Lobbying + Communications, A necessary partnership
Now that the new Minnesota Legislative Session is underway and we're back to the Capitol ourselves, it's a good time to revisit why you need a solid communications plan to go with your lobbying effort.
Lobbying is a tactical game including political maneuvering, diligent tracking and follow-up, and physical presence in meetings, offices, and rotundas. It requires a balance of forethought and planning alongside spontaneity and nimbleness. While there's a lot that happens in and around the Capitol, the best lobbying efforts are strengthened by a solid and strategic communications game happening in tandem.
Strategic Communications is also a tactical game and it includes many similar elements to lobbying, such as solid planning with a flexibility to shift at a moment's notice. Communications can do what your lobbying can't, however, and that's get your message outside the walls of the Capitol in a way that galvanizes and activates your supporters. Whether you're a business organization, a nonprofit, an issue campaign, or anything else, communicating clearly in and out of the Capitol is the best way to ensure support for -- and the success of -- your priorities.
What does this look like? It's relatively simple and straightforward as a concept but it does require skills germane to each discipline. For our team, that means legal and policy skills (as well as a willingness to hang around St. Paul for umpteen hours to catch a legislator in between committee meetings) on the lobbying side and marketing, graphic design, press/media, social/web, and people organizing skills on the communications side.
When we approach a legislative session, we start with three plans: a lobbying plan, a communications plan, and an overlap plan. The first two are exactly what they sound like and the overlap plan is where they intersect:
We map out our legislative priorities, their timing, and what support looks like internally (by staff, board, etc. at the entity we're representing), at the Capitol (key legislators, legislation, working groups, activism days), and externally (by supporters, partners, media).
Once plotted, we look at our communications priorities and break them out as directly, indirectly, or not supportive of our legislative priorities.
We match up direct matches, fit in the indirect matches, and accordingly schedule the other items.
We develop the messaging, visuals, and vehicles we'll use for the communications pieces and get to work!
We also hold space (mental and physical) for everything that will undoubtedly come up unexpectedly. This is an important part of being successful as a lobbyist and communicator because the best opportunities are often surprises.
It's been our experience that our lobbying efforts are significantly easier when a coordinated communications effort complements them. It allows for better messaging alignment in and out of the Capitol, galvanizes support, and keeps messages and asks clear and focused.
If you're spending time and money lobbying at the Capitol, don't go in without a solid communications plan. We're here to help!