By Chris Micheli
In addition to the actual lobbying that advocates do at the executive and legislative branches of government in the State of California, there are important support services that are provided to lobbyists either by their employer (for those lobbyists who work for an individual company or a trade association) or by their lobbying firm (for those contract lobbyists).
There are actually some firms, mainly in our nation’s capital, that work to support lobbying efforts, such as managing coalitions, directing grassroots campaigns, conducting public outreach, or other indirect efforts to enhance or promote the direct lobbying efforts. There are a handful of public affairs firms in Sacramento that do the same type of work.
Additional efforts either in-house or from a public affairs firm could include helping to organize lobby days, gathering research and data, educational efforts, planning receptions, and otherwise creating materials to help the lobbying team, such as background papers or letter-writing campaigns.
There are other firms that specialize in “social media” lobbying (including website and social media efforts that support the lobbying of decision-makers) as well as strategic communications and public relations. These communications efforts could include letters-to-the-editor and opinion-editorial pieces.
Whether created in-house or by a contract firm, the development of advocacy support materials is an important role for those who staff lobbying efforts. For example, drafting letters of support or opposition, developing talking points and one-pagers, researching legal or legislative history issues, are all important support services for direct lobbying. These activities can often make the difference in a lobbying campaign in the Legislature or at an administrative agency or department.
In addition, whether advocating for or against legislation or regulations, building a broad-based coalition to advance your cause will likely help the lobbying client’s success. It is important to have a coalition to make your advocacy efforts successful, especially if the bill or regulation is controversial or will require substantial work to get adopted.
Leading or working with a coalition can often result in success for the lobbying efforts. Therefore, it is often important to bring together a broad and diverse group of interests to promote the direct lobbying efforts. While many bills or regulations do not require as much outside support efforts, there are always issues that require a “heavy lift” and that are better served with coordinated direct and indirect lobbying activities.
Grassroots organizing is another valuable avenue to support lobbying efforts. This can be done through phone calls, emails, letter writing, and visits to decision-makers. Public support is often needed to help persuade lawmakers that legislation is needed, or agency officials that a rulemaking effort is necessary. As such, communicating with groups at local levels is valuable to demonstrate widespread support for your lobbying.
There are also instances when strategic planning is necessary as well to try and prepare to capitalize on opportunities to advance your client’s lobbying interests or to prepare for threats against your client’s interests or industry. Preparing for the legislative session or the rulemaking calendar means planning for your efforts and determining the proper timeline, anticipating changes in circumstances, responding to those changes, and modifying your strategic plans as necessary.
Whether utilizing public relations, grassroots, or other means to support lobbying efforts, the lobbyist and client will need to determine all of the possible tools to utilize in their campaign to support or oppose legislation or regulations. A well-developed and executed strategic plan will have evaluated the use of direct and indirect lobbying activities to ensure success.
Chris Micheli is a Principal with the Sacramento governmental relations firm of Aprea & Micheli, Inc. He also serves as an Adjunct Professor at McGeorge School of Law in its Capital Lawyering Program.