Whether we've experienced its presence in the media, or benefitted from a successful outcome, lobbying will have played a role in most of our lives.
Perhaps we've even felt its impact as a business, through a policy that was either rejected or supported by parliament.Whether directly or indirectly, lobbying is a technique used to influence key decision makers, legislators or elected members of the government to try and persuade either for or against a policy.
Lobbying strategies can be employed by individuals, charities, businesses or pressure groups. The reason this is so relevant to business owners is because it could be relating to a policy that directly impacts the future of your business.
Lobbying is a tool that enables us to make a difference, change laws and put pressure on the government. It involves the use of persuasive efforts to convince legislators and policymakers towards influencing political change, government decisions and policies.
Policymakers care about problems and it's their job to facilitate political change which can benefit those directly affected by the issues. Policymakers depend on lobbyists to present them with the facts, the concerns and the rationale behind their arguments to help them come to an informed and fair decision involving an issue. Those issues might pertain to topics such as public health, the environment, industry specific matters, education and more.
Types of lobbying
In an attempt to elicit policy change, advocacy groups or individuals can take efforts to influence constituency representatives via direct lobbying. This is a powerful and explicit approach which relies on building a working relationship with the legislator either through face-to-face meetings, emails, or contacting influential constituents and representatives and facilitating connections between them in an attempt to mobilise others to make change.
This approach requires strategy and due diligence before, during and after the process in order to exert the right amount or pressure, adhere to lobbying best practices, and gain the most favourable outcome.
Indirect lobbying takes place through other channels such as the media, and therefore happens more publicly.
The purpose of indirect lobbying is to mobilise others and influence a lawmaker’s stance by agitating the issue, pressuring lawmakers and representatives to take action.
By heightening public awareness of an issue and attempting to affect public opinions, it gains widespread attention and puts pressure on policy makers to react and take action. Indirect lobbying can be carried out through the media, television, or even social media.
Decision makers and lawmakers will be most receptive to those who follow lobbying best practices and demonstrate etiquette throughout the entire process. These tips should help stay within the best practice guidelines and maximise your changes of resolving the issues and gaining the recognition and support you need.
Know your facts
Just as you would prepare for a presentation or a job interview, anticipate questions and be sure you are well-versed on the matter in question. Read literature around the topic and concerns you wish to resolve. Demonstrating your knowledge and dedication will help the decision maker hold you in higher regard.
Try to be brief and direct throughout any meetings and through any written communication. Policy makers are short on time and will appreciate you getting to the point.
Take along a memorandum or agenda, include bill numbers and reference numbers that pertain to a particular legislation and be specific. Bring literature relevant to the matter, or anything that could support your argument. It’s a good idea to leave something tangible with the legislator.
Also prepare yourself for a blatant refusal and rudeness. Take it with a dignified response and accept that this can unfortunately be part of the process. Becoming too argumentative or aggressive will most certainly go against you.
Effective lobbying involves ongoing communication. Ensure you build a secure and trusted relationship with the decision maker in the lead up to any meeting, and always follow-up. If possible, try and secure a second meeting and thank them for their time.
Know the boundaries
Do not mistake your lobbying platform as an opportunity for bribery or protest, and steer clear of anything that may be misinterpreted as an illicit attempt to ‘win over’ the legislator. Stick to the etiquette, the guidelines and the facts.
When used correctly, lobbying can be a useful tool in mobilising and encouraging change, heightening mass exposure of a topic or issue, putting pressure on government and creating change that helps you reach your business goals. Whether it’s an issue that directly or indirectly affects your business, your local Chamber of Commerce can lobby on your behalf. Get in touch if this is something you would like to find out more about.