Election Impact Conference

On November 9th, CQ Roll Call hosted its Election Impact Conference, held each election year at the Ronald Reagan Building to assess and analyze the new Congress and administration. CQ Roll Call reporters and editors as well as political pundits and experts discussed and offered insight on election results, the Lame Duck session, the new Congress, the impending Fiscal Cliff, and what the rearrangement of House/Senate seats means for lobbying/advocacy & engagement.

The final panel of the conference, Lobbying, Advocacy, and Engagement.  The panelists – Moderator, Eliza Newlin Carney, Roll Call, Kate Ackley, Roll Call, Steve Elmendorf, Elmendorf Ryan, Rich Gold, Holland & Knight, and Marc Lampkin, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schrek, took a look at the changes in Congress and the Administration, and the trends in attitudes towards advocacy and engagement, offering practical ideas for enhancing lobbying strategy.

When the panel was asked what would be your first tip for advocacy professionals and why, the answers ranged from digital grassroots to “shoe leather lobbying”.  Shoe leather lobbying describes the traditional role of the lobbyist interacting with people of influence to help advance his cause.  The panelists defined digital grassroots with social media portals such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and to a lesser extent Pinterest.  Rich Gold cited the Get Out The Vote movement as a good example of digital grassroots because of youth outreach across many media platforms.  Steve Elmendorf highlighted the importance of a diverse advocacy campaign when he said, “if you want a successful advocacy campaign you have to look at all the elements and execute them all”.

Also addressed was the fact that the web presence of advocacy campaigns has become more important as we delve deeperinto this digital age.   The way politicians are consuming news and information has changed drastically and the panel pointed out that in order for your campaign to have impact, it needs to incorporate the new age of media.  However, that doesn’t cancel out the importance of social interaction and “shoe leather lobbying”.  Marc Lampkin described this quite well when he said that we should think about “advocacy as a dynamic business and not as a static business”.

The panel also discussed coalitions and how success in the advocacy world is largely determined by whom you know – your contacts. The panelists encouraged the audience to get out there and make their presence known whether it’s through a digital strategy movement or by simply knocking on doors and talking to your targeted demographic of influential people.  Rich Gold put it frankly when he said, “Be at the table or be on the menu”.   And Kate Ackley emphasized the not-to-be-forgotten importance of knowing your Congressmen and paying attention to the key players in your advocacy arena.

The panel concluded with a discussion of the Obama administration and their recognition of the importance and impact of digital grassroots advocacy. They pointed out that being very responsive tograssroots movements could reap big dividends as far as being able to effectively reach a constituency.    Rich Gold said that this administration does a really good job of listening to ‘real people’ outside of the Beltway.