Lobbyist. Is this term new to you? How do you view this profession, in case you are familiar with the word – lobbyist! In fact, if there is one profession which is in great demand in India and in many emerging markets around the world now, it is that of a lobbyist.
This is primarily because of the huge demand-supply gap – due to insufficient availability of experienced Public Policy experts who can deal with governments at various levels.
The fast changing legislative and regulatory scene, owing to technological transformation in every sphere of life is generating unprecedented demand for professionals who can understand Technology and Public Policy simultaneously and help corporations assess their risks and mitigate them.
What is Lobbying?
You must have come across different titles for the people working in Public Policy and Advocacy, such as Public Affairs, Government Affairs, External Affairs, Corporate Affairs, Regulatory Affairs and so on.
Not to be confused with these variant names; all these are birds of the same feather. Nomenclature may vary from region to region, industry to industry and sector to sector, but professionals working in these functions invariably do the following:
- Track and understand government policies, regulations and stakeholders.
- Analyse policies, issues and situations in detail to assess the impact on one’s organization, sector and industry.
- Advise the company/organisation on the impact and recommend ways to deal with the situation.
- Strategise to deal with the situation in short term and long term, with minimal or least disruption/damage to the organization.
- Reach out to peer companies, industry bodies and opinion makers to make a collaborative effort to deal with the situation.
- Represent to the government/authority with the demand for change and reasons thereon, directly and/or through industry bodies.
- Commission common interest studies, research, impact analysis and surveys to strengthen the case, directly and through research bodies, academic institutions and NGOs.
- Prime the government stakeholders with reports of the studies, research and surveys to establish the case.
- Use the media (traditional/new/social) through selective sharing of these reports/studies to channelise larger public opinion in favour of the case.
- Use foreign missions and seek intervention of foreign governments, if you are an MNC, as a last resort.
The bare minimum qualities that would make you a good public affairs professional are:
- Knowledge of the Landscape – Political, bureaucratic and legislative
- Have basic knowledge of the political, bureaucratic and legislative landscape of the government – who deals with what, who reports to whom, who has most powers, who is to reach out in times of crisis and so on.
- Need to have the knowledge as to how the government functions – in normal situations, in crisis scenarios; and how legislations are framed, amended and withdrawn.
- Understanding on whom to approach for influencing policies – for effecting amendments, launching new legislations – and the process to be followed.
- Knowledge about redress mechanisms, in case a law is unfair or an officer is acting arbitrarily – dispute resolution forums, quasi-judicial regulators, judicial forums and officers with judicial powers.
- Analysing skills – Assess the impact and advise the stakeholders
- Skills to analyse the government actions (executive actions) in order to find out its impact on the company and the industry, besides larger impact on the consumers.
- Skills to objectively assess the fallout of government notifications and circulars, with emphasis on the fine print, and its impact on the industry.
- Analyse the need to change certain existing legislations or bring in some new legislations to further the growth of a sector or protect a sector.
- Assess the need to have a certain policy climate, with removal of some of the existing legislations, amending some of the laws and bringing in a set of new legislations in order for a new sector/business to find its feet in the country.
- Skills to assess the loss or profit to the company and the sector, due to introduction or the possible introduction of a new legislation/rule or by withdrawal of a policy.
- Networking skills – With policymakers, bureaucrats, other relevant stakeholders
- Ability to figure out where and how relationships/rapport can be established with the desired stakeholders.
- Humility and Courtesy in reaching out to the stakeholders without losing self-respect, but respecting the other.
- Ability to build a relationship from a meeting or interaction and to utilise the relationship for the benefit of the organisation.
- Maneuverability to use non-professional, social events, for enlarging one’s networks and to use such networks for organisational benefits.
- Negotiating skills – with government, not with customer or vendor
- Understanding that you are negotiating with a government, not with another company, a vendor or a customer.
- Accept the officer representing the government as the most powerful person to deal with issue in question and respect him/her to the utmost level.
- Assess the mood of the officer quickly and move into his tempo – if he likes to get into soft talk, entertain that or if he wants business straight, get into the point.
- Present your case, without hurting the officer, his/her sentiments, his/her belief and his/her attachment to the government and his/her job.
- Conclude the talks by suggesting what you are looking for from the government and how important is the change for your company/industry.
- Follow up with perseverance on the result of your meeting and pitch in for subsequent meeting, in case of delay on decision.
However, the most important requisite for being a good Public Affairs professional is the ability to keep confidential matters as strictly confidential. A lobbyist will come across a variety of confidential matters, some of which can break the very existence of the organisation and some can lead to prolonged crisis.
Keeping confidentiality of such matters till the issue is resolved, and in some cases even beyond resolving them, is key to being a dependable Lobbyist.
Disclaimer: Views expressed in the article are personal views and not in any manner to be construed as its author’s employer’s or Indian IT Industry’s views.