Lobbyists are professionals who are knowledgeable in a wide variety of subjects and use their persuasive skills to influence decision-makers. Lobbying is most prominent in politics where lobbyists representing government agencies, multi-national corporations, charities and various sectors of the public entreat congressmen, senators and other holders of political office to develop policies and take action that is favourable for their clients.
What Does a Lobbyist Do?
Lobbyists persuade, influence and facilitate those in a position to affect the interests of their clients towards a specific viewpoint. Their specific duties include:
- Meeting with clients to discuss issues that they would like addressed in policy, legislation or plans of action
- Identify the person or people that can deliver their desired outcome
- Research extensively on the subject matter before making presentations to their targets
- Look for opportunities to meet the people they wish to lobby
- Engage in direct lobbying by discussing the merits and demerits of a proposed political action, its ramifications and alternative strategies that favour their clients
- Facilitate their desired outcomes by presenting pertinent statistics, drafting strategic plans, policy papers and legislative bills in a bid to further push their agenda
- Engage in indirect lobbying where they mobilize grassroots to pile pressure on political office holders and decision-makers to act
- Entreat other lobbyists so that they can work together towards a common goal
- Raise money towards the realization of their desired outcomes
- Create awareness about the issues that concern them using print, broadcast and online media
There is no specific academic requirement to become a lobbyist, but nearly all in the profession have undergraduate and even advanced degrees.
However, you can undertake a certificate course in lobbying, such as is offered by the American League of Lobbyists, which covers topics such as:
- Public relations
- Developing background material
- Networking methods and presentation techniques
Notably, you will need to register with the state and federal government before you can work as a lobbyist. The registration requirements include:
- Duly filled registration form indicating full names and business address
- Quarterly reports of your contacts and lobbying activities, including whether it was an individual or concerted effort
- Names, addresses and statement of authorization signed by the principals or clients allowing you to represent their cause
To get a good feel for what lobbyists do, you should undertake internships and attachments that offer you real-world experience on the job and allows you to meet useful contacts. For instance, an internship with a lobbying firm, working as a politician’s aide or travelling along in a political campaign can give you the necessary exposure.
As a lobbyist, the following skills are essential to performing your job brilliantly:
- Persuasion and negotiation skills as these are the mainstay of the job
- Excellent communication, interpersonal, research, writing and analytical skills
- Ability to network and maintain effective relationships
- Be charming, self-confident and easy to get along with
- Thorough knowledge and understanding of the workings of the political system
- Determined, resilient and persistent until you get your way
The salary of a lobbyist varies depending on their years of experience, reputation, track record of delivering great results, level at which they are lobbying, geographical location and the economic capacity of the client. For example, an experienced lobbyist who is a former politician, working in Washington and lobbying the chair of a senate committee on behalf of multi-national pharmaceutical corporation is likely to earn a heft pay check. Lobbyists are hired on a contractual basis. The average per annum salary range is:
Lobbyists spend almost all of their time with people. They meet them, discuss, consult, influence, disagree, entreat and present information to people nearly all of the time. Therefore, their work environment is dynamic. The rest of their time is spent reading, researching and preparing for their meetings. They work long hours and operate during weekends and holiday whenever the opportunity to be heard by their target presents itself.
Lobbying has for a long time been part and parcel of the political workings in the United States. However, the profession has somehow been tarnished by the activities of a few lobbyists who have acted in a less than scrupulous manner. Nevertheless, individuals, groups and entities will always have a need to be heard and to curry favour so that their specific needs can be catered to in the political process. As a result, the job outlook for lobbyists is positive.
However, to enjoy great success and exponential career growth in this profession, you will need to rack up experience, establish a great track record for delivering desired results and constantly maintain your network. In this way you will not only enhance your relevance in this profession but greatly enhance your longevity and income-earning capacity.
If you are a people person, persuasive, tenacious, knowledgeable with a startling ability to learn more within a short period of time, can hobnob with people in power and are not daunted by cut-throat competition, then this job is for you.