Three reasons lobbying is a dying art

Lobbying is a dying industry.

I said this last week and I know it might upset some of my friends in the industry (sorry not sorry) – but I firmly believe that lobbyists and their work will have to change to thrive in a modern world. And… I don’t just mean changing their title from ‘lobbyist’ to ‘advocate’.

In fifteen years working in and with government, I’ve done everything from the most entry level to the most senior of roles – and not much has changed in the way stakeholders engage with politicians.

Here’s my take on what’s bringing about the death knell for the ‘wink and nod’ method of doing business with government.

3. Door opening is not enough

A lot of people pay a fortune to lobbyists to open doors for them. It’s great to be able to report to your board or management – I travelled to Sydney or Canberra or Melbourne and I met with 15 Ministers and advisers. But what outcomes were achieved? What was the goal of these meetings and did they meet the goal? Relationships are important and fostering them is essential for ongoing connection and access, but visibility to power in and of itself is absolutely not enough. You need a clear and readily executable strategy in order to succeed – and it needs to be you, not the lobbyist, who presents the credible and authentic argument.

2. Content and transparency

You’ve heard ‘content is king’ and it applies to politicians too. These days they haven’t just got quarterly newsletters and columns in the local paper – they’ve got Facebook and LinkedIn and Instagram and Twitter and all the same platforms as you and I. Only they have to update all of theirs a little more regularly than regular users like you and I. That means they needs reams and reams of content; lots of local photo opportunities and lots of conversations with local stakeholders. Any good politician will be keen to connect with and advocate on behalf of good local organisations – something that comes in handy when you have a problem that needs fixing.

1. Politicians are terrified of lobbyists.

It sounds counter-intuitive, right? Lobbyists literally earn a living on the basis of their relationships with politicians. The thing is that in today’s day and age, the 24-hour media cycle, the constant scrutiny and the evolution of social media, details on absolutely everything a politician does can enter the public arena – and be the target of close examination by virtually anyone. Even the most hardened of politicians knows what can happen if they’re found out to be doing anything that can be even tangentially perceived as a favour for a mate. On the other hand, responding to the concerns of voters, solving problems and working constructively with important groups in the community is a whole other kettle of fish.

This last one if the biggie. It’s super powerful and it diminishes the likelihood of getting the results you want. It’s the reason senior executives and organisations who know how to advocate for themselves are almost always more successful than those who pay someone else to talk to government for them.

Have you ever thought about hiring a lobbyist? Why did or didn’t you?