by Alejandro Ruiz Balza
People who try to influence or persuade key members of an organization to take a specific stand on a piece of legislation, rule, issue or policy in favor of the social sector they represent, are referred to as Lobbyists.
Therefore, a lobbyist should have thorough knowledge and analytical skills of the existing laws and those that are being debated at that moment; understanding which are the necessary ones to achieve its purpose.
Lobbying can be defined as a communication tool whose purpose is to generate participation and effective integration between the common good and organizations’ interests (business, NGOs, government and professional ones) in the various processes which tend to formulate public policies.
Despite its early stage of development in Latin America, where it is often related to corrupt practices and the so-called "influence peddling”, this technique has achieved great progress in the legislative sphere and in professional training in the last 15 years.
In the United States, Lobbying is a common practice that is protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and, since 1995, according to the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), lobbyists are required to register with the Clerk of the House or the Secretary of the Senate and report their clients and estimate the amount they were paid by each client.
The term Lobby has two possible origins:
1-The most widespread version claims that it comes from the early 1800’s when the word Lobby was used to refer to the halls of the House of Commons of the British Parliament where activist groups or private interest groups argued with the MPs.
2- Another version states that, during the U.S. Civil War, President Ulysses Grant took refuge in the lobby or vestibule of the Willard Hotel in Washington DC after the White House caught fire. Since then President was pleased with that place, he used to spend some time there. As a result, the place was filled with people who came to discuss their personal matters; thus the meaning of the word was engendered through association of ideas.
This communication technique is called Lobbying because, as mentioned above, it was originally developed and professionalized in the Anglo-Saxon world.
In recent debates the term "Advocacy” has appeared in some places and business publications, but "Lobby" or Lobbying is more widespread in the professional sphere.
For the purposes of this piece of work, the Lobbying process will be summarized in the following five stages:
1 - Information: research, monitoring and production of qualified information to develop the recognition and influence of our organization and its objectives on the decision-making areas directly or indirectly related to the management of an Agenda of Key Issues (political, economic, social, cultural, environmental, etc.) at local, regional and global levels.
2 - Actors: identification of both key actors (organizations and / or individuals) who share their interests with those of the organization as well as those with significant impact on decision making related to an Agenda of Key Issues at local, regional and global level.
3 - Partnerships: building partnerships that promote synergy between the interests of the organization and its direct and indirect publics, the various institutions and / or people involved and identified as key stakeholders to strengthen and consolidate the position of the organization and its influence on the Lobbying Process.
4 - Campaigns: planning and implementation of Communication Campaigns to facilitate broad diffusion of the arguments that support the position of the organization and the importance of joining the Agenda of Key Issues in all the formal and informal means of communication available.
5 - Evaluation: Once the previous steps of this process have been concluded, the results should be evaluated and according to the performance obtained, actions to maintain and defend the achievements should be restarted, strengthened or carried out till these achievements are institutionalized in the local, regional and global communities of reference.
Lobbying, Mass Media and Communication
Since the mid-twentieth century mass media have been integrated to large industrial groups, transnational nowadays, and since the late 1980s they have turned out to be large media corporations comparable to any global corporation.
In this context these large multimedia conglomerates generate multiple influential networks that are often used to promote their sectional interests.
This can also be observed in the case of the Internet, where many forums, social networks and open encyclopedias can provide biased information on behalf of a specific interest group.
Neither Lobbying, which is not necessarily exercised vertically from the top of the social pyramid, nor “being connected" and producing independent contents is usually enough to promote common interests.
On the contrary, generating social communication, collective participation and content interdependent networks to develop and promote the interests of the local, regional and global communities turn Lobbying into a key tool to be used in any Organizational Communication strategy
Applications: Communication and Public Management, Associative Communication, Environmental Communication, Communication Strategies for NGOs, Public Relations, Strategic Communications, Analysis of Public Opinion Research, Community Service, Social Movements, Sectoral Legislation , Adoption of Laws from citizen´s Initiative, etc.