When it comes to getting the ear of influential lawmakers, there’s only one way to do it right: hire a contract lobbyist.
Conventional wisdom tells you if there’s a need within your organization, dedicating a staff member to it makes more sense than outsourcing. After all, no one understands the needs of your business better than your team. That may be true for most private sector needs, but when it comes to influencing the legislative process in Harrisburg or Philly, however, you need someone who knows the “Business of Government.” The right lobbyist can make all the difference to your bottom line.
Take these factors into consideration when determining whether to hire a contract lobbyist or bring one in-house:
There’s more to legislative advocacy and government procurement than simply being a good representative for your company. Contract lobbyists don’t just know the process, they’re a part of it. As an important cog in the wheel, contract lobbyists are much better able to anticipate problems and pivot based on their past experiences. Longevity within the system also has its advantages. Contract lobbyists not only know what legislation succeeded and failed in the past, they know why. They also can gauge the mood and the moment better than in-house lobbyists. Contract lobbyists, by the very nature of their work, spend more time in the Capitol, because they are lobbying on a variety of issues and topics, synergistically connected not only by topic but by Legislator and Leadership involvement. Also, certain contract lobbying firms have been around for decades, giving their government relations consultants better access and more credibility with the decision makers than in-house lobbyists.
It’s one thing to be on a first-name basis with a lawmaker or council member—it’s a whole other thing to influence their decisions. A personal relationship with a lawmaker does not constitute government relations. Sure, lawmakers have a duty to represent their constituent’s interests in the legislative process, but their attention is pulled in dozens of directions on any given issue. Keeping them focused and understanding their motivations comes with relationships built on trust and respect. Leveraging these relationships takes finesse, dedication and a strategy based on experience and familiarity.
Because C-level executives sometimes have an aversion to devoting an entire staff position to government relations exclusively, in-house lobbyists often are not just lobbyists. They carry the added burden of additional corporate responsibilities. A vice president of public affairs, for example, may divide time between legislative lobbying and public relations. This means internal staff meetings, potential meeting conflicts and a shift in priorities depending on the circumstances of the moment. It takes time and focus to move a legislative or regulatory agenda. Although this splintered focus doesn’t always handcuff the in-house lobbyist, it can certainly delay action and prevent expedient or ideal results.
Contract lobbyists have a vested interest in seeing their clients succeed: retaining their business. Most in-house lobbyists are judged by more than just their lobbying performance. Their leadership or management style, contact list, or community influence may be mitigating factors when legislative agendas fall through. Plus, as an employee of the company, parting ways isn’t always an ideal scenario. Terminating employment can be messy due to its impact on other staff, projects in motion, or the message it sends to clients or customers. Contract lobbyists, however, know their burden is high: get results or lose your business.
The largest and most recognizable companies in America outsource their lobbying needs to government relations professionals at the local, state and federal levels. So do smart, savvy small and medium-sized businesses that understand what it takes to have their message heard. Successful companies know that a government relations expert with the right experience and relationships will get the job done, so they entrust their company’s reputation to those lobbyists to deliver.
Representing a recognizable brand is a tremendous asset for a lobbyist, especially during trying budget times and complex negotiations. Regardless of who the client is, however, contract lobbyists understand that acting ethically and with integrity not only builds trust among those involved, it safeguards their own reputations, so they are even more inclined to protect their clients’ interests and produce outstanding results.
There are many good reasons to engage a lobbyist instead of stretching your own internal staffing resources. Even the most talented and committed private-sector leaders have difficulty navigating the maze of modern government. Good leaders understand the value of trusting competent professionals to get the job done on their behalf.
If you need help with an issue or cause, or just want to grow the Government sector of your business, contact Pugliese Associates today.