There’s a reason the big brands seem to get all the attention from policy-makers and all the headlines from the popular press. They have shareholder cash to splash on public affairs consultants, marketing agencies and corporate lawyers. So much, in fact, that Ofcom is sometimes hobbled from making speedy decisions to increase competition for fear of incurring lengthy and costly legal disputes with the mobile network operators or the big retail brands.
How does a small or niche business get any traction? Ofcom is a remarkably open and consultative organisation. And your local MP is always glad to hear from a constituent employer (especially if there’s an election in the offing or a nice photo-opportunity for the website). The biggest problem for most employers is simply that they have to take time away from productive work in order to make these things happen. And if they do make the effort, there’s always the risk of being dismissed as one lone or unrepresentative voice.
That’s one great advantage a trade association has. It speaks on behalf of many members, so it has gravitas. It draws responses from multiple members and aggregates competing arguments, so it represents consensus. And it researches the background, informs argument with members’ real life experiences, and sets the principles in context, so it speaks with authority.
Trade associations represent multiple stakeholders, are politically neutral, and can often say the unwelcome truths or tackle the monopoly interests in a way that individual companies might feel it commercially unwise to attempt.
The voice of business-to-business comms has not really been heard or understood by policy-makers. Which means when it comes to the really big strategic issues our industry faces – fighting for radio spectrum for docks and utilities, or securing business-grade alternatives to the Openreach fibre roll-out -- business is always on the back foot.
Politicians who want growth in the UK economy and a technology-driven service-led future urgently need to grasp the vital link between world-class UK businesses and the world markets in which they are to trade. That link is communications. No comms, no growth. Comms is the one vital enabling industry without which nothing else happens.
If politicians only hear one side of the story, you can’t blame them for getting a distorted picture. It’s up to the industry to redress the balance. FCS is committed to being the voice and the platform from which the industry can get its messages across.