into easily understandable language for their audiences.
  • Active-Listening– Much of a government affairs managers job is dependent on building relationships with elected officials. Active-listening plays a big role in this as they must listen to the concerns of their organization while also listening of elected officials. Active listening involves reading individuals’ body language, maintaining eye contact and mirroring a speaker’s language to show interest.
  • Research- To create effective proposals government affairs managers need to be able to research effectively. They know where to look for information and critically assess complex legislative and regulatory proposals and know their potential impact on their company. Their ability to research only gets stronger the more the longer they stay in this role.

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