Archive for July, 2012

Lobbying Tools that Influence Congressional Decision-Making: What is More Effective, What is Less Effective

Thursday, July 19th, 2012 by Nicholas

LobbyBlog is happy to introduce another guest writer: Dr. David Rehr with the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management.

The complexity of influencing or affecting public policy in Washington, DC has never been greater.  According to Lobbyists.Info over $8.1 billion dollars was spent in the last two years by the lobbying community trying to affect the outcome of laws and regulations in the U.S.
Congress.

For many, “lobbying” is a bad word.  It connotes individuals using inside information, their personal connections, or other tools to impact the minds of 100 U.S. Senators, 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the over 12,000 congressional staffers that work in the legislative branch.

The focus of today is to help clarify which advocacy tools work and which do not work when an individual or organization wants to passionately impact the legislative process in Washington.

Newly released research from the Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) at George Washington University (www.gspm.gwu.edu) provides clues never before unearthed.

THE CONGRESSIONAL COMMUNICATIONS REPORT (www.CongressionalCommunicationsReport.com) provides a monumental look at how America communicates with the Congress.  The nearly 3,000 congressional staff and lobbyists who participated in this study provided incredible insights and valuable outcomes measurement.

One question was designed to find out from congressional staff which lobbying tools influence members of Congress’ decision-making (just some of the 16 advocacy tools are listed below).

“In your opinion, how effective are each of the following lobbying activities in influencing or shaping members of congress’ decision-making on legislative issues?”

Lobbying Activities Very
Effective (4 & 5)
Not at all
effective (1 & 2)
Providing consistently
reliable information
87% 2.3%
Presenting a concise
argument
85.2% 3.9%
Holding face-to-face
meetings
58.4% 10.9%
Making a pending vote an
organizational “KEY
VOTE” with
results to be
communicated to
organization’s
membership
29.2% 36.4%
Conducting opinion
surveys,
Polls
17.7% 43.1%
Bringing in former
members
of congress
25% 38.1%
Organizing
email/postcard/call
Campaigns
13.1% 57.7%

The tools are pretty straight forward.  Most interesting is that congressional staff ranked “providing consistently reliable information” and “presenting a concise argument” as their top choices.  This means that every American can influence the process provided they are able to meet these expectations.

Another “takeaway” is that these tools need to be “laddered” in their use and by the resources available.  Less effective advocacy tools include making a vote a “KEY VOTE,” using surveys or polls to affect outcomes, or leveraging former members to affect their former colleagues or staff.

Here’s one insight: Take a look at the advocacy tools you use.  Make an honest assessment of what works and what doesn’t.  Then, measure your assessment against this landmark research to see how it fares.  It will help you be even more effective.

Another question asked how congressional staff learns about policy issues.  This reveals to citizen advocates and professional lobbyists where hey need to go to ‘shape’ the conversation (just a few of the 19 areas asked about are below).

“How valuable are each of the following as ways for you to learn about policy issues?”

Ways to learn Valuable/Very
Valuable
Slightly
Valuable/Not at all Valuable
Congressional Research
Service (CRS)
85.8% 3.3%
Academic or issue
experts
81.5% 4.3%
Blogs 51.3% 16.7%
Constituents 50.3% 19.6%
Internet Searches 50.3% 15.7%
Survey and poll results 26% 37.8%
Interest Group websites 22.9% 27.5%
Social media 12.2% 61.1%

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) and academic and issue experts were selected as two of the most valuable tools. Blogs, Constituents and Internet Searches fall into a second tier; Interest Group websites, and Survey and polls results are in the third tier.

Despite social media’s deep penetration into other parts of our society, it is not considered a valuable resource to inform policy at all by congressional staff.

Here’s one insight: As yourself and your team if you are connected with the CRS and do their researchers seek you out for data, empirical evidence or your unique perspective on an issue they are researching.  Frankly, I don’t think many of us in the advocacy business think much about CRS.  But we should since the data clearly indicates that congressional staffers find it highly valuable.

THE CONGRESSIONAL COMMUNICATIONS REPORT answers many of the questions I have been asking for decades.  It’s a treasure-trove of data for those who want to be at the pinnacle of the advocacy field.

 

David Rehr, PhD, is the lead researcher for THE CONGRESSIONAL COMMUNICATIONS REPORT and an Adjunct Professor at the Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) at George Washington University.  He is former CEO of the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the National Association of Broadcasters.  He has been recognized as one of the most effective advocates in the nation’s capital.  He can be reached at DavidRehr@gwu.edu or 202-510-2148.

 

 

Six Deadly Sins of Lobbying Days Part 2

Thursday, July 12th, 2012 by Nicholas

In the last post, I covered the first three of the deadly sins of lobby days. To be most effective, you’ll want to avoid all seven, so here are the remainder!

Sin #4 – Member-itis: Never, ever insist that a meeting with a member is more important than a meeting with a staff person. In fact, it’s actually better to meet with the staff person.  All you’ll probably get with the member is a “grip and grin,” and the vague feeling that your issues weren’t really covered. True, it’s sometimes hard to get advocates to understand that — so tell them the Advocacy Guru said so!  But if that’s not enough you might consider inviting a member of Congress to your conference so everyone can meet a legislator.  Also impress upon them the fact that they can much more easily meet with the legislator in the district.

Sin #5 – Inflexibility: This is particularly a problem when it’s combined with high expectations. Too many groups offer a very small meeting window and then are irritated when staff or members are not available in the 12:00pm to 2:00pm time slot they’ve designated for meetings. Try to have an entire day available – and ask participants in your lobby day to bring a good book.

Sin #6 – Overzealousness: If you have multiple people coming from one district or state, do everything you can to coordinate before requesting meetings. In too many cases, each individual will request their own meeting. By the fifth meeting on the same topic, the staff are generally pretty cranky. They will thank you for your consideration of their time if you coordinate well.

Sin #7 – Abandonment: Once your advocates are done in Washington, DC or your state capitol, their advocacy for the year isn’t finished. In fact, it’s just started. In most cases you will need to work with the office on an ongoing basis to help them truly understand your issues and the impact of certain policy actions on their constituents. After your meeting, don’t abandon your elected officials and their staff – embrace them (although not literally. Some of them aren’t huggers).

Lobbyblog wants to thank Stephanie Vance for her special feature and remind evereyone to head on over to her site advocacyguru.com.