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For a Successful Client – Lobbyist Relationship – Report Progress and Success

Another reason clients fire their contractors is: lobbyists not reporting progress and success. This complaint is a subcategory of Reason Number 2 for Firing – Failure to Communicate. It flows from 1) fundamental disrespect for the client,  2) inadequate engagement documents, or 3) unenforced engagement documents.

Fundamental disrespect for the client: If lobbyists conclude you are in over your head, some will be happy to hold your hand, some will cultivate your dependence upon them, others will try to wrest management of your issue away from you, and a few will exploit you. For reasons of allocation of resources, lobbyists ignore bad clients in favor of satisfying good clients.

Infrequently, however, not providing reports may be a contractor’s effort to publicly disrespect and thereby marginalize and control the in-house lobbyist. I am quite familiar with contractors running the very legislative programs for which principals hired in-house lobbyists to manage. You should be sensitive to strategic sidelining especially in two cases. The first is when the contract lobbyist is older, especially male, and the new hire is young, especially female. The second occurs when the organization’s board of directors has decided upon developing in-house lobbying capacities but the executive director is set upon keeping the contract lobbyist on the payroll. I touched upon this in my November 18, 2018 blog All Too Cozy Association Staff and Contract Lobbyists.

Inadequate engagement documents: Often inexperienced clients presume working with the firm will be as easy as signing the rainmaker’s contract. However, contracts are written favoring the drafter of the agreement, not the other party. To balance this, Insiders Talk: Professional edition offers 7 client-centric documents for effectively engaging contractors. Appendix 5 Principal-Lobbyist Understanding of Relationship, Section 7. Lobbyist’s Reports and Performance Review specifies reporting and frequency or reporting requirements.

Unenforced engagement documents: Clients must make clear to contractors mutual expectations specified in the engagement documents. And clients must immediately address contractor shortcomings in complying with the agreement. Neither the law nor contractors sympathize with those who rest in their rights, that is, fail to enforce agreements. Failure to enforce brings its own bitter reward.

Finally, contractors must have clear directions as to what to report to their clients. Appendix  Six Contract Lobbyist Performance Evaluation provides clear expectations such as:

  • Consulted with Client before taking action affecting Principal’s interests?
  • Responded within an appropriate time to Client’s attempt to communicate?
  • Regularly reported to and updated Client on developments?

During the course of the engagement, both client and contractor will use the document to measure the effectiveness of their relationship.

Good clients working with contractors who respect them, guided by well-drafted and enforced engagement documents seldom will have difficulty getting timely progress reports or otherwise knowing the state of their lobbying efforts.

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