Lobbyist Job Description
Lobbyists use their political savvy to influence elected officials to vote in their organization’s best interests. They work for a variety of firms, including public and private corporations, nonprofits, charities, government agencies, industry organizations, educational institutions, and science groups. Outgoing individuals with analytical minds and strong networking skills thrive in this role. Lobbyists juggle a large amount of information on how political systems work effectively and are active at all levels of government, including local, state, and federal. Most lobbyists work full time in office environments; however, they travel extensively to meet with political representatives.
Lobbyist Duties and Responsibilities
Lobbyists work in a variety of industries. Specific duties and responsibilities may vary, but there are several core tasks associated with the job, including:
Lobby Politicians Directly
Lobbyists schedule meetings with politicians and other legislative officials to influence their views on particular issues. They are hired to establish rapport and persuade elected officials to act on their organization’s behalf. Lobbyists sell leaders on the initiatives most favorable for their company.
Solicit Political Support Indirectly
Another common task for lobbyists is creating political support for their organization’s initiatives at a grassroots level. They campaign by phoning citizens, placing ads, and sending out direct mail pieces. In some cases, lobbyists encourage people touched by an issue to call their representatives. Sometimes lobbyists lead partnerships with other special interest groups that share similar goals.
Conduct Policy Research
In order to succeed, lobbyists routinely perform research to support their arguments when meeting with politicians. They also perform local research to find out what issues constituents care about. Lobbyists act as sounding board to help their employers understand public opinion and strategize on key issues.
Write Publicity Materials
Lobbyists prepare written materials to help influence public opinion and the opinion of legislators. They write press releases, white papers, brochures, and other informational literature. Lobbyists often provide written statements to or represent clients at news conferences and other media outlets.
Draft Political Updates and Agendas
Lobbyists provide written updates for their employers on legislative bills and activities. They track bills and ballots impacting their industry and develop legislative agendas based on political goals. They also assist with document reviews and political messaging on behalf of their organization.
Lobbyist Skills and Qualifications
Lobbyists have superb interpersonal skills and research abilities. Employers seek candidates with a relevant bachelor’s degree and active registration with their state’s ethics commission. The following skills are essential to getting the job done:
- Political strategy – lobbyists need a proven ability to adapt to long-term political strategies to support, protect, and advance the mission of their organization
- Public speaking – clearly presenting information to political peers, legislators, and congress members is key for lobbyists
- Communication skills – persistent and persuasive written and verbal communication is essential for lobbyists to influence legislative policies
- Networking – networking is a critical skill that determines career success and longevity
- Negotiation – lobbyists need excellent negotiation skills to broker compromises and deals
- Research skills – lobbyists gather information to formulate strategies that help achieve policy outcomes
- Analytical thinking – organizations depend on lobbyists to analyze the political dilemmas they face and determine the best way forward
Lobbyist Education and Training
It is common for lobbyists to have a bachelor’s degree in public relations, political science, journalism, communications, economics, or a related field. Because successful lobbying often requires working with the legislative process, many lobbyists start out as interns. Some aspiring lobbyists gain hands-on experience as congressional staffers and employees of trade associations. Achieving career success as a lobbyist depends on knowing the right people and maintaining strong professional contacts.
Lobbyist Salary and Outlook
According to PayScale, the median annual salary for lobbyists is $70,633. The lowest 10 percent of earners make less than $42,000. The highest 10 percent of earners make more than $130,000.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) categorizes lobbyists with public relations managers and specialists. Employment for individuals in this industry is projected to grow 9 percent through 2026. This rate of growth is about as fast as the average for all occupations.
There are many helpful resources out there for those interested in becoming a lobbyist. Check out these links that are full of learning opportunities and the latest industry news:
National Association of State Lobbyists – NASL is national association for state-level lobbying organizations. Find your local chapter and build your career network
The National Institute for Lobbying and Ethics – NILE provides professional networking and education resources to help lobbyists keep pace with an ever-changing environment
The Lobbyists: How Influence Peddlers Get Their Way in Washington – this book contains nine stories from lobbyists, with each one full of the strategies they use to maintain their careers
The Influence Game: 50 Insider Tactics from the Washington, DC, Lobbying World That Will Get You to Yes – get insider tips from former Washington, DC, lobbyist Stephanie Vance as she shares her knowledge of the most effective lobbyist actions
Lobbying: The Art of Political Persuasion – read this book to learn about the history of lobbying, the mechanics of lobbying, and how to use media. You’ll also get a step-by-step guide for creating a lobbying campaign
Lobbyists at Work – this is a must-read guide for anyone seriously interested in becoming a successful lobbyist. Get wisdom from lobbyists seeking to influence the government from various industries with different levels of power
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