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Lobbying - What it is and what it isn't

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As part of our communications services, we offer several workshops. Some, like media training we do all the time but others, not so much. One of the “not so much” varieties is lobbying. Not sure why – we just don't get asked for this one very often. But the other day we were approached by an organization enquiring about our providing this workshop as part of their upcoming convention. Apparently, somebody in their organization had heard about our lobbying workshop from someone who had attended it a few years back and thought it may be a good fit.


So since it has been a while, I needed to refresh my memory and see to what extent the content would have to be updated. As you might expect the “do's and don'ts” haven't changed much except a bit in regards to social media, but I wonder if people's attitudes toward lobbying have changed.


I have no doubt lobbying is seen in some circles as sleazy and underhanded. It is a reputation well deserved because of the way it has developed in the higher-level politics among our American cousins, such as with the NRA and the pharmaceutical industry. But while this holds little, some but little, resemblance to the Canadian reality, that perception I expect exists here. Current moves toward more strict disclosure regulations for lobbyists should make it more accepted because it will be more open and transparent, but maybe not. Perceptions die hard.


The fact is, lobbying is not only legal but also a democratic right and it is serious business not partisan politics. Many groups aren't as successful as they could be because they don't get this. Nor do they get that it is not about embarrassing a government into doing or undoing something. Mind you sometimes it comes to that, but it should not be the first option, just as going public shouldn't always be the first thing you do.


One group that understands the concept and practices it as well as any I am aware of is the CFIB, the Canadian Federation for Independent Business. They were a powerful lobby why back when I was a reporter, and while they have managed to remain so, not every group has. I remember for example when the New Brunswick Senior Citizens Association was a powerful voice for seniors in this province, but as a lobby group they are now a shadow of what they once were.  Same for the New Brunswick Federation of Labour.


I have to think a little more to come up with some good current examples of effective lobbying and also of efforts that missed the mark because the people doing it didn't understand what works and what doesn't.


If any examples, good or bad, jump to mind, please share. Meantime, I'm glad we got the call about it. It's an interesting topic and it will be fun preparing for and doing the workshop.



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