BCIU is a strategic partner for many businesses around the world, and in this post our Senior Vice President, Patrick Santillo, offers some insights on how businesses can continue to engage foreign governments during this time. Santillo is an expert with extensive experience as a former career member of the U.S. Senior Foreign Service. “It’s extraordinarily important in this virtual world to remember the tenets that we relied on in the in-person world,” says Santillo. “The underlying principles carry on. Commercial diplomacy remains the art of engaging with government to advance private sector interests.”

With over thirty years of experience helping companies succeed while stationed in U.S. Embassies abroad, here are Santillo’s top tips:

Give them the CCAR

The most successful companies clearly frame the issues for a decision maker. “I use the letters C, C, A, R,” says Santillo. “Challenge, context, action, and result.”

  1. Challenge: Be specific about the challenge your business is facing.
  2. Context: Provide context so the official can understand how important this is to your business.
  3. Action: Clearly state the action you want the official to take, and make sure the action is specific and realistic.
  4. Result: Explain what the results will mean for your business, and even more importantly the larger community, to show them why it’s a win-win.

The right person, not necessarily the most senior person

Companies often seek their meetings with the highest-level official possible. While this may “look good” sometimes, it’s not the most direct path to success. “We seek the highest-level meetings,” says Santillo, “but it is extremely important to determine who is the most appropriate person to help address your challenge.” While sometimes the highest-level meeting is necessary, most of the time it is not. You can navigate with speed and agility by aiming lower and engaging with the right people who are viewed by the top official as an expert. Ultimately, these people will have a big role in guiding the outcome.

Finesse the follow-up, and don’t forget it!

You are one of countless meetings that an ambassador or minister takes every day. It’s critical to seize the opportunity when you meet, but the follow-up is just as important. “Often we see businesses miss an opportunity because they fail to do this,” says Santillo. And do one better: finesse the follow-up by sharing additional information that advances the conversation. Doing so will significantly increase the likelihood for progress on your issue.

Advancing business interests during the pandemic is challenging, but organizations like BCIU are here to help with experts equipped to offer bespoke solutions. “BCIU can play a key role in everything from messaging and relationship-building, to helping you deepen that rapport with a principal,” says Santillo. “And that’s extraordinarily important for modern businesses.”

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