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.
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?”
Effective (4 & 5)
Not at all
effective (1 & 2)
Presenting a concise
Making a pending vote an
results to be
Bringing in former
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/Not at all Valuable
Academic or issue
|Survey and poll results||26%||37.8%|
|Interest Group websites||22.9%||27.5%|
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.