To stay ahead of the regulator, be prepared to offer some TEA …

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In my years serving on regulatory staffs, I always appreciated the industry liaison that presented a new product or explained their company’s position on public policy or a consumer complaint in the clearest and most cogent manner. These professionals were selling me TEA: Thought, Education, Advocacy.

The best advocates for any position are aware that they must paint a picture for the regulator that depicts how the position or product best serves the public, the regulator, and the company. In the public utility space, for example, an advocate has to make the argument that the regulator’s need to maintain balance between the company’s goal of a reasonable return and the consumer’s interest in reasonable prices and clear terms and conditions. When an advocate engages regulatory staff, the first words out of the advocate’s mouth, post the usual pleasantries, should reflect acknowledgment of this balance of stakeholder interests.

Keep in mind that while regulatory staff has a heavy docket, it doesn’t mean that staff wants to be led with fast talk. No staffer wants to feel like they are being sold on an idea or proposal even though the reality is the advocate is doing that. Remember, the staffer has to present your company’s position to other decision makers in the agency before your position gets approved. The TEA has to be served just right. Clarity has to be a priority.

Keep in mind that the staffer looks forward to being educated on what’s happening in the markets. The staffer’s ability to comprehend the information you present, combine the information with what he or she has learned on their own, and present information and insights to policymakers serves the staffer’s interest in growing their own expert power. This expert power can be leveraged by them when pursuing future opportunities within or outside their agency.

Presenting the best TEA also facilitates the advocates access to staff. Again, staff looks forward to the opportunity for further education and expert growth and is more than willing to listen to an advocate that is clear, concise, cogent. This is an exchange of ideas and insights; an opportunity to garner trust through transparency and clarity.

So, brew the TEA with the best ingredients of knowledge and serve it with clarity.

Alton Drew

14 April 2022

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