There are some 12,000 registered lobbyists in Washington, DC and last year combined interests spent nearly $4 billion lobbying the federal government.
In the United Kingdom government officials are wrestling with a new lobbying registration protocol that while well intended appears fraught with loopholes.
Traditional lobbying is still a vital component of any sophisticated organization’s policy strategy. Lobbyists collect intelligence, educate staffers, and represent their clients/companies before lawmakers and regulators every day.
But lobbying is no longer enough.
Now more than ever elected representatives expect to hear from their constituents at home. Whether it’s on talk radio, in local newspapers, at town hall meetings, or increasingly via digital channels – voters have more access to elected officials than any time in the modern era.
This means organized interests must devise and deploy new and creative ways to educate and mobilize voters/consumers. Corporations, trade associations and non-profits of every stripe must adapt to this new paradigm if they are to be successful 21st century advocates.
A few factors have contributed to this new alignment.
Informal Influencers Matter More.
Whether it is Brussels or Washington, elected officials are privy to 24 hours of unmitigated feedback in the form of advanced social media. A disgruntled airline passenger can use his mobile phone to shame an airline for poor customer service and ultimately inspire a Passenger Bill of Rights in Congress. In the digital age individuals and small groups of individuals wield outsized and unmatched influence.
Lawmakers are home more.
Polls tell us how voters disdain capital cities as centers of gridlock and inaction. This means lawmakers spend more time at home meeting with voters. Thoughtful advocates are seeding blogs, radio programs, and all manner of earned media channels with informative content designed to inspire and spur advocacy.
Public Approval of Institutions is at an All Time Low.
The most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll tells us that 12% of Americans approve of Congress’ job performance while 81% disapprove. Perhaps retired Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank captured the essence of our discontent with modern institutions:
Everyone hates Congress, everyone hates the media, everyone hates Washington. Let me tell you something, the voters are no picnic either.
These factors and others mean organized interests must run high level «outside game» campaigns that reach lawmakers where they live, work, and play. When designed and deployed with expertise these «outside game» campaigns don’t replace lobbying – indeed they complement and strengthen traditional lobbying. Effective advocates must master both.
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Joe Eyer is the co-lead of H+K Strategies' global public affairs practice. Before joining H+K Strategies in 2012, Eyer led the grassroots practice at the Dewey Square Group – Washington’s premier public affairs advocacy firm and a Hill+Knowlton Strategies company. Eyer has managed dozens of national advocacy campaigns for corporations and non-profit organizations. A veteran of four presidential campaigns, Joe was an integral part of Al Gore’s political operation, first in the White House and then on his campaign.