Amtrak’s Nonstop Rail Service Demonstrates the Importance of Influence


Whether it’s walking the halls of Congress, meeting with policymakers at a regulatory agency or attending a critical policy conference, business leaders are increasingly aware of the absolute necessity of carving out a presence in the nation’s capital.

Amtrak – the national passenger rail service – knows this, which is why they announced last week that beginning in late September, travelers will have the option of taking a nonstop ride between Washington, DC, and New York City on their Acela Express Train. There will only be one northbound and southbound train per day, and only on weekdays, to start. Conventional wisdom might lead you to believe that the northbound train would be in the morning hours, quickly and conveniently depositing professionals in the world’s financial epicenter. But Amtrak is doing the reverse, running a nonstop train from New York to DC in the morning and a return journey at the end of the day.

That’s likely because Amtrak listened to their target customers – corporate executives who are prioritizing external affairs and opportunities to interface with and influence government.

According to research conducted by the management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. that surveyed top corporate executives over the course of several years, external affairs is occupying more headspace for CEOs and board members of major companies than ever before. The reason? “About two-thirds of all executives predict that government and regulator involvement will increase in the coming years.”[1] And many executives admit that their organizations haven’t invested in the right capabilities to deal with that reality.[2]

Regardless of your industry – health care, manufacturing, financial services, energy and everything in between – Washington’s actions will meaningfully impact your bottom line. And it’s clear that executives believe this will only become truer in the years, even decades, to come.

That’s why it’s so important for businesses and nonprofits alike – and the trade groups that represent them – to invest thoughtfully and strategically in external affairs practices that effectively advance their agendas and manage their reputations among government stakeholders. There’s simply too much on the line from a business perspective not to.

If you do or don’t ride the rails into Washington, an essential part of engaging decisionmakers is a strategic communications plan that reaches the right audiences with the right messages. The media landscape has changed, and you need a communications expert by your side to counsel you through important policy fights with a multi-platform approach.

Washington is where the action is. The decisions made here have ripple effects that can shake the skyscrapers of America’s business capital. Business leaders understand that and are probably grateful that Amtrak is giving them a nonstop option to keep their fingers on the pulse of the ever-changing policy and regulatory frameworks that guide their industries.

[1] McKinsey Special Collection External affairs. Selected articles from the Strategy and Corporate Finance Practice. Pg. 2. April 2017.

[2] McKinsey Special Collection External affairs. Selected articles from the Strategy and Corporate Finance Practice. Pg. 14. April 2017.