Dos and don’ts for business owners lobbying Congress

November 18, 2012

Lobbyists from Drinker Biddle’s government affairs team — including chair Ilisa Halpern Paul, Julie Allen and Erin Morton — share some of their tips for how business owners can most effectively lobby members of Congress and their staff.

Do:

• Learn the acronyms of congressional staffers you’ll be meeting with: COS is chief of staff, LD is legislative director, LA is legislative assistant, LC is legislative correspondent

• Treat all staffers with the same respect. “Today’s staff assistant could be tomorrow’s chief of staff,” Paul said. “Even if you [meet with] a junior staffer, don’t treat that person any differently than you would a more senior staffer.”

• Prepare an elevator speech with a concise summary of where you’re from, what your business is, what community you serve, how many employees you have, and how proposed cuts will impact your company in specific terms — such as layoffs or cutbacks in services to customers.

• Prepare a personal anecdote or two about your business or employees. “Tell a story they can remember,” Morton said.

• Be prepared to meet in a hallway, cafeteria or some place other than an office. Space is limited and many other meetings are going on around you.

• Ask for business cards, phone numbers and staffers’ preferred mode of communication so you can follow up.

Don’t:

• Threaten a member of Congress by saying they should support your position because you voted for them or contributed to their campaign.

• Bring sharp objects to Hill buildings — like airports, they make you go through security lines.

• Give staffers or lawmakers any informational packets right away. They’ll read it instead of listening to you, or use it as an excuse to cut the meeting short since they already have all the information they need. Wait until the end of the meeting to leave it with them.

tip sheet
Working with Congress

Lobbyists from Drinker Biddle — including Ilisa Halpern Paul, Julie Scott Allen and Erin Will Morton — share some of their tips for how business owners can most effectively lobby members of Congress and their staff.

Do:

3Learn the acronyms of congressional staffers you’ll be meeting with: COS is chief of staff, LD is legislative director, LA is legislative assistant, LC is legislative correspondent.

3 Treat all staffers with the same respect. “Today’s staff assistant could be tomorrow’s chief of staff,” Paul said. “Even if you [meet with] a junior staffer, don’t treat that person any differently than you would a more senior staffer.”

3 Prepare an elevator speech with a concise summary of where you’re from, what your business is, what community you serve, how many employees you have and how proposed cuts will impact your company in specific terms — such as layoffs or cutbacks in services to customers.

3 Prepare a personal anecdote or two about your business or employees. “Tell a story they can remember,” Morton said.

3 Be prepared to meet in a hallway, cafeteria or some place other than an office. Space is limited and many other meetings are going on around you.

3 Ask for business cards, phone numbers and staffers’ preferred mode of communication so you can follow up.

Don’t:

3 Threaten a member of Congress by saying they should support your position because you voted for them or contributed to their campaign.

3 Bring sharp objects to Capitol Hill buildings — like airports, they make you go through security lines.

3 Give staffers or lawmakers any informational packets right away. They’ll read it instead of listening to you, or use it as an excuse to cut the meeting short since they already have all the information they need. Wait until the end of the meeting to leave it with them.

— C.H.

Catherine Ho covers law and lobbying for Capital Business, which she joined in 2011. She was previously a reporter at the Daily Journal in Los Angeles, covering LA civil courts and labor and employment law.
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