Professional lobbyists will tell you: as important as what they
say is how they say it - and to whom. Whether you want an empty
lot turned into a neighbourhood playground or an amendment to federal
tobacco advertising legislation, you need to lobby like a pro.
Think of your issue as a marketing challenge. Get to know your
"market" and your "product." Research and use
focus groups to find out what the public thinks. What are your objectives
and expectations? Who are your opponents? Why are they opposing?
Who have they called on for support? Why are they opposing? What
would make them change their minds? How can you best approach them?
Who is on your side? How can you use their support most effectively?
Identifying the precise legislation and level of government you
should approach is essential. Even the smallest of issues is governed
by multiple tiers of legislation. To identify which levels of government
you need to approach, break your interest into parts. Find out what
levels of government have jurisdiction over the various dimensions
of your issue. Once you've determined which departments and ministries
are involved identify which specific laws affect your issue and
finally who the key decision-makers are. A copy of Parliamentary
Names & Numbers is an invaluable reference tool
at this stage.
Choose one or more spokespersons to represent your group. They
can be members of your group, lawyers, public figures, or even member
of an agency that sympathizes with your cause.
In choosing your advocates ask yourself: Is this advocate the best
spokesperson for your cause? Does the advocate know the history
and purposes behind the issues? Can the advocate present your group's
viewpoint in a logical and convincing manner? Is the advocate sincerely
interested in the issue or simply promoting his or her personal
It is crucial for your group to understand the process involved
with your targeted piece of legislation as it moves through Parliament
or any legislative body.
Once you understand the process you'll see when and how to intervene.
At this point you have several options. Many organizations opt for
postcards and petitions to legislators. The sheer volume required
to attract any serious attention, however, can be an obstacle for
smaller groups. Well-placed and well-written personal letters can
have more impact. Above all, encourage citizens outside your group
to write letters of their own.
The more letters, phone calls, and faxes a politician receives,
the more seriously s/he will take them.
Some very important tips to keep you lobbying like a pro:
- Use the Media. Whatever message you're sending to legislators,
send it to the media as well. Legislators are highly sensitive
to comments by the media. Let the media know what you're up to
through press releases, letters to the editor, advertisements,
and phone calls. Make your media spokespersons accessible to the
media. Responding quickly and openly to media requests for information
and interviews will ensure that they take you seriously.
- Use the Opposition. Never underestimate the power of
the opposition parties. For a well-rounded lobbying campaign you
must brief the opposition parties. They welcome input on new legislation.
Information you have will help them prepare their questions and
statements in the legislature.
- Use the "Public Interest." Governments see
themselves as making legislative decisions based on what they
view as the public interest. Emphasize that your group's concerns
are consistent with the public interest and that the alternatives
Lobbying plays an important part in Canada's democracy. It influences
governments to take account of a diverse range of interests. Whether
it's a large corporation with a paid in-house government consultant
or a small special interest group starting a basement letter- writing
campaign, lobbying provides avenues for Canadians to voice their
concerns. Lobby effectively to ensure that your voice is heard.
This article originally appeared in Parliamentary
Names & Numbers , the directory of Canada's federal and
provincial governments. Annual subscriptions toParliamentary
Names & Numbers include two print editions and access to
the continuously updated online version. For subscription information
call 416-964-5735 or see www.sources.com/Subscriptions.htm.