For a few years now, people trying to influence political processes may have been thinking, what the h*** has been going on? Back in the good ol’ days it was enough to know the few key players and contact them. Being on top of your game was pretty easy.
What’s happened? Arrhythmia, that’s what’s happened. There are more messages in the world than ever. The world is faster than ever. Organizations are in the spotlight like never before. Power is not solely in the hands of politicians any more, and social media has opened up a whole new arena for ordinary people to make an impact. People don’t trust organizations like they did. They trust other people. To gain trust, you have to be transparent and open like never before.
This all means that traditional lobbying has come to an end. Why lobby politicians when it’s the opinion of the grand audience that has the most influence on society?
To have an influence on society – and in politics – political affairs and lobbying need to be rethought. Communications and political affairs can no longer be separated. Organizations’ values and concrete actions need to be connected. If you talk about green values you need to act accordingly. If you don’t, someone will always find out – and spread the word.
Rather than influencing behind the scenes, organizations need to move to taking part in an open discussion and dialogue. It’s not always pleasant, and to do so, communications need to be put at the core of a business. Communications is not only a job for communications staff, but a responsibility that belongs to everyone in the organization. This demands that the core message and core values of the organization need to be familiar to everyone working in the organization.
To summarize: How should organizations re-think lobbying? Two points.
- Are you thinking about outsourcing lobbying here in Finland? Don’t. According to our own research, 68 % of Finnish MPs think that lobbying should be done by companies themselves. Not by hired lobbyists.
- Meeting politicians and public servants is all good and well, but do not forget the importance of reaching the grand audience and assuring them of your intentions. If the people are against you and your agenda, politicians are less likely to make decision that will benefit you in any way. You should not underestimate the power of public opinion – as was seen in the case of the Guggenheim museum.
The writer works as a communications consultant and account director at Ellun Kanat.