Archive for June, 2012

Six Deadly Sins of Lobbying Days

Thursday, June 28th, 2012 by Nicholas

Lobbyblog.com is again happy to bring back Stephanie Vance with Advocacy Associates for a special two-part focus on common mistakes people make during fly-in days.

At Advocacy Associates we schedule thousands (yes, thousands) of Congressional meetings per year.  From the American Association of Museums to the Heating Airconditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International (a good group to know in a heat wave) – if you’ve got people coming to town, we make sure they get to Capitol Hill.

Although we now get between 99 and 100% of the constituency-based meetings we request, we’ve made the occasional mistake over the years.  The good news is that you don’t need to make those same mistakes – just don’t commit the seven deadly sins we’ll be covering in the next two blog posts and you’ll be just fine.

Here are one through three:

Sin #1 – Non-Constituency: When requesting a meeting, whether with the member or a staff person, the first question you will be asked is “are you from the district or state?” Elected officials and their staff are there to represent a discreet group of people. You absolutely MUST demonstrate your relevance to that discreet group of people or they won’t meet with you. Our meeting request letters always include the city of the constituent asking for the meeting – and some offices will ask for a full street address just to be sure!

Sin #2 – Non-Written Requests: OK, I lied. Actually the first thing you will be asked by the usually incredibly young person who answers the phone is “have you sent your request in writing?” Don’t even bother to call before you have either faxed in the request (look it up in the United States Congress Handbook or go to http://www.congress.org to look up fax numbers or e-mailed it through the Congressman’s website (accessible through www.house.gov and www.senate.gov).

Sin #3 – Assumption: As Robert Siegel once asked me when I worked at NPR “do you know the etymology of the word “assume?” My response was “who uses a word like ‘etymology’?” If you don’t want to make a donkey’s behind of yourself, never assume that your faxed or e-mailed request actually got to the office or that the scheduler will just magically get back to you. With hundreds of requests to go through a day, things get lost. Often. Be sure to follow-up (and be very polite – they don’t lose things on purpose, they’re just overwhelmed).

Stay tuned for four through seven — and  you’ll be on your way to a fabulous event in no time!

Why Some Special Interests Dont Win in The Influence Game

Thursday, June 14th, 2012 by Nicholas

This week LobbyBlog is happy to welcome guest writer and Advocacy Guru Stephanie Vance:

Advocacy Guru Stephanie Vance spills 50 D.C.-insider secrets for effective influence. These tactics will move any immovable object, be it Congress, a corporate board or your intransigent children, to action — or inaction, depending on your preference. In an exclusive set of blog postings, LobbyBlog will be covering several of these tactics in the coming weeks. To start, we’ll look at perhaps the most important thing any effective lobbyist should know – 5 things NOT to do.

Number 5: Use the “Because I Said So” argument.

Good lobbyists know how to answer the question “why should I care about what you have to say?” effectively. They make a connection either to what gets the legislator up in the morning (like policy issues they love) or what keeps them up at night (like a high unemployment rate or re-election concerns). Bad lobbyists use the “because I said so” argument.

Number 4: Interrupt the Decision Maker with Communications That Are Not Really High Priority.

“High priority” communications include those from constituents, those related to a specific (and timely) ask and those that will help the legislator move forward on his or her policy agenda. “I just wanted to touch base” meetings are not high priority.

Number 3: Be Vague About What You Want.

Without a goal, you’ll never know if you’re getting to yes — nor will your audience know what they can do to help you. As one chief of staff I know put it: “You get one ‘hey how are you doing’ meeting per year: after that, you better want something.” Don’t start your government relations effort until you know what that is.

Number 2: Not Knowing What You’re Talking About.

Nothing says “you really shouldn’t listen to me” like peppering your communications with inaccuracies. Take steps to learn everything you need to know about your cause, including the benefits and downsides of your proposed solution to a problem. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say “I don’t know, I’ll get back to you.” Then do it.

Number 1: Give Up.

It can take years to move a relatively minor proposal through the legislative process, even with a variety of powerful tools at your disposal. The founding fathers designed our system of government to be completely and totally inefficient – and they did an excellent job. Persistence is the only thing that ever works – and it works almost all the time.

Stephanie Vance, the Advocacy Guru at Advocacy Associates, is the author of five books on effective advocacy and influence, including The Influence Game. A former Capitol Hill Chief of Staff and lobbyist, she works with a wide range of groups to improve their advocacy efforts. More at www.theinfluencegame.com

Lobbyists.info set to release report on landmark Congressional Communications Report

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 by Nicholas

As the writer of both Lobbyblog and one of the authors of this report, I am extremely excited to announce that it is nearly complete and almost ready for sale. While I have gone out of my way to avoid mentioning all the work that has gone into this report the past few weeks, I want to share with LobbyBlog readers part of the release for the Report so that they can know about this landmark study.

Lobbyists.info, in partnership with the Original U.S. Congress Handbook, George Washington University School of Political Management, and research partner ORI, is set to release the landmark “Congressional Communications Report.”

The report is the result of one of the largest surveys ever completed of Congressional staff and the lobbying community. Of nearly 3,000 responses, more than 700 came directly from Congressional staff.
“We have been overwhelmed by the number of surveys we’ve gotten back. To get this kind of response from the Congressional community and lobbying industry is incredible” remarked Dr. David Rehr, one of the survey’s creators. “I’m unaware of any Hill survey that is even close to the kind of numbers we’ve been seeing.”

Also shocking is the disconnect the numbers reveal between lobbyists and staff. “Lobbyists with 10, 15, even 20 years of experience may no longer know how best to interact with this current group of Congressional staff. A lot of what they are doing and information they are putting out there is just getting lost in the shuffle. People who have been working in the industry for a long time will be play online pokies amazed, and maybe even disturbed, by the difference in lobbyists’ perception of what staff thinks verses reality.” Remarked Joel Poznansky, President of Columbia Books Inc., parent company of Lobbyists.info & The Original U.S. Congress Handbook.

The report covers with detailed charts and analysis:

· The best ways to contact members of Congress and their staffs

· How changes in Hill demographics that have shifted perspective – and what common practices can now be a waste of resources

· What factors determine who gets access to Members or Hill staff

· How staffers prefer to learn about issues

· What lobbying tactics get results

· Which Congressional staffers are engaged in social media – and why

· How to walk the fine line between information and information overload

· Surprising findings about how staffers view bias in today’s information age and how they weigh it

· How staffers interact with each other and with media during their work day

· What types of media staffers prefer to hear, read and see

Lobbyists.info and the report’s sponsors are also holding a June 12th breakfast for the launch of the report. At the event an expert panel of lobbyists, researchers and Congressional staff, will break down the results and reveal groundbreaking news for an audience of industry insiders and lobbyists. Using the hard numbers in the report, strategies for how to best maximize lobbying time and money will be analyzed, discussed and dissected.

The Congressional Communications is currently available for pre-order at www.congressionalcommunicationsreport.com and will be published in June 2012. For more information on the expert panel breakfast in Washington DC on June 12, 2012 please visit www.congressionalcommunicationsreport.com/live