Stages of the Lobbying Process

By Ray LeBov and Chris Micheli

There are multiple stages of the lobbying process. As part of a lobbyist’s strategic and tactical consulting work for clients, he or she needs to be aware of the work to be done in the stages of the lobbying process. The following article provides an overview of these stages and the work that lobbyists must do in each of the stages.


The first stage is diagnosis. Not only is the issue to be lobbied understood early in the process, but also it important to understand its role in the overall process. In this stage, an aspect of an effective lobbyist’s approach to any effort is to diagnose all the factors and forces at play. You must ask these and other similar questions: Who has a stake in the outcome of the bill? Why do they care about the issue? What can you present to them that they will respond to and why? How does the issue interplay with other issues?


The second stage is analysis. Taking into account and building on the diagnosis that has been prepared, the next step is analysis.  For example, if you are sponsoring a bill, you must find a legislator to be the author. To determine whom you should ask to carry your bill, a lobbyist will want to consider a wide range of factors, such as the potential author’s subject matter expertise, his or her relationship with all four legislative caucuses, his or her committee and/or leadership role, among other factors. Other considerations in the analysis stage include determining which legislative staff member is likely to be assigned responsibility for your bill and the potential the authorship might present for building a beneficial future relationship with the legislator.


The third stage is strategy. A keen knowledge of the California legislative process, procedures and rules is necessary as a lobbyist, but they are not alone sufficient for success. Looking at the totality of the forces potentially at play with your issue and how they all interrelate, you must create your “game plan for success.  In the case of a sponsored bill, for example, the game plan is essentially a road map that will guide you from bill introduction through gubernatorial signature. This stage includes such things as: strategies for dealing with allies and opponents; developing your best arguments in favor of your proposal, and rebuttals to arguments against your bill; identifying your best witnesses for the various committee hearings; and, how and when to get positive media coverage for your issue or bill.

Even with the best game plan in place (including planning for foreseeable contingencies that might occur), a lobbyist is still likely to encounter twists and turns in his or her path toward success, occasioned by unforeseeable factors, forces and events not in your control. You must have the flexibility and nimbleness to re-assess and redraw your strategy as often as warranted as your bill travels through the legislative process.


The fourth and final stage is tactics. A strategist is someone who sees the whole picture, and can visualize the end-game. A tactician is the one who gets you there. Or, as Sun Tzu (Chinese General, 500 BC) said: Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

The last part of being an effective advocate is the ability to implement that wonderful game plan that you drew up in your role as the strategist. This can involve a wide range of skills as you perform the day-to-day activities necessary and appropriate for attaining your legislative goal.

Over the past ten years, 41-year Capitol veteran Ray LeBov and his Capitol Seminars have set more than 2,000 participants on the road to lobbying success. Chris Micheli is a Principal with the Sacramento governmental relations firm of Aprea & Micheli, Inc. and guest lectures for Capitol Seminars.


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