In House Warrior: Jeff Berkowitz and Regulatory Relief
Speaker 1: Welcome to the Corporate Counsel Business Journal’s daily podcast In House Warrior with host Richard Levick, chairman of Levick, a global crisis and litigation communications firm.
Richard Levick: Welcome to In House Warrior, the daily podcast and courageous leadership of the Corporate Counsel Business Journal, I’m Richard Levick. And with me today is Jeff Berkowitz, who is the CEO of Delve, a competitive intelligence and risk advisory firm that helps companies deal with their public affairs challenges. Jeff, welcome to the show.
Jeff Berkowitz: Thanks for having me, Richard.
Levick: It’s great to see you. Give our listeners a little background. I know you worked for Karl Rove. You were there during Katrina. You’re used to dealing with crises. If you could share some background, that would be great.
Berkowitz: Yeah. I mean, I think one of the things I took away from that is, you were working crazy hours and it’s really important to keep your eye on what’s important. There’s a lot of noise, especially when you’re in that kind of a high profile situation. You get a lot of criticism and the media likes to speculate about what you’re doing right or wrong, as you’re trying to do it.
And I think from president Bush, Karl Rove, the whole leadership of the White House, it was focused on what’s important, focused on the task at hand. And that was really important to … we aren’t going to respond to the criticism. We aren’t going to play the blame game. We’re here to help the people that need to be helped and make sure that the recovery went as it should.
Levick: There’s a really important media lesson there. And I know we’re going to talk about relief issues momentarily. But not responding to negative criticism, and instead, focusing on your positive message is certainly a critical takeaway, particularly in this flooded communication zone during the pandemic.
Berkowitz: That’s right. I mean, you have to set the right tone and stay focused on what matters.
Levick: So let’s talk about regulatory relief. How do you see the environment for in this … we’re in a pandemic, how do you see it?
Berkowitz: Yeah, I think one of the positive things that we’ve seen come out of the rescue efforts is a lot of industries, a lot of companies, they want to help. They want to jump in and be of assistance. So you see everybody from alcohol manufacturers wanting to shift over to hand sanitizer. So, you want to see folks shifting over production lines to do personal protective equipment or ventilators, these other things. And what they found is the … there are a lot of regulatory barriers that they have to get through. In government at all levels has really been very swift in moving away these barriers to get folks in and help.
Levick: How can companies pivot during this challenging time in terms of their regulatory and public affairs approach?
Berkowitz: Yeah. I mean I think it’s important to tell the full story of what you’re doing. This the time to be a good corporate citizen. There’s a lot of scrutiny, we’ve seen it certainly with the payroll protection program and others. If you’re getting aid, people are going to want to see it being used for those frontline workers. They’re going to want to see it being used in the right ways, not for profit taking or, protecting executives. So be very careful and cautious about how you proceed and think about what it means for you to help and make sure that that help is actually going in the right direction and not seen as self serving.
Levick: Talk a little bit more, if you would about potential blow back, you’re talking about it from a communications point of view. We’ve seen Ruth’s Chris, we’ve seen Harvard, we’ve seen others in giving back the PPP if you will. But there’s also other blow back that you’ve mentioned as possibilities.
Berkowitz: Yeah. I think one of the challenges as you’ve shifted over production lines as folks have gone into industries or types of production, they’re not used to. Making sure that you understand what liability protections you have, what the regulations say in general and what they’ve … how they are … the relief has been carved out to protect you. As you do these things, if God forbid something doesn’t meet an FDA standard or doesn’t meet a some sort of regulatory standard, are you protected by the government from liability or are you potentially on the hook down the road for class action lawsuits or other sort of scrutiny?
Levick: And what do you see as some of the longterm implications?
Berkowitz: I think over the longterm, the hopeful thing is, we’ve found that there’s a whole lot of regulations that are overly complex and that get in the way of industries and companies helping and doing good. And also making sure that they’re growing and providing jobs. And that gives us the opportunities to have conversations with legislators, regulators at every level of government about how do we simplify things, how do we make sure that we’re prepared for the economic recovery to come and empower companies to be make sure customers are protected, and the public is protected in responsible ways. But are there simpler ways for us to put forward these regulations? Do we need all of these restrictions and guidelines in order to do that protection?
Levick: Jeff in the 30 seconds or so that we have left, what inspirational thoughts do you want to leave with general counsels for dealing with this unusual situation?
Berkowitz: I think every organization understands its mission and its values can come through crisis more successfully. So understanding what your mission is, who you’re here to help and what values your company holds dear and staying true to those is going to be what gets us through this.
Levick: Jeff, thank you so much. One thing I would like to say is having worked with Delve over the years, I think one of the values that you provide for clients, particularly with a situation with so many unknowns or unknown unknowns as Donald Rumsfeld would say is that you provide the analytics and intelligence, which gives you a sense of what’s going to happen next. I think that’s critically important for this environment. Richard Levick for the In House Warrior for the Corporate Counsel Business Journal with Jeff Berkowitz of Delve. Jeff, thanks so much and see you tomorrow.
Speaker 1: You’ve been listening to the Corporate Counsel Business Journal’s, In House Warrior with host Richard Levick.