Tuesday Tips: How To Lobby Effectively

These are my notes from a presentation Jon Kyl made in Phoenix, Arizona, on February 21, 2009.  This is a great time to review all his advice again – it’s time to light up the wires!

Notes from Jon Kyl’s speech on How to Lobby Effectively – by Krystyna Robles-Bowman
You may share this post with credit back to our blog – thank you!

Always be very well prepared

It is our constitutional right to “petition” our government

Lobbying for a cause you believe in is not the same as being “A Lobbyist”

  1. Lobbying is essential for the good functioning of government

It instructs your “employees”, i.e., elected members of Congress, on your positions

Although you may disagree with them, if you treat them with respect you will get a better response

  1. Elected officials work for you, whether they act like it or not. Some are arrogant; some believe that you are their employer.



Lobbying has two phases

  1. Planning
  2. Execution


Goal:  Effectuate ideas through the political process

More good people will be in politics if you get involved


You do not have to make a campaign contribution to be heard

No soliciting/ suggestion of soliciting to your representative on public property


If you can get involved, it will help to get your voice heard


At the state level, four – five determined people can get a person elected

Best way to get your point of view represented is to get people with your viewpoint elected to office.


General ideas for lobbying at the federal and state levels


  1. Planning

What is the problem you are dealing with?

What are possible solutions?

What are your goals?  Understand EXACTLY what you want to accomplish

Do you have the right solution for the goal?

What are we really trying to achieve here?

What are likely alternatives for a solution?


  1. Execution – New Legislation

Decide on a campaign strategy

Make two lists: Assets/Liabilities & Opportunities/Problems





Assets                                                             Liabilities

What will it cost?                                             List the other side’s strengths & weaknesses

How will we raise the money?

Where can we get donors?

How many people do we have?

Who do we know – volunteers/media

Do we have key friends in the legislature?

How will they receive our argument?


Understand the lay of the land before you start the campaign

If you have an organization: Who can you use from within?  Who can you ally with?  How do you reach out to media for the outside game?


2a. Execution – Lobby a Bill

It’s generally easier to stop than to start a bill


Congressional Level                                                    State Level

When is Congressperson home?                                 Understand the rhythm of the body

Who are their key staffers?                                          -What is the schedule?

When are the staffers around?                                     -How do I get to see my rep?

Who do I talk to if I want a personal mtg?


For either the national or state rep:

  • Learn who to talk to – sometimes a staffer is better informed since they have specialties
  • Make friends with the assistants who run the schedules


Federal Level:

  • See your rep in AZ if at all possible
  • You can see a staff member – they are smart people, too
  • Will meet with people and associations from AZ in DC, but most of the time there is spent doing the business of Congress in meetings most of the day
  • Call office – make appointment with scheduler
  • Tell scheduler you are representing (cause), meet with rep for (time) about (cause), we urge a (vote) on bill (bill you are calling about)
  • Better if you meet with staff first
  • Common sense is your biggest friend when talking to office – BE NICE!
  • Staffers work hard – be nice and take the right approach
  • Be prepared – think about what you want to say in advance
  • Get to the point – assume and act as if you only had five minutes to communicate
  • Have clear reasons, be concise, don’t take more than 20 minutes of their time


If you have an opposite viewpoint:

  • If you have an opposite viewpoint than your rep, plan on crafting an argument that is twice as strong – you are trying to change their vote
  • Make it personal
  • Put a face on your position

If you have an opposite viewpoint (con’t):

  • Express your concerns about the bill


General rules for lobbying:

  • Be more prepared than the person to whom you are speaking

– Compare notes with other people involved in the issue

– Ask them what they have heard, be aware of what message is already out there

– Adjust your message accordingly

  • Think about and anticipate any objections – MAKE SURE YOU FACT CHECK
  • Be honest about the opposition, “The other side will tell you (x) – here is what we think about that…”
  • Have a very specific “Ask” – what is the outcome you are looking for


Always follow up

  • “How soon can we hear from you about (issue/outcome)?
  • Follow up on the answer they give you, “When can I call you about that?”
  • “Is there any other information we can provide?”


To lobby a member out of state:

  1. Find someone in that state who is involved in a similar organization
  2. Advocate and generate noise among all state reps – they will go to the member in question and say we can’t stand with you


If it’s really important to see the member:

  • The staff is trained to handle it – they will want to do it in member’s place
  • Insist on a meeting: “Well then, when can we meet them?
  • They won’t like it, so do it nicely
  • Be professional and courteous with staff


Alternate ways to communicate (if not in person)

  • Can be very effective
  • Keep it short, upbeat and constructive
  • Email: Great for short ideas, individually conveyed thought
  • Phone: Shows momentum and numbers. Light up the phones if it’s something important to you!
  • Fax: Quickest way to deliver a letter. Snail mail takes longer because every piece of mail has to be inspected due to possible eco-terrorist threats, i.e., anthrax.


Parting thought

  • Don’t lobby at social/political events. Remember that there are lots of people to visit and see when they are in their home state, be considerate of their time
  • Citizen lobbyist – different rules than registered lobbyist regarding “buying coffee” and where they can meet


Bottom line:  Being persuasive is pretty much all the same:  Let common sense prevail, PREPARE, STAY POSITIVE, BE CONSTRUCTIVE