There are many reasons why hiring a lobbying firm may be a good idea for a business organization.
Lobbyists are experts at navigating the American political process. They have the expertise and connections to help their clients achieve targeted legislative goals and receive higher priority in contract awards or government appropriations.
But the process of hiring a lobbying firm has the potential to become a quagmire of pitfalls and missteps. Everything is riding on your ability to identify the lobbying firm that is most capable of influencing the lawmakers who drive the issues you care about. With that in mind, there are several mistakes you'll want to avoid during the hiring process.
- Lack of clarity. Many organizations make the mistake of approaching lobbyists before they are clear about their reasons for hiring a lobbyist in the first place. There are a variety of reasons why you might want to hire a paid lobbyist. But until you fully understand what you want a lobbyist to accomplish, it will be difficult to conduct accurate hiring.
- Insufficient budget. Good lobbyists aren't cheap. Unfortunately, small companies sometimes invest time in a search process before realizing that they lack the resources to achieve meaningful outcomes. At a minimum, expect to pay $60,000 for an annual contract plus expenses and political donations.
- Expectation of short-term results. The lobbying process does not lend itself toward the achievement of short-term results. Instead of thinking in terms of days or weeks, approach the hiring process with goals that can be achieved in months and years.
- No industry experience. Industry lobbying experience is a must-have characteristic of the firm you hire to represent your interests with lawmakers. Look for firms with a proven track record of delivering outcomes for organizations of similar size and industry focus.
- Too many clients. One of the ironies of the political lobbying industry is that smaller organizations can actually sabotage their efforts by hiring a first-rate firm. The top firms naturally have dozens of lobbyists and large client lists. But unless you're a mega-corporation, you may not receive the personal attention necessary to accomplish your political agenda.
- Expectation of privacy. Business leaders frequently misjudge lobbying to be a "cloak-and-dagger" type of process. In reality, lobbying is a highly transparent business activity. Your relationship with a lobbying firm will be a matter of public record and every penny you spend on lobbying will be available for the world to see.