When Lobbying, what is the Safest Strategy?
Lobbying is the process by which businesses, charities and individuals communicate their positions to government at all levels. An effective lobbying strategy means you can efficiently communicate your interests to government officials, resulting in policies that address your concerns. Lobbying is an important part of public policy formation and the democratic process.
When lobbying elected and appointed public office holders, the age-old adage holds that it's essential to measure twice and cut once. Whether you are preparing to attend public meetings, communicating with officials by email, or lobbying in face-to-face meetings, three basic principles apply to ensure that your lobbying strategy is on-message and safe from rebuffs. When assisting clients with their lobbying efforts, we follow a pattern of outreach (information), engagement (education) and persuasion (influence).
Outreach (Information Gathering)
The first step in developing a safe lobbying strategy is to reach out to our client and their leadership or management team to collect all of the relevant information required for a campaign. Someone can complete this process either in a formal manner such as through strategic planning questionnaires or informally, or through one-on-one interviewing sessions.
Since information is at the core of a successful lobbying strategy, we work with the client to collect and classify information into three general categories: Important, Critical and Urgent.
- Important: information that is of significant worth or consequence
- Urgent: information that calls for immediate attention, a pressing issue, or a time-sensitive matter
- Critical: information that is crucial, vital, and at a point where the consequences of action or inaction can change significantly for the better or worse
Once our client's information has been amassed and classified, the next step is to process all the relevant data and organize it in a structured manner. The primary aim is to verify it for accuracy, veracity and relevance to the target audience. We do so by challenging the information provided to us through a series of internal discussions with our subject matter experts. If required, outside specialists are consulted to confirm if the information meets the requirements mentioned above.
Engagement (Educating the Audience)
The next stage in developing a safe lobbying strategy involves creating effective communication products to engage and educate the target audience. These products must meet or exceed your target audience's professional expectations. These include:
- Formal Letters: formal letters to government officials that clearly articulate the purpose of the communication
- Briefing Notes: briefing notes to ministers and department heads that convey a compelling and knowledgeable understanding of the key issue or opportunity
- Corporate Presentations: company presentation decks for political and government officials that illustrate a concise request for specific action with recommendations
These three examples are typical of a formal approach to lobbying public officeholders and represent a safe strategy if used correctly. This approach also assumes that the target audience has the time and availability to meet and discuss the relevant information.
Over the past few years, with the rise of professional-grade graphic design software, the ability to create powerful and highly effective infographics to convey meaningful messages to educate government audiences has become an alternative to traditional forms of lobbying and engagement. Samuel Associates has a dedicated team of integrated digital marketing specialists that work seamlessly with our subject matter experts to develop impactful communication products for our clients to communicate their message to government officials. Having such in-house capabilities contributes to a safe lobbying strategy and ensures that our client's information is developed safely and protected from unauthorized release.
Once the relevant information is organized and framed in a useful format or medium, the next step in our process is persuasion. Persuasion is an umbrella term of influence. A safe lobbying strategy attempts to influence a target's beliefs, attitudes, intentions, motivations, behaviours or knowledge on an issue or topic. By now, our client's lobbying aims, expected target outcomes and possible next steps should come into full view at this final stage.
Our advice to clients is that there should be no surprises as to why an elected or appointed public officeholder agrees to meet or not meet with a client on a specific issue. The purpose of the meeting must be clear, open and transparent. We strongly advise against mixing or co-mingling issues. A safe and successful lobbying strategy means respecting the meeting parameters such as time, place, and persons attending the meeting. To learn more about how a successful government relations campaign works, read our blog, Government Relations: Succeeding with the ATTIC Model.
Lobbying Is Democracy In Action
An effective lobbying strategy incorporates outreach, engagement and persuasion. These stages help build the right program for you, educate officials about your position, and ultimately persuade the government to reflect your policies and programs' perspectives. If done right, lobbying helps the government adapt to its citizens' or organizations' needs in a democracy, and allows you to have your issue heard and addressed.