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The world of influence continues to change. With constant gridlock in Congress, battles once fought through a single, Hill-focused campaign are now being contested in a much wider playing field.  Much of the action has shifted to the regulatory agencies, which adds an extra layer of complexity. Moreover, attention has increasingly shifted to the states, where officials in some jurisdictions have pursued an increasingly aggressive agenda. According to a study by the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, the number of organizations with registered lobbyists in the nation’s capital declined by 25 percent from 2010 to 2014. In state capitals, the number rose by 10 percent.

On top of this domestic shift, regulatory agencies around the world are wielding increasing power that impacts companies and associations. An issue in any single country can now quickly become a global conflagration.

As a result of these seismic changes, corporate government affairs offices must be able to pivot from Congress to various regulatory agencies, to the states and to the world stage. That in turn has increased the importance of a different range of knowledge. Procedure and strategy are replacing people and connections as the drivers of success. We surveyed several heads of Washington, DC corporate offices for their take on our observations.

  • Regulatory and state advocacy are growing
    • “I closed our federal PAC and am devoting those resources to the states until there is a reason to re-engage federally. Our people must know the technical and legal boundaries that affect state and federal agency actions in addition to knowing the legislative arena.” Head of Government Affairs for a Financial Institution
  • Understanding global business and policy goals is critical
    • “Business “IQ” and financial literacy are essential as is a global perspective – we engage where it makes sense.  Throw in political savvy and being attuned to the nuances and impact of global legislative, regulatory and policy issues.” Fortune 25 Global Head of Government Affairs
  • Communications skills are key
    • “…the successful candidate today is the author or editor of a “proactive” corporate narrative and effectively manages the release and delivery of the story across all media platforms and to all audiences, internal and external.” Head of Global Government Affairs in an Energy Company
  • Access is no longer a key ingredient
    • “Access is not enough, it’s not even that important because we can obtain access anytime through outside firms. What we need are people who can explain a complex issue concisely to the overworked staffers on the Hill, return to the office and write a letter to, say for example, the FTC or FDA and then work with our communications staff to anticipate and prepare for external reactions … and then brief the CEO and General Counsel…” Head of Government Affairs for a Major Agricultural Company

To thrive today, a corporate government affairs office must focus its efforts well beyond Capitol Hill.  As a result, a premium is now placed on what the team knows, rather than who they know.

TMG’s Take is a regular e-mail advisory produced by The McCormick Group. The company’s Legal, Government Affairs, and Law Firm Management groups combine the expertise of more than 15 Consultants to help law firms fulfill all of their lawyer and administrative recruiting needs. TMG’s Take covers topics across the spectrum of law firm management, including associate and partner compensation, growth strategies, marketing and business development, operations and facilities management, finance and accounting, professional development, and technology. Please direct all inquiries to Steve Nelson, Managing Principal at (703) 841-1700 or


The McCormick Group is a national executive search consulting firm that since 1974 has delivered high-qualified candidates to fill key positions across a diverse range of industries and all functional disciplines.

As the largest executive search firm based in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region, The McCormick Group has superior knowledge of federal Washington and its impact on the nation’s business community and non-profit sector.