For many causes, lobbying is a critical piece of the lawmaking process. However, choosing the correct lobbying techniques can mean the difference between achieving legislative action, successfully killing a bill, or being stuck spinning your wheels. Whatever the outcome you are looking for, utilizing the best lobbying techniques will help your team reach your goals more effectively.
Quorum has worked with organizations from across the U.S. that have successfully lobbied their members at state and federal levels to achieve policy wins.
Assess the Type of Lobbying That Best Fits Your Needs
First, it can be helpful to organize your organization around the types of lobbying you may pursue. For the tried and true lobbying techniques featured in this article, we break them into two key types of lobbying—direct lobbying and grassroots lobbying. Lobbying isn’t one size fits all and frequently involves blending multiple strategies to align with and accomplish your goals. Direct Lobbying is lobbying activities or actions from someone directly involved in the legislative process. Grassroots lobbying is actions from members of the general public, often organized in campaigns by trade associations, nonprofits, or corporations associated with the issues. This includes campaigns to send letters to Congress, organize social media advocacy campaigns, and call-your-legislator campaigns.
Depending on which type of lobbying you’ll be conducting, you can identify the techniques that will move your organization towards success. There may also be opportunities to use them in tandem, where you can use direct lobbying to get into the weeds on how a policy works and you can use indirect lobbying to share the voices of constituents who will be impacted by a policy.
The first two techniques are quick-hitters you can add right away before your next meeting with a legislator:
Technique 1: Read the Legislator’s Local News
Getting a district on the views of a legislators district can be a quick way to level up your lobbying efforts. Reading a legislator’s news can help you learn the district angle when talking to a member of Congress or a state General Assembly. Whether that be the ability to match the tone and voice of a member’s district or connect your cause to a local concern. While reading national publications is often the first point of information for many lobbyists, the local news can be a gamechanger for your organization.
Technique 2: Prepare a Legislative Brief With Key Talking Points
Legislative briefs are an essential tool for direct lobbying. They are effective because they present research, findings, and talking points in a format that is valuable for non-specialists such as legislative staff. They also serve to help you think strategically about your information. By using a tool like Quorum’s Download Center, you can create one template and automate the publishing of unique one-pagers for each legislator’s office, ensuring it resonates with their current concerns and initiatives based on their committee memberships, voting history, or unique qualities of their district.
The next seven techniques are bigger picture strategies to implement on a macro-level across your lobbying team to level up:
Technique 3: Map Stakeholders
Mapping your stakeholders helps you to identify who your most important stakeholders are. The initial step of your stakeholder engagement strategy is a streamlined way of organizing — either by issues, by team member relationships, by tier of relationship, or some other system — your team’s relationships. If you take on this technique, be sure to use a unified tracking system so your team has the most up-to-date information, as dynamics can shift over time.
Technique 4: Organize a Policy Reputation Calendar
A policy reputation calendar plans how you will proactively communicate your work. This technique has been helpful for many of our clients. The goal here is to ensure that legislators and their staff hear about you positively throughout the year. It is easiest to structure your calendar around specific themes and dedicate it to selected stakeholders. Our policy reputation calendar guide and template help outline, brainstorm, and execute on your reputational calendar to ensure your organization consistently stays top of elected officials’ minds.
Technique 5: Build a Network of Influence
A recent shift from coalition building is developing a network of influence. The main reason for the shift is that the top-down hierarchy is no longer effective. A center-out approach establishes collaboration between a diverse and growing network of stakeholders, all centered on a core idea or value. It acknowledges stakeholder expertise and realms of influence and factors into the campaign strategy. If you’re curious who top lobbying professionals typically include in their network of influence, we lay it out with insights from Cecily Simpson.
Technique 6: Integrate Your Federal and State Lobbying Efforts
Do not conduct your efforts in a silo when running federal and state lobbying campaigns. Maintaining a unified message can help to streamline your lobbying at every step. There are a few distinct benefits to integrating your federal and state lobbying. By connecting the two, you can better spot trends (including copycat bills), and share relationship notes as state representatives become federal representatives or senators become governors. Additionally, integrating your efforts can help centralize your reporting access and give your executive team one place to know what’s happening at each level.
Technique 7: Integrate Your Lobby and Grassroots Strategies
Integrating lobbying and grassroots strategies has been shown to strengthen the impacts of both groups. That core collaboration between lobbying and grassroots can streamline communications efforts, have a greater pool of advocates to survey about their relationship with elected officials, and can bring additional advocate data to legislative meetings. One major benefit is the ability to better incorporate storytelling into your meetings. Integrating grassroots and lobbying in one system empowers you to bring relevant advocate stories to legislative meetings. Our ebook shows how the best public affairs teams go about implementing this important technique.
Technique 8: Use Events to Engage Key Stakeholders
Anytime you can incorporate proactive engagement into your lobbying strategies. Events with key stakeholders give a special opportunity to build rapport and gain new insights into the thoughts and concerns of your stakeholders. Events can also give you first-hand information that can be leveraged to refine the initial assumptions used in other key techniques such as stakeholder mapping. With modern tools and technology, events also offer an opportunity to track the return on investment of the impact of your event on your lobbying campaign.
Bring all your techniques together into a complete government relations strategy. Our Government Relations Strategic Plan Template helps with the four phases of mapping your policy landscape, tracking changes in your issues, changing the policy landscape, and reporting on your impact.