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The Many Tools of the Lobbyist Trade

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On a clear spring morning, lobbyists from the Sierra Club plot their strategy for reaching out to the entire Senate regarding a piece of pending legislation. Hundreds of miles away, Statehouse Partners is lobbying in Utah in anticipation of state lawmakers crafting a new bill that would affect millions of Utah residents. How do the lobbyists in both locations accomplish their goals? Do they do the same things?

Lobbying in American politics is as old as the country itself. And yet it is this mysterious activity that very few people know a lot about. The average American has absolutely no idea just how many ‘tools of the trade’ are available to help lobbyists do what they do on a daily basis.

Tools for Direct Lobbying

Lobbyists can reach out to lawmakers either directly or indirectly. It really just depends on what they are trying to accomplish at any given time. Let us take a look at some of the tools of the trade for direct lobbying:

  • Personal Meetings – A big part of lobbying is the art of persuasion. Nowhere is this art practiced more aggressively than during personal meetings that lobbyists have with different lawmakers.

  • Research/Education – Lobbyists can get a lot of traction out of research and education. They do the research, then they turn around and educate decision-makers.

  • Testifying – Lobbyists frequently make trips to Washington and the various state capitals in order to appear at hearings. Their testimony carries a lot of weight at such meetings.

  • Celebrity Activism – Our country’s fascination with celebrity has created an environment in which lobbyists can sway the opinions of lawmakers just by tapping the right celebrity to carry the message.

  • Entertainment – Lobbyists frequently entertain lawmakers in order to ‘talk shop’, as it were.

All these direct methods involve taking the message directly to lawmakers in one form or another. Direct lobbying is more about face-to-face interaction than anything else.

Tools for Indirect Lobbying

Lobbyists can be equally effective using indirect tools. The goal of indirect lobbying is the same, only the methods are different. Take a look at these tools:

  • PR/Marketing Campaigns – Lobbyists are very good at running PR campaigns that put the heat on lawmakers. Public opinion is a very strong motivator.

  • Mail/E-Mail Campaigns – Drumming up support for a snail mail or e-mail campaign is another tool for effective lobbying. Such campaigns get voters involved.

  • Public Rallies – Hand-in-hand with mail and e-mail campaigns are public rallies that are designed to draw large groups. The more people that show up, the stronger the particular message is.

  • Media Campaigns – If public rallies and e-mail are not getting it done, a very effective alternative is to go straight to the media. Press releases, press conferences, and other media tools get the attention of lawmakers.

Whether lobbying in Utah or Washington, lobbyists have plenty of tools to accomplish their goals. The best among them know how to use those tools to maximum advantage. It is the way of the lobbying world.