The Damaging Dozen

Twelve common mistakes made by lobbyists

1. Not reading between the lines
When negotiating legislation or policy briefs politicians have a habit of making agreements sentence by sentence. As every word has its meaning, simply reading what is written is most likely to produce an incomplete picture of the political reality.

2. Doing something when doing nothing is better
In politics, doing nothing can be extremely intelligent. And yet many lobbyists are afraid of the void and would rather do anything at all, which could prove to be detrimental, than simply prepare for a new political momentum.

3. Not knowing what persistence really means
Politicians are quite capable of grasping the relevance or urgency of an issue. They really can do without repeated interventions about the same topic. Sooner or later, undue pressure on policy makers will backfire in ways many lobbyists cannot even imagine.

4. Not balancing persistence with patience
Lobbying is all about perseverance, which in turn is composed of persistence and patience – in equal measure. Politics can evolve very slow for a long time but never forget, it can switch to the speed of light in a single day.

5. Ignoring the lesser gods
Of course, only the top brass make the big decisions. But downstream they are surrounded by a fine-grained ecosystem of people who prepare advice and sometimes have more influence than meets the eye.

6. Not telling the truth and thinking one can get away with it
In lobbying, colouring the truth or downright lying is by far the most dangerous tactic to use. Policy makers may be fooled some of the time, but certainly not all of the time. The day of reckoning will come and it will destroy the campaign and the corporate reputation completely.

7. Making poor background checks
Convincing policy makers of your interest is also about human interaction. Even more so when a solution needs to be found through negotiations. Being successful will be much easier if one knows the opposite side better than one’s own self.

8. Acting without coverage by the higher level
Having a voluntarist state of mind is not an advantage for a lobbyist. It might result in engaging in conversations and even negotiations with policy makers without coverage on the content of those who have responsibility for managing the campaign.

9. Thinking a compromise is a defeat
Politicians are professional deal makers used to the fact that in all things political, the winner never takes it all. Trying to leave them empty-handed will never yield a solution, even if they are completely wrong and the lobbyist is completely right.

10. Coming out of the gates storming
Do not start a war without being certain you are going to win it. Lobbyists who aggressively try to advance in a campaign will end up in misery as policy makers have far more instruments to embark on in an endless guerrilla war; time, for example, will be mainly on their side.

11. Sending the wrong messenger
A solution for any policy issue is always reached through dialogue. To make this kind of interaction fruitful, both sides need to feel comfortable and in tune to enter the process. It is rarely the best idea to send a lawyer ahead as this will suggest legal action. Or putting forward the CEO at the start of the campaign.

12. Thinking people will go your way because you invited them to lunch
Lobbyists adhering to the habits of the past, are bound to be made irrelevant by the new generation of politicians and the rising pressure on ethics and transparency all around. Moreover, thinking a lunch or a present might do the trick supposes that policy makers are either stupid or corrupt – which is quite a gamble to make.

Click here to check out our Damaging Dozen infographic!