Over the years, my colleague, Ray LeBov, and I have seen some mistakes that are common among new lobbyists but have also been made by more experienced advocates as well. I’ll detail some of those here.
Not reading the bill
Don’t rely on someone else’s description or understanding of the bill. Read the bill and any committee or floor analyses of the bill.
Not having paper
Always provide a leave behind. Whether you deliver a physical piece of paper, by hand, or send it in an email, leaving a one-pager (or two if the bill is particularly complicated or detailed) helps jog the memory of the people you’ve lobbied. And they’ll have something written that they can reference after your conversation with them.
Taking votes for granted
Even if you think a legislator is likely to vote with your position, take the time to pay a courtesy visit. Don’t rely on only a hunch. Even if you think the legislator will vote against your position, check. Sometimes you might be pleasantly surprised that the legislator might actually vote with your stated position.
Failing to meet with both committee consultants
Both the majority party and the minority party have committee consultants. Be sure to communicate with both of them and supply them with the same paperwork so that all elected officials have the same information and these consultants have all the relevant details to complete their bill analyses.
Not finding the right bill author
This merits its own article but note that this takes time and effort to determine the best author for your bill. There are myriad factors that go into selecting the best bill author,
Not reading the room
Whether you’re in a legislator’s office or in a committee hearing; whether you’re for or against a bill, read the room. My colleagues and I can’t count how many times we’ve seen other lobbyists at the podium or at the table read their entire testimony for several minutes, right after the committee just admonished them to keep it brief.
Not understanding/appreciating the lobbyist/client relationship
Manage your client’s expectations. You need to establish how questions like “How is information provided?” “Who determines strategy and tactics?” and more are addressed before you get going in your relationship with your client.
Not telling the whole story
Eventually, everything becomes public in the legislative process. It is better to let everyone know in advance about a development, particularly an adverse one, than for them to find out about it from someone else.
Not being careful with what gets put in writing
In today’s world with social media and easily forwardable emails word travels fast. If you don’t want something widely known, don’t put it in writing.
You can find the transcript of the audio in this post here.