Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Good Marketing = Good Lobbying

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One of the biggest issues non-profit executives identified to me in a recent survey of the challenges faced in government relations is identifying the right contacts in government and then building the right case that fits into the government's agenda.

Many will say that the secret to Lobbying success relies on one’s contacts. In my mind however, lobbying is much like a very focused marketing campaign. Good lobbyists have an understanding of the process and the people in legislative role but most importantly, they are the ones who understand the basics of how to make a convincing case...much like a marketer! Let me explain.

Lobbying falls into five stages. These are:
  1. Identify your target: who are you going to lobby
  2. Research them thoroughly
  3. Set Objectives: what results do you want from your action
  4. Action: get on and do it!
  5. Feedback: share the results with others in the campaign
The first two principles represent the essential elements of market research, aspects at which I have placed a good amount of my career in as a consultant and employee in the non-profit sector. Before you write (or speak) a single word to your target audience in either marketing or in government relations, do some background research. For starters, it is worth understanding a little bit about what MP's actually do and what in their background might build some affinity to your cause. This is essentially what market research is about. Without knowing your market, no amount of contacts or emotion in your appeal will make a difference.
The second two points essentially lay in place the planning section of your campaign. This may seem a fairly obscure point. Surely EVERYONE knows what lobbying is for? Not so. Once you know who you are going to talk to and where they are coming from, it is absolutely essential that you decide what it is you want to achieve as a result of your dialogue with them. Good lobbying is about creating a relationship with your target, which you will then use, in future, to further the campaign objectives. In the final analysis, lobbying is communicating. As a profession, it is an odd marriage of teaching and sales. A good lobbyist has to be an excellent communicator. And in today’s world, that means both the written and the spoken word. It is no longer enough to be a good schmoozer. Have you integrated your marketing, communications and public affairs into a common plan? How will they work together? Without a plan, how will you expect to get to where you need to be? Don’t expect legislators to figure that out for you! Good lobbying practice requires a good marketing plan on how your objectives fit into the broader scheme and WHAT marketing initiatives in particular you intend to take to make things happen.
Finally, as with any marketing campaign, you need to measure, measure and evaluate. Are you hitting the mark? How is your outreach effort to legislators being perceived? One of the most important roles for lobbying is to gather information. That information needs to go back into the campaign. Not for any especially sinister purpose. But so that others can use it.
It helps to know what sort of majorities are shaping up for certain government propositions. This allows us to determine where to attack (and where not to). It also allows us to target any future communications more directly.

What are your thoughts?

Mark A. Buzan, APR
Principal & Chief Magnifying Officer
Action Strategies
#3, 270 rue Champlain
Gatineau, Quebec  J8X 3S1
819.770.2899 phone
http://www.actionstrategies.ca (Action Strategies website)
LinkedIn Group for Public Relations: http://tinyurl.com/nonprofitideas
LinkedIn Group for Government Relations: http://tinyurl.com/nonprofitlobbying
Please take a look at my just released book:  Online PR and Social Media for Associations and Not-for-Profits - http://www.onlineprsocialmedia.com/associations

Mark Buzan is Principal of Action Strategies, a GR Consultancy for non-profits. If you have questions on how you feel your organization could benefit from legislative monitoring services or even undertaking a grassroots advocacy initiative. Subscribe now to his Lobbying tips newsletter at www.actionstrategies.ca

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