The word lobbyist gets a bad rap. As the punch line of many jokes, the term is down there with used car salesmen and lawyers. However, lobbyists provide a crucial service for everyone.

A lobbyist is an advocate for issues, both social and business issues. Sometimes you will hear the term “advocacy” used when someone is lobbying or speaking on behalf of an issue or publicly supporting it. When I worked for a non-profit organization, my title was “Advocate.” Yet, my job description was very similar to most folks who “lobby.”   

The term lobbyist was coined, as the story goes, inside the Willard Hotel. President Ulysses S. Grant would frequent the hotel for an evening drink or cigar. Political advocates soon caught on and would look to speak with the President while he was there. Grant started calling them “lobbyists” for their hopes of gaining access to him through the hotel lobby.  

Today lobbyists represent views and interests on every possible issue and for every kind of person. Whether advocating for librarians, healthcare, housing, cyclists, or taxes, chances are a lobbyist is working on your behalf at city hall, your state capitol or in the halls of our nation’s capitol. As a matter of fact, there are even lobbyists for lobbyists.  

As part of our democracy and our Constitution, the First Amendment gives us the right to petition our government. Thousands of Americans have made their requests and desires known over the decades. These requests and wishes are not always from stereotypical big corporations. While corporations do employ and hire lobbyists, so do many smaller companies and organizations through the creation of coalitions and by membership in trade associations.  

Advocates work on access to healthcare, transportation safety, gun rights, standardized testing for public schools and more. As a political science major who has worked alongside government for years, I love watching a grassroots momentum grow from a few engaged individuals to a full-blown legislative campaign. A great example of this is TAMSA, Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment. Through initial parent frustration and subsequent grassroots organization, this group has been working tirelessly on behalf of parents, students, and community members since 2011 accomplishing some significant legislative wins.

On the business side, I have seen companies work to change the corporate tax structure to encourage research and development of orphan drugs, for less regulation of cosmetic procedures providing for easier and cheaper access for consumers, and for setting a national standard for nutrition labeling. These examples are a mere fraction of how advocacy, or lobbying, has made a difference.

Advocacy is an exciting and necessary component of our legislative process. Elected officials and their staffs cannot be experts on every single issue. Therefore, it is important that specialists bring the facts and figures before the public officials. By telling each issue’s story, our elected officials can gain a complete picture before they vote. Advocacy is a wonderful part of our democracy.

Before returning to Texas in 1997, Elizabeth worked for U.S. Congressman Bill Archer and also for the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee. Following her positions on Capitol Hill, she was employed as Associate Vice President for Newmyer Associates, Inc., in Washington, D.C. After leaving Washington and moving to Austin, Texas, Elizabeth worked for Texas State Senator David Sibley and the Senate Economic Development Committee.

Prior to joining Strategic Public Affairs® in 2002, Elizabeth was the Southeast Texas Public Advocacy Consultant for the American Heart Association. She is involved with the Independent Women’s Forum, the Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce, the Women’s Energy Network, The National Charity League, Houston Alumnae of Kappa Alpha Theta, Leadership Houston, and a sustaining member of the Junior League of Houston. Elizabeth earned a B.A. in Political Science from Texas A&M University in College Station and a Master of Public Administration from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Elizabeth Biar

Vice President of Strategic Public Affairs®, Strategic Public Affairs®

 

Establishing your brand is one of the most important things you can do to achieve success for your company.   Your brand identifies who your company is and how you want to be perceived by customers. A strong brand can make or break a product or service.  It helps build relationships with customers, and it differentiates you from competitors. Managing your brand is key to your reputation and profits.   Public relations is imperative in helping brand your company.

Your brand needs to convey:

  • Your story – why are you in business
  • Your product or service
  • Communicate your values
  • Build trust

Here a few key ways to build your brand.

Traditional Media

Traditional TV and print media are great ways to tell your story.  First, determine your audience and pitch your story to the correct outlets.  If you are looking to gain customers for your food delivery service, your target market is going to be different than if you are selling a product for the oil services industry.   Ensure you build relationships with reporters and outlets that fit your target audience. Second, tell your story connecting it with the viewers or readers. Leave them with an action step or reason to learn more about you.   

Social Media

According to Social Media Today, the average person will spend two hours a day on social media, with teens spending up to nine hours a day on social platforms.   With these statistics, it is critical that your brand is active online.

A relevant, fresh, up-to-date website is vital to building credibility.  It is also essential that your website connect easily with your social media outlets.  When posting content on social media, look for ways to tell your story and stay consistent in messaging.   The majority of users want their engagement in social media to teach them something, inspire them, or entertain them.   Find ways to connect with your followers and give them a story linking them to your brand.

Influencer Marketing

Somewhere in between traditional media and social media lay blogs and influencers.   Building relationships with the right influencers and bloggers can go a long way to building your brand and creating crucial credibility.  Keep in mind that working with most influencers will require a budget, but with less third-party content allowed on social media channels such as Facebook, influencer marketing may be a smart way to brand.

Events

Participating in public events is another fantastic way to engage the public and brand your product or service.   As a sponsor of an event such as a sporting event, charity gala, or business conference, your name and logo will be made available to a wide audience.   A couple of ways to participate are through underwriting levels or providing promotional items in the goodie bags.

Thought Leadership

Do not overlook the idea of hosting your own event.   By managing a breakfast, dinner, speaker, or reception, you and your company have the opportunity to shine as experts in your field and provide information on your product or service.     

By supporting your brand management with PR tools and tactics, you and your company can tell a successful story, increase profits, and build a stellar reputation.

Before returning to Texas in 1997, Elizabeth worked for U.S. Congressman Bill Archer and also for the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee. Following her positions on Capitol Hill, she was employed as Associate Vice President for Newmyer Associates, Inc., in Washington, D.C. After leaving Washington and moving to Austin, Texas, Elizabeth worked for Texas State Senator David Sibley and the Senate Economic Development Committee.

Prior to joining Strategic Public Affairs® in 2002, Elizabeth was the Southeast Texas Public Advocacy Consultant for the American Heart Association. She is involved with the Independent Women’s Forum, the Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce, the Women’s Energy Network, The National Charity League, Houston Alumnae of Kappa Alpha Theta, Leadership Houston, and a sustaining member of the Junior League of Houston. Elizabeth earned a B.A. in Political Science from Texas A&M University in College Station and a Master of Public Administration from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Elizabeth Biar

Vice President of Strategic Public Affairs®, Strategic Public Affairs®

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