Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Knowing the Nature of What You’re Selling: Part 2 -- Scope

As discussed in my last blog entry, effective lobbyists understand the nature of what they’re selling in Washington, D.C.. They identify the intent (action vs. inertia), the scope (controversial or note), the importance (must do vs. may do) and the timeframe (short vs. long term). In the last post I talked about intent. In this one we’ll look at scope.

By scope I mean where the idea the lobbyist is selling falls on the “controversy”spectrum. These ideas range from large to small, from controversial to not, from easy to tough and everywhere in between. For example, legislation to “designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 20 Main Street in Little Ferry, New Jersey, as the "Sergeant Matthew J. Fenton Post Office"” (passed and sent to the President on 12/23/2011) takes less time and political capital than legislation to change health care laws, the tax code or the structure of the financial system.

Think of your influence effort as existing along a spectrum from easy to difficult, particularly in terms of your audience’s perspective. Will it cost them money? Time? Political or other capital? Will someone be angry with them if they agree with you? The answer to these questions will tell you whether the influence situation is controversial or relatively easy. In addition, you’ll want to consider whether your idea will be attached to something controversial. While you may have something relatively simple to propose, your task will be far more difficult with a gigantic legislative albatross around your neck.

Finally, don’t be fooled by those items that may not seem all that controversial, but can turn out that way. For example, if you want to establish National Pickle Week, you better know what you mean by “pickle.” Is it sweet? dill? Do gerkins count? What about chips vs. spears? In fact, you’ll probably want to include ALL pickles just to be on the safe side and avoid opposition.

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