For a Successful Client – Lobbyist Relationship – Create A Lobbying Plan

Last month a major-league lobbyist shared with me the top 5 complaints he hears from clients when they hire him after firing their contractors. In the next several blogs I’ll offer suggestions to clients on how to avoid these complaints from arising. While I have a client-centric bias, I hope both clients and contractors will find these suggestions valuable.

LACK OF A LOBBYING PLAN – In my last blog I noted that clients must be aware of unforeseen conflicts arising between their interests, those of the lobbyist’s other clients, or the lobbyist’s professional wellbeing. A lobbying plan regularly monitored can help a client discern a drop-off of service quality, one which might be explained by an unexpected conflict of interest.

Screening for conflicts of interest is just a start. A lobbying plan can improve legislative results and the client-contractor relationship.

This is because the lobbying plan is a client’s declaration of involvement. It makes clear the client expects both contractor and client to achieve synergism. That is, client and lobbyist working together achieve more than the sum of each working separately. And it affirms each is accountable to the other for the success of the project. The operative concept is mutual accountability leading to better advocacy results.

Appropriate lobbying plans span from the basic to the detailed. Client roles vary from being little more than contract administrators to fully invested in-the-capitol advocates. Lobbyists range from being spectators to major-leaguers. But whatever the right combination for the situation, lobbying plans enhance performance and limit disappointment.

No one thinks about the lack of a plan until things go bad. Going bad isn’t just some adversity or setback; that’s just the normal ebb and flow of lobbying. Going bad is more about the loss of client confidence in its contractor because the client doesn’t know what to expect, can’t monitor what’s going on, and can’t redirect its efforts – until too late. (We will discuss the client complaint of lobbyist lack of communication in another blog in this series.)

Yet so often, it’s unstated expectations leading to unmet expectations that define going bad. The result is a negative return on investment, client-contractor hostility, and the client seeking another lobbyist. None of this has to be. But unless the client and the next contractor develop a lobbying plan, the pattern will repeat.

Finally, lobbying plans are good for lobbyists. By meeting a lobbying plan’s objective criteria a contractor has a measure of insulation from unfair criticism. Client participation improves client satisfaction and facilitates better lobbying results which are good for both contractor and client.

These are all discussed in detail in Insiders Talk: Winning with Lobbyists, Professional edition.

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