Lobbying is about influencing decisions. It’s about making something good happen or making sure something bad is stopped. Data are facts and statistics about things and behaviors, compiled together for reference and analysis. Coupling good, thorough data with strong relationships to influence public opinion and policy is the bold new future of the lobbying profession, and a reality that Pugliese Associates has recognized and embraced.
Just like every other customer-focused industry, lobbying has had to adapt and innovate over the last two decades to the new universe of digital tools and data, and understanding how to use it effectively. Increasingly, lobbying has everything to do with marketing, but not in the way you might think.
Inside Game vs. Outside Game
Lobbyists in the state Capitol of Harrisburg are challenged daily to influence policymakers. That’s the inside game. Equally important, though, is a motivated public. That’s the outside game. Today, a successful lobbyist must be able to effectively use the ever-widening array of digital tools and data to play both games strategically.
Data-driven lobbying relies on grassroots efforts to disseminate information outward to the public through social media and other channels, but it also focuses on collecting data internally about consumer behavior and public opinion. Thorough data collection can reveal many useful things, including untapped potential resources: people, companies, or entities who should be engaged in an issue but are not.
Traditional grassroots support means enlisting the help of the public to communicate with lawmakers by making phone calls and writing letters. It also means engaging the media with compelling stories, especially in an era that has witnessed a decline in investigative reporting. Now, however, many topics and policies formerly debated only behind closed doors or in the hallways of the Capitol have also moved to social media sites and website forums, where all kinds of interest groups can gain publicity, power, and influence. Social media has become an important tool for public relations and cause-related advocacy campaigns.
With thorough data-mining through social media, government relations professionals can now focus on a 360 degree picture about the relative strengths and weaknesses of both supporters and opponents alike. This kind of information, when used effectively in a coordinated lobbying campaign, can change the conversation dramatically and pivot a client towards success.
As traditional forms of advertising evolve, the value of inexpensive Internet-based public relations, as well as the data revealed, has grown as an beneficial lobbying tool.
“Public relations and social media, when coupled with sound and compelling data, are increasingly important tools for lobbying success,” said Pugliese lobbyist Christian Muniz. “Often, we know we’re not going to get over key hurdles without outside pressure and the use of solid, accurate data. Furthermore, skewed information from would-be opponents must be challenged with actual and superior data-supported facts. It really comes down to using good data effectively. If one can do that, it establishes and deepens relationships that are based on trust. Policymakers and legislators listen more closely to historically reliable and accurate messengers.”
Bad and Good Data
To elaborate, often two competing interests are battling over the same pool of information and the inside game involves countering “bad” data with “good” data. The information comes from a variety of sources: clients, outside interest groups, think tanks, and social media sites. As long as it’s solid data, smart lobbyists know how to use and incorporate it into all messaging and methodology.
“We’re getting our message out through the appropriate channels, but we’re also pulling in new data through feedback and monitoring,” Muniz said. “We compile this information in a way that’s easy for policymakers to understand and compelling on behalf of our clients. Good, trustworthy data bolsters confidence and results in good public policy decisions.”
Certain aspects of lobbying will not change, even in the digital environment. Successful lobbying will always demand having the right relationships and understanding the complex process of government. However, the new data-rich environment affords lobbyists better analytical information in making a persuasive case on behalf of their clients, and invites new and mutually beneficial client to client business development opportunities. Sharp lobbyists will pay attention to building additional support from companies or organizations that should be engaged on an issue, and then include them in the process to increase their client’s influence and likelihood of success.
Clearly, the role of the lobbyist has changed dramatically within the digital universe. Fortunately for our valued clients, the wealth of new data resources and tools position Pugliese Associates to be even more effective and results-oriented.