Five Key Grassroots Lobbying Techniques

It’s that time of year again. Legislative bodies around the world are beginning to convene for session. Bills affecting travel and tourism will likely be on the legislative agenda and this is your opportunity to meet with your elected officials and advocate for your community, industry and residents. In this two-part blog series with industry veteran and attorney Bryan Grimaldi of the law firm Greenberg Traurig, readers will take away valuable insights from his decades of government, legal and tourism experience. Bryan has identified five key grassroots lobbying techniques that helped maximize his engagement with elected officials. These techniques complement other recommendations by Grimaldi that will appear in a forthcoming blog.

Consider Bryan Grimaldi’s five best practices for lobbying:

1. Be Prepared

Time with elected officials and their staff is usually limited and extremely valuable; therefore, be prepared. Know your facts, anticipate possible questions, expect pushback (or naïve questions) and vet your lawmakers. Be direct and never evasive. Above all else, maintain your integrity and composure. This is especially true if your issue carries risk or controversy. that’s fine, address it with mitigation. Know your opponents and consider their engagement with officials (before and after you). Advocate without prejudice. If a group meeting occurs with a lawmaker or staff, designate a primary speaker. Discuss one topic at a time, be clear and concise. Limit distractions or tangential conversation. Stay on point.

2. Be Authentic

As tourism professionals, you know hospitality. Be hospitable. Introduce yourself as well as your organization and its relevance to the legislator’s state or district. Relax and have a conversation. Your passion for travel and tourism will shine — simply connect with the principal.

3. Make it Personal

Build upon the connection with your lawmaker by telling a story. Identify and prepare to discuss how your issues impact the destination organization, tourism stakeholders and the rest of your community. Impart your personal leadership experiences and positive outcomes. Include talking points that make it personal for the elected official so their interests and goals (e.g. tax revenue, jobs, economic development, etc.) align with those of their supporters and constituents. Remind them that you are the caretaker of the destination’s brand and sense of place. Lead with an emotional story and then follow up with the return on investment for destination promotion.

4. Deliver Your Request

Your meetings with lawmakers are investments of time, resources and planning. If you intend to ask for a legislator’s support of a bill or commitment to a cause, do your diligence first. If you already have the legislator’s support, thank them. Do not ask a question you do not know the answer to. Be strategic. Have a goal. Identify common ground and the next steps in the legislative process. State your intentions and deliver your request in a way that solves a problem or fulfills a community need. By eliminating surprises, confusion and political impasse, you can maximize the time and focus of elected officials on your request.

5. Do Your Homework

Know the laws regulating lobbying to which you are subject and how they may affect you. These laws vary widely by jurisdiction and define what constitutes lobbying, what is allowed and what is not. Some jurisdictions have gift rules as well as fundraising limits and prohibitions.  In some places even small, token gifts violate lobbying rules, so before you give even something small, check the rules.  Be sure never to engage in ultimatums or quid pro quo with elected officials. If you are unfamiliar with the laws regulating lobbying in your area, consult a professional, check with your state association, browse your legislature’s website or contact the attorney general of your state or province.

Lobbying, both grassroots and professional, is an essential function of the legislative process that requires much care and consideration. When lobbying, remember to be prepared; be authentic; make it personal; deliver your request and don’t forget to do your homework. These five best practices for lobbying will improve your engagement with elected officials and help maximize your advocacy efforts. Stay tuned for more legislative insights and recommendations from Bryan Grimaldi next month in this two-part blog series.

About Bryan:

Bryan Grimaldi is a member of Greenberg Traurig’s Hospitality and Government Law & Policy Practices where he counsels corporate clients, trade associations, destination marketing organizations, and public-private partnerships (P3) nationwide providing industry-specific outside counsel services, operational consulting and advocacy. From NYC & Company, where he spent nearly 15 years as Chief Operating Officer & General Counsel leading the organization on legal, business development, licensing, government relations, regulatory, and policy matters, to serving three Mayors of New York City, Bryan has deep government experience, credibility, and broad knowledge of the private sector.  He also previously served as general counsel in the Mayor’s Office of International Affairs, where he provided legal counsel and support to city agencies and senior administration officials in dealings with the United Nations, foreign governments, diplomats, and federal agencies. For more information on Bryan’s background, and the firm’s Hospitality and Government Law & Policy Practices click here.