Lobbying Advice for Business Owners

How to Work With a Lobbying Firm

Paid lobbyists can work wonders, but only when business leaders understand their role in the relationship. Here's how to work with a lobbying firm to get the biggest bang for your lobbying bucks.

A successful lobbying experience is all about your relationship with your lobbyist.

If you assume that you can simply hire a lobbyist and wait for results to materialize, you have probably misunderstood the nature of the lobbying process. Good firms place a high value on interactions and expect their clients to play an active role throughout the process.

The first step in achieving your legislative objectives is to hire the right lobbying firm. There are currently more than 12,000 lobbyists working in the U.S. political system and tracking down ones that fit well with your organization can be a challenge. Nonetheless, through a combination of research, referrals, and personal interviews, most business leaders can locate lobbyists who offer potential for a rewarding working relationship.

Both during and after the hiring process, there are several things that need to be done to ensure a successful engagement with your lobbyist.

  • Define goals. Successful lobbying partnerships begin with defining the goals and outcomes you hope to achieve through the political process. These goals should be a centerpiece of hiring conversations and should lay the groundwork for the working relationship you will have with your lobbying firm.
  • Discuss process. Each lobbyist and firm approaches the process a little bit differently. Business leaders should look for firms that recognize the value of client involvement and deliberately integrate you into the process. Discuss process during hiring interviews and make sure you're comfortable with the firm's proposed strategy before you sign a contract.
  • Evaluate conflicts. Expect your firm to be upfront about potential conflicts of interest – you'll want to avoid firms with clients who have competing political agendas. Sometimes larger lobbying firms will argue that they can accommodate the conflict by assigning different lobbyists to each client, but in the end the firm's loyalties may boil down to which client is paying the larger retainer.
  • Demand reporting. As a paying client, you are well within your rights to demand frequent reports from your lobbying firm. Good lobbyists consistently update their clients about the political landscape and provide progressive reports for targeted goals. Your lobbyist should also be willing to provide you with contact information including his email address and mobile phone number.
  • Manage proactively. At the end of the day, it's important to remember that you're in the driver's seat in the relationship with your lobbyist. If the relationship isn't meeting your expectations, don't hesitate to vocalize your frustrations and seek appropriate remedies.

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