Fraser Seitel su Odwyerpr.com con un bell'articolo sui 40 mila lobbisti di Washington
THE ART OF LOBBYING di Fraser P. SeitelIn the old days, around the 19th century, the term "lobby agent" referred to the petitioner in the lobby of the New York State Capitol building in Albany, waiting to address legislators.Today, the term "lobbyist" all-too-often refers to the unctuous attorney, slithering near some all-too-eager legislator with his palm out.Common wisdom notwithstanding, the art of lobbying is an increasingly influential, time-honored practice with which every PR pro should be familiar. Simply put, lobbying is advocacy of a point of view from a "special interest" from colleges and hospitals to corporations and unions, from environmental groups to senior citizens to foreign governments. Lobbying is often how legislation gets passed or "gets failed." In other words, it is the legislative lifeblood of federal and state capitals.Lobbyists are required to comply with the federal Lobbying Act of 1946, which imposed certain reporting requirements on individuals or organizations that spend a significant amount of time or money attempting to influence members of Congress on legislation.In 1995, the Lobbying Disclosure Act broadened the activities that constitute "lobbying" and mandated government registration of lobbyists. Under the 1995 law, a "lobbyist" is an individual who is paid by a third party to make more than one "lobbying contact," defined as an oral or written communication to a vast range of specific individuals in the executive and legislative branches of the federal government. In addition, lobbyists are prohibited from paying for meals for members of Congress or their aides, i.e. "There's no such thing as a free lunch.'"What do the 40,000 + registered federal lobbyists do (besides pay for lunch for non-Hill people!)?The essence of a lobbyist's job, just as any PR job, is to inform and persuade.Contacts, i.e. who a lobbyist knows, are critical. But equally important, lobbyists must also have the right information available for the right legislator. The time to plant ideas with legislators is well before a bill is created, so lobbyists must know when and where and with what ammunition to strike. Specifically, that translates into the following half dozen activities:
Fact finding. The government is an incredible storehouse of facts, statistics, economic data, opinions, and decisions that generally are available for the asking. Lobbyists, like all PR people, must begin by knowing their facts.
Interpretation of government actions. Lobbyists must interpret for management the significance of government events and the potential implications of pending legislation. A lobbyist must understand:
What specific sections of the bill concern us;
How the pending legislation affects our interests, and
What alternatives are advisable to redress inequities? Often a lobbyist predicts what can be expected to happen legislatively and recommends actions to deal with the expected outcome.
Interpretation of company actions. Through almost daily contact with congressional members and staff assistants, a lobbyist conveys how his or her organization feels about legislation. Therefore, lobbyists must be completely versed in the business of the client and the attitude of the organization toward governmental actions.
Advocacy of a position. At base, a lobbyist advocates positions on behalf of clients, both pro and con. Hitting a congressional representative (not literally, except perhaps in "extreme" cases) early with a stand on pending legislation can mean getting a fair hearing for the client's position. Indeed, few congressional representatives have the time to studyor even readevery piece of legislation on which they are asked to vote. Therefore, they depend on lobbyists for information, especially on how the proposed legislation may impact their constituents.
Publicity springboard. More news comes out of Washington than any other city in the world. It is the base for thousands of press, TV, radio, and magazine correspondents. This multiplicity of media makes it the ideal springboard for launching organizational publicity. The same holds true, on the local level, in state capitals.
Support of company sales.The government is one of the nation's largest purchasers of products. Lobbyists often serve as conduits through which sales are made. A lobbyist who is friendly with government personnel can serve as a valuable link for leads to company business.As government at all levels continues, alas, to grow, and the nation becomes further and further dependent on it, the role of the lobbyist becomes that much more important to any organization.To the uninitiated, Washington (or almost any state capital) can seem an incomprehensible maze. That's why an accomplished lobbyist, who knows his employer's business and earns the respect and trust of a legislator, can be invaluable in serving an organization's government relations needs.