Lobbying involves contacting legislators and trying to convince them to support or reject a policy. Whether you are an individual constituent or an advocacy group, when you meet with representatives with an attempt to elicit a policy change, you are lobbying them.
Lobbying is a crucial part of any advocacy group looking to make a change and involves influencing the people in power who can effect these changes. As with every stage of an advocacy campaign, lobbying too needs to be planned strategically to exert the right kind of pressure on your representatives and gain a favorable outcome.
Techniques under different Types of Lobbying
Lobbyists mainly resort to two types: Direct or Indirect Lobbying.
The most powerful technique for direct lobbying is a face-to-face meeting because you can directly talk about the issues affecting your interests and the policies which can help better these situations. However, for this to work, it is necessary to first build a working relationship with the particular legislator.
Other techniques under Direct Lobbying:
- Making phone calls: this is mainly done if you’re working under time constraints. While on a call, be concise and firm and explain what the particular problem is, and how a policy can alleviate the issue. Ask where your representative stands on the issue and request action.
- Sending emails and letters: Similar to phone calls, it is necessary for your email to be direct and concise, with a clear subject line so that it doesn’t get ignored. Ask questions and request specific action; talking about how the action will benefit the community should be included as well.
- Another direct lobbying technique would be to get influential constituents to meet, call or email representatives as their words would certainly carry weight.
With indirect (or grassroots) lobbying, you raise awareness about issues which your advocacy group wants to rectify and then use this as a channel to influence the lawmakers’ stance. The techniques which come under Indirect lobbying are:
- Using media outreach: This usually involves using a range of different media to create impact regarding a bill or a policy. This includes making use of print, television, and online channels such as social media to influence people to make a stand.
- Mobilizing people: This involves organizing rallies, boycotts, or agitations for or against an issue. This is an effective tool as it garners intense media attention and puts pressure on policymakers.
- Using opinion polls: When public opinion about a bill is in line with what lobbyists want to achieve, they use polls to cast attention on legislators’ decisions.
Common Lobbying Techniques and Strategies to use
When lobbying in person, there are several tips that you need to keep in mind. It’s a threefold process, meaning, you need to approach it from a strategy spanning before, during, and post your meeting so that it maximizes your lobbying efforts. Let’s look at some techniques and tips for each.
1. Before meeting your Representative
- Prepare literature about the policy you’re targeting, including issues and concerns you hope to get resolved.
- Do background research on your rep. Look at their previous record with similar issues and the respective stands they took. This will give you a fair idea of how successful your lobbying is likely to be.
- Schedule an appoint via phone call or email at least a week before you intend to meet. If you’re unable to get through to your rep, try getting through to their staff. Be polite yet firm in your request.
- Highlight your agenda for the meeting by sending the literature you prepared so that the rep or official has a clear idea of what to expect during the meeting.
- Reconfirm your meeting beforehand so that you’re unaffected by any last minute changes.
2. During the Meeting
- Be as brief as possible. Your rep probably won’t have a lot of time to spare, so make it direct and to the point.
- If you’re referring to an existing policy or one which is in the works, refer to it by its number and title. Talk about why you want your rep to take a particular stance regarding the bill and how it’ll benefit constituents. Have valid data and examples to back up your views.
- A good practice is to mention other lawmakers or influential organizations who support your stance. This shows that you’re not alone and have relevant backing.
- Be prepared to answer questions which will come your way; however, it is okay if you don’t know the answer to a question. Let them know you will get back to them later with the relevant answer.
- Ask direct Yes/No questions. This ensures that instead of walking away with an inconclusive and drawn out answer, you have one which immediately determines the level of support you have from them, if any.
- Be prepared for someone who is rude or firmly refuses to comply with your demands. You win some, you lose some, right?
- Leave something tangible behind such as a hard copy of your agenda so that your meeting isn’t forgotten.
- Always schedule a follow-up so that you’re updated on the bill or issue.
3. Post Meeting
- Follow up with a thank-you letter or email, even if your issue wasn’t necessarily backed.
- Post about your meeting on different channels, talking about the outcome reached. This shows other organizations or people involved in the same issues about whether they can count on the politician’s support or not.
- If your rep agreed to support your cause, create a timeline-based strategy on how you can work together to achieve your aims.
Lobbying can be a very useful tool for you as an advocacy group or an individual constituent in reaching your targets. Hopefully, this article explained what lobbying implies and how you can go about it and make a real difference to the cause you are passionate about.Tags: direct lobbying, indirect lobbying, Political lobbying, strategies, techniques