Lobbying Advice for Business Owners
How Small Businesses Can Lobby Government Agencies Without Hiring a Paid Lobbyist
You can't afford to hire a lobbyist, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to influence lawmakers. Here's how to lobby government agencies without the expense of a professional political lobbyist.
Sir Francis Bacon famously said, "Knowledge is power."
But to anyone familiar with the political process, it's clear that Sir Francis never tried to influence lawmakers in today's political environment. These days, money is power – and the companies who can afford to hire a high-priced Washington lobbying firm often end up on the receiving end of favorable legislation and government approvals.
Like it or not, it is extremely difficult for small businesses to compete with large corporations for the attention of lawmakers at the state and federal level. The legislative process is heavily influenced by powerful lobbying firms with clients who are well connected and have very deep pockets. Unless a legislative agenda is a critical part of your strategic plan, your small business probably can't dedicate a sizeable portion of its budget to a professional lobbyist.
But many business owners don't realize that they can lobby government agencies and legislators on their own, without hiring a paid lobbyist. As U.S. citizens (and more importantly voters), small business owners and other advocates can actively gain the attention of lawmakers and agencies. All it takes is the right strategy and a little hard work.
Lobbying is all about connecting – not with lawmakers, but with the right lawmakers. For small businesses, the process of connecting with the right lawmakers is not unlike sales prospecting. Rather than blanketing legislative halls looking for anyone who will listen to you, strategically identify the lawmakers who are most likely to support your cause and have the power to influence other lawmakers on your behalf.
In lobbying, the way you communicate your message is just as important as the message itself. Remember, lawmakers face a constant barrage of communication from hundreds of special interests. So it's important to calibrate the communication medium to the priority level of the message. Sometimes a personal meeting will be warranted, while other times a phone call or email will suffice. In fact, sometimes the right way to say it is by saying nothing at all.
Effective lobbyists employ strategic messaging techniques. If you're lobbying for yourself, don't approach lawmakers or government agencies before you have carefully considered the content of your message and created a compelling storyline. Generic claims, wild accusations, and unfocused ideas don't impress legislators. But a focused message with a compelling story that features facts and details gets them (almost) every time.
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