Updated on:
August 17, 2020

What is Political Lobbying & Opinion Forming?

by
Goran Samuel Pesic
President & CEO
A pair of lobbyists in the city

What is lobbying, and why is it important?

Political lobbying and opinion forming in Canada is the application and development of modern marketing, or simply marketing-to-government. A subset of Government Relations, it entails engaging elected leaders and senior government officials for competitive advantage, whether that be by a not-for-profit organization or commercial sector enterprise. The levels of activity, specific features and relationships involved in corporate lobbying derives from marketing practices.

So, what’s driving modern political lobbying in Canada?

Several factors are driving today’s lobbying activities. These include increased globalization, transformative technologies and innovations, as well as competition in business markets, which have created pressure to influence both elected officials and government authorities to maintain competitive positioning in changing markets.

Another factor driving lobbying activities by organizations is over government regulation. As governments continue to reduce their direct (and indirect) ownership in the Canadian economy, for instance, over broadcasting, telecommunications, transport, utilities, and financial services, this situation has led to an expanded role in its regulatory activities. This has resulted in a rapid rise in strategic lobbying to influence regulatory bodies and regulatory policies for both a marketing advantage and industry gain.

Today, lobbying and opinion forming can be viewed as a specialist form of networking in the field of public policymaking. This means that lobbyists can develop access points linking their client’s interests to separate groups concerned over the same or similar issue(s) and ultimately over policy outcomes. Professional lobbying also is about making representations to decision-makers. For example, we typically work with CEOs or presidents of organizations to prepare them to make their case or representation to decision-makers, since they generally are the holders of power and authority in their organization.

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What is a lobbyist?

Skillful lobbyists also act as policy advisors and political marketers in a specific area of expertise for their clients. Highly effective and influential lobbyists have a keen understanding of the government policy-making process as well as insights into the “machinery of government” that moves key departments and agencies to make decisions. Put simply, political lobbyists know “how government really works”.

To achieve this level of knowledge and proficiency, lobbyists are well-acquainted with the companies for whom they lobby for. They have either worked for these companies in a leadership role, or have occupied senior levels within political or governmental institutions throughout their careers.

As a result of their information and expert power, lobbyists often occupy a special place as “trusted advisors” since they hold embedded positions within the network of government policy and business decision-making. They also know how to market their clients’ representations and desires in a manner that public policymakers can identify with, such as briefing notes, briefing decks and white papers.

Why lobbying matters

Political lobbying and opinion forming in Canada serve as a bridge in our democracy where individuals and organizations perform an essential role as a “challenge function” to public policyholders and government authorities. Lobbying is an advanced form of modern marketing. It helps our elected leaders and government officials with their decision-making process. It also serves to provide important policy options on issues that may affect individual Canadian businesses, industries, sectors or the general public.