An underappreciated way to get things accomplished in Washington D.C. and state capitals is the use of advocates to help push particular agendas. Sometimes it seems that these advocates get treated pretty roughly in the press, but in reality, a lot of good things would not happen without these advocates that we call lobbyists.
Legislators are not super-human beings; they do not haveunparalleled intelligence or a staff large enough to investigate every issue. Lobbyists go to legislators and talk to them about issues that are important to the people who hire them—and lobbyists are therefore critical conduits for educating legislators about important topics.
For example, the AARP works to advance the legislative agenda of senior citizens. Farmers have their own agenda items they want legislators to approve. Just about any issue on the face of the earth probably has a lobbyist somewhere working diligently to communicate and to educate with those holding political office to achieve their agenda.
Effective lobbying requires certain skills. You have to like people. You have to like to speak to people—and most importantly—you need to be good at communicating. Top lobbying firms expect their lobbyists to:
- Be personable when speaking to a member of congress or their staff. It is crucialthat lobbyists always be polite and professional. Good lobbyists can explain the issue to someone who agrees or disagrees with them equally well. Polite respect, even with those who disagree with them can gain a reciprocal respect, and could be important in future votes. This type of respectful behavior is also important when not lobbying in a legislative office. In today’s world of complex social and professional networking, you never know who your next resource may be.
- Get to the point. Everyone is busy so lobbyists need to be as clear and concise as possible. If a good lobbyists has 30 seconds with a legislator as he or she walks out the door, that legislator should know more about the lobbyist’s agenda when they part ways than her or she did 30 seconds ago. The longer the lobbyist has, the more facts they should be able to convey. There should be no tapering effect in time spent and information relayed; every second counts.
- Explain to the legislator or their representatives why the agenda topic is important. When possible, a lobbyist needs to explain why an issue is important for each legislator and important for that legislator’s constituents. If there are two million people across the United States in prison for some petty offense, the lobbyist should make that information “personal”. Explain how many of those people are from the state and/or the legislative district of the legislator they are speaking to.
Top lobbying firms know that the best lobbying is done by people who can present themselves as passionate and knowledgeable. Lobbyists should know all they can about a topic, and they need to be able to break that topic into smaller chunks of information so they can relay their message quickly and cater their communication to each individual. This is how the lobbyists at the top lobbying firms operate to ensure success.