Questions to ask a lobbyist

These are some suggestions – you’ll need to add, subtract, and fine tune these to suit your project and your needs.

Note: It will help if you already know when you plan to travel to Washington D.C. to meet with lobbyists.

To find out good dates, check the schedules for the House and Senate, and avoid weeks that either the House or Senate is in recess (this includes vacations and district work periods), and the week just before or just after a recess – those are the times lobbyists are less likely to be in town.

Questions:

  1. Tell the person that answers the phone (hopefully a receptionist) that you’re looking for a lobbyist and want to find out some really basic information about their firm.
    • Ask the receptionist if you can ask him/her a few quick questions.
    • The goal is to speak with someone other than a sales person (Note: All lobbyists and all managers at lobbying firms are sales people).
  2. If they ask, tell them about your company, but try not to tell them much about your project.
    • The goal here isn’t to be evasive, but to try and find out what their strengths really are (without them trying to match their answers to your project).  If they seem suspicious, you can tell them that.
  3. Ask them the following questions:
    1. How long have you been in business?
    2. How many lobbyists do you have?
      • How many of them work for you full-time?
    3. How many clients do you have right now?
    4. Are there any particular agencies you have particular strength in?
      • House, Senate, DoD, DOJ, EPA, etc.
    5. Are there any particular issues you have particular strength in?
      • Appropriations, health issues, taxes, defense, etc.
    6. Are there any particular industries you specialize in?
      • Telecommunications, Health Care, Education, Oil & Gas, etc.
  4. If it sounds like a match, ask to speak to a lobbyist about your project.
    • If they need to have someone call you back, that’s OK (it usually means they’re out lobbying, which is a good thing).
  5. When you get a chance to speak with someone, give them some details about you and your project:
    • What is your organization, and what do you do?
    • How large is your organization
      • For a public company, you can give employees and/or revenues, but for a private company you can just say “small company”, “mid-sized company”, etc.
    • What is your project or issue?
    • What are your lobbying goals?
    • When are you looking to start?
  6. Repeat the same questions you asked the receptionist (and see if you get the same answers, or answers tailored to what you just told them).
    1. How many lobbyists do you have?
      • How many of them work for you full-time?
    2. How many clients do you have right now?
    3. Are there any particular agencies you have particular strength in?
      • House, Senate, DoD, DOJ, EPA, etc.
    4. Are there any particular issues you have particular strength in?
      • Appropriations, health issues, taxes, defense, etc.
    5. Are there any particular industries you specialize in?
      • Telecommunications, Health Care, Education, Oil & Gas, etc.
  7. Ask a few more detailed questions:
    1. What is your background (the person you’re talking to)?
    2. How long have you been a lobbyist?
    3. If we worked with you, would you be the person managing our project?
      • You want to make sure they don’t give you a bait-and-switch, having a senior person sell you, then assigning your project to an inexperienced lobbyist.
    4. Can you give me an estimate of what your fees would be to help us with our project?
      • If they avoid giving an answer, tell them ballpark numbers are OK.
      • If they still avoid giving an answer, tell them you have numbers from other firms, and you need something to try and compare, even if it’s rough.
  8. Ask them if they have any questions for you.
    • Be willing to answer any reasonable questions.
    • Feel free to promote yourself.
      • Remember you’re starting to build a relationship here, and you need to make sure they’re motivated to work with you, too.
  9. If everything goes well, tell them you plan to travel to DC and want to know if they can meet you.

As always, comments and feedback on your experiences are welcome.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: