Archive for April, 2016

Lobbying and grassroots advocacy are different approaches to a common goal

April 28, 2016

By: Joshua Habursky and Mike Fulton, first appearing on The Hill’s Congress Blog

Grassroots lobbying by trained volunteer advocates and the direct lobbying by paid professional consultants is not always a perfect marriage. In some organizations the grassroots wing and lobbying wing will have an adversarial relationship having the standard misconceptions of “astroturf” or “hired-gun” for one another. Congressional gridlock increases the likelihood that your bill will reach an impasse and internal strife within a government relations department does not further your organizational agenda or advance your cause.

Grassroots advocacy and direct lobbying are two techniques that need to be carefully applied in calculated situations to spur regulatory or legislative change. The techniques are complimentary and work best when the techniques are applied consistently, cooperatively and when the two functionaries are constantly communicating. Having an engaged public is important to bring about substantive action in the public policy arena and is an integral component in the overall process. Having a trained lobbyist constantly monitoring the public policy process and providing expertise is an equally important ingredient. The recipe for success in government relations includes both ingredients.

Lobby Days, Hill Days, Advocacy Summits, or the host of other names for Congressional fly-ins are usually instances where lobbyists and grassroots advocates mingle. The most successful government relations departments will not treat this event as a turf war or create an unnecessary hierarchy between the two sub-sectors. Lobbyists and professional grassroots staff should both be ushers for the volunteers that donate their time to be an integral part of the political process and advocate for a cause that they care deeply about.

The right to petition government for a redress of grievances, protected by the First Amendment, applies to individuals and organizations from the small non-profit to the large corporation. This right is also the universal standard that applies to professional lobbyists and grassroots advocates alike, granting them the authority to communicate with government to support or oppose action. Lobbying and grassroots advocacy are different approaches to a common goal.

Grassroots advocacy, sometimes mistakenly termed “indirect lobbying” is a means to influence the decision-making process vis-à-vis trained constituencies and to create an atmosphere of public awareness around an issue to encourage average citizens to take part in political efficacy. There is nothing “indirect” about a constituent meeting with his or her member of Congress, sending an email, or Tweeting about an issue that directly affects the member’s district.

Effective grassroots advocacy can be just as “direct” as if the communication came from a professional lobbyist. The trained lobbyist must ensure that this communication meets the conventional standards of communicating with Congress, polish the edges, and navigate the intricacies of the process.  Effective lobbying and advocacy occurs when both sub-sectors of government relations are synchronized and working in tandem.

When these two essential ingredients of successful advocacy do not mix well, nothing tastes as bad and objectives sour.

 

Habursky is the Chair of the Grassroots Professional Network and can be reached at jmhabursky@gmail.com. Fulton is director of public affairs and advocacy at the Asher Agency – mikef@asheragency.com. Both teach online communications courses for West Virginia University’s Reed College of Media.

Why Do We Go To School?

April 27, 2016

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Why do we go to school? There are many answers to this question…. We go to better ourselves, to stay connected to trends, to make more money or to teach. Ultimately the answer should be… “we go to school to learn.” In the era of trophies for everyone, it seems we have lost sight of learning. Learning means you will not have a perfect score; you may not get an “A” and you will most definitely have to work hard, otherwise you are not really learning.

I must admit, in the throes of school there were moments when I was extremely frustrated when I did not receive a perfect score. There were a few classes where I racked my brain until I wanted to dump my laptop on its head and throw my books out the window. But the one thing that kept me going was the fact that I was growing. I was challenging myself to learn and do something different, something that did not always come easily.

Capstone was no different. In our weekly discussions, I completely missed the media objectives and did general objectives. I reviewed previous work and the objectives I had done were not focused on media, they were campaign or PR objectives. I was pretty hard on myself. It was the end of the program, how could I possibly get that wrong, after all I have learned? Then my professor said something, “I wish students weren’t so focused on the grades, but on the learning process.” I was suddenly reminded that even after two years, I am still learning.

Cheers to all of us for making this huge investment and a reminder that we all should strive to be learners even when we have reached the finish.

From the Campaign Battlefront

April 19, 2016

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Rest assured, I am not writing a post about the 2016 election (you’re welcome). Rather, I’m reporting on my own mêlée: the exhausting, empowering, sometimes petrifying, but mind-blowingly rewarding human experience that is IMC 636 Campaigns. These last seven weeks and beyond have challenged me in more ways than I could have imagined, but I am seven days away from sending off what has become my most prized piece of work and alas, I can [almost] see the light at the end of the grad school tunnel.

sneak peek

Sneak peek!

For those of you who have achieved your MSIMC degree, perhaps you’re having flashbacks to those final days of scrambling, and for those who have yet to experience it, strap in. I know I’m making 636 sound like some untamable beast, but I assure you that this has been the most gratifying course of my college career. Today, between working full-time, building my IMC campaign, and teaching yoga on the side, I’ve somehow managed to find a free moment for reflection, and this is what I’ve realized:

The phrase, “Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life” is a sham. I entered into this program because I love marketing communications, and I suspect that I share this passion with many of you, but I think that we can all agree that it will never not be work. This program, let alone this profession,  is undeniably challenging, and it requires large amounts of attention on a nearly daily basis. But what keeps us in the game is that feeling of pride after a job well done.

I have been eating, sleeping, and breathing IMC for the past month and a half, and not because I have to, but because I want to. Something shifts in you during the capstone course; the more effort you put into your campaign, the more effort you want to put into it. In the dwindling days between me and this due date, I genuinely look forward to sitting down at my computer to continue construction of my personal masterpiece. I’m reveling in the chaos, and that’s how I know I’m doing what I love. So, instead of aiming to never work a day in your life, aim to find something you love so much, you’re willing to work your ass off for it.