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Advice for New Lobbyists: You Got the Job. What’s Next?

  • Bolster your training and supplemental resources.
  • Learn your employer’s political history and landscape.
  • Identify internal and external political resources.
  • Evaluate the wisdom and efficacy of making political contributions.
  • Make the rounds.
  • Build constituent teams.

But first, because these blogs are about you, let’s reconsider my earlier pre-hire questions for job-seekers:

  • Who do you want to be in your organization?
  • Are you strong enough to avoid burnout?
  • How government affairs (GA) sophisticated is your employer?
  • How committed is your employer to an effective GA program and to you?
  • Can you do well in a logical but often wholly irrational environment?
  • Are you prepared to protect your integrity?

If you answered these before you took the job, then your employment rests on a firm foundation. If you didn’t, you can still do so. But in either case, the principle remains: If you don’t define yourself, then others will define you, molding you into someone you may not like, but likely, someone who isn’t you. These answers are the stars to which you will navigate your career, although as a new hire you may have to pursue them subtly but always doggedly.

Let’s get to your next steps.

Get training and resources. OK, this sounds self-serving but it’s true. Avail yourself to Lobby School seminars, live or online, and get our several books.[1] The training will jump-start your career as a lobbyist or enhance your existing knowledge base. Plus, it will make you a more trusted counselor or consumer of contract lobbying services. If part of a team, you will show decisive leadership by suggesting these materials for developing a common foundation for team lobbying. In all likelihood, team members learned “seat of the pants” lobbying by responding to pressures each faced at the moment but have never had time to develop a coherent overarching approach. “There are always more tips and skills to learn about lobbying — [the seminar] was great.” Anita Farmer, Vice President, Georgia Government Affairs, Bank of America

Learn your employer’s political history. Presumably, your employer has a political history. It will help or harm your chances of lobbying success, and you need to know it. What is its reputation in the capitol – with lawmakers, legislative and agency staffs, other special interests, the governor? Sometimes, your new employer, by intent or omission, doesn’t disclose and so you have to ask or learn it the hard way.

To illustrate, our district’s lawmaker’s rudeness shocked me until by accident I came across an eye-opening article in the Wall Street Journal. The article revealed that my principal’s former CEO in the pages of the Journal publicly disrespected the congressman for his work trying to help my employer. However,  no one had disclosed to me the hostility, thereby greatly harming my effort to secure the congressman’s support. On my next lobbying visit, I acknowledged the insult, which was like lancing an infection. I profusely apologized for the WSJ insult explaining the new management’s appreciation for what the congressman had tried to do and invited him to visit our facility. He accepted my apology and took me into the private congressional lounge where he introduced me to House members who eventually became cosponsors of my bill. Later he visited our facility, we had pictures taken with our mascot and management and all was well again between constituent and representative.

History includes political or policy positions taken by your employer. Check the political contributions made by your officers and political action committee, if any, as, those too, may help or hurt your lobbying. Your management, predecessor(s), and contract lobbyist, if any, can help you.

In our next blog, we will consider identifying internal and external political resources and evaluating the wisdom and efficacy of making political contributions.

[1] Insiders Talk: Winning with Lobbyists, Professional and Readers editions. (2018); Insiders Talk: Glossary of Legislative Concepts and Representative Terms (2019 in press); Guide to State Legislative Lobbying 4th edition (summer 2019)

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