• WisPolitics

Thursday, March 31, 2016

 11:03 AM 

Wendy Riemann column: Advantageous Advocacy: Neither over nor off with their heads

The hot-headed queen in Alice in Wonderland was quick to yell “off with their heads” when she was upset. Hot-headed lobbyists, or those with large egos, will sometimes attempt the same approach with a government staff person because they are not getting their way, or not getting it fast enough. It seldom works.

Apart from the rare instance of unprofessional behavior from a staff member, complaining to an official or trying to go over a staff person’s head, is far more likely to damage a lobbyist’s reputation.

In one performance review, my boss at the time said that in three years he could only remember one complaint about me. I gave him a do-tell look and he did.  I then laughed and said, “Oh yes, that’s the guy who wanted [ridiculous request on top of ridiculous request], and I told him no.”

My boss laughed even harder and said, “’I KNEW it would be something like that from HIM and that you would have had a good reason to say no – it’s why I didn’t follow-up with him or think it was even worth mentioning to you.  Excellent judgment...”

The complaint actually helped reinforce to my boss that he could trust my instincts and that I would not waste his time on ridiculous requests.  Had the lobbyist been able to get over his bruised ego and act on my more reasonable suggestions, instead of trying to go over my head, I would have helped move his other items forward.  Instead, he got nowhere with me, and did not have a champion anywhere else in the office, so he just spun his wheels.

In my survey of Hill staff, a person gave an example of how something was not moving fast was not moving fast enough for a lobbyist, and that lobbyist complained to the Congress member.

The member spoke with the staff person about it and learned the request was being held up by something out of her control. The member never doubted her staff and directed the lobbyist right back to that same staff person – a staffer who now knew the lobbyist spoke poorly about her work to her boss, and tried to go over her head. She is a good public servant, so she provided the necessary assistance, but she did not have any desire to go out of her way for someone who threatened her livelihood.

Another colleague with a higher ranking title said, “If you go over my head, make sure you have a head shot and can take me out because I'm NEVER going to forget it.”

He continued that he would make a note in his files of that person trying to tarnish his reputation and would not meet with them again. These lobbyists probably never stopped for a second to think about the potential long-term impacts of their short-sighted comments. However, working well with staff and appreciating their efforts is a key to successful advocacy.

An elected official at any level rarely acts on a request without first consulting staff.  Trying to go over someone’s head to speed something up often slows down the process, because it puts everything out of order and people are compelled to double check the request. This means a complaint, or an attempt to circumvent a staff person, will almost always get back to the staff person. As a result, the lobbyist ends up needing to work with someone he has annoyed, or worse, made an adversary of; thus he likely loses a critical ally within that office who could have provided guidance on navigating the next steps.

Furthermore, if a lobbyist is complaining or trying to go around staff, the member may assume that lobbyist is sneaky or says bad things about everyone and is untrustworthy.

When a lobbyist threatens a staff person’s reputation and livelihood, he is often hurting himself.

No one wins, so keep the ego in check.

-- Riemann is president of 1492 Communications, a consulting firm. She can be reached at: wendy@1492communications.com.

Back to DC Wrap main page

: See newer blog items : : See older blog items :

DC Wrap site feed


wispolitics.com Social News

Follow Us


WisPolitics coverage of news from the nation's capital.

JR Ross, David Wise

· DC Wrap site feed (RSS)

· Sign up for email delivery of the weekly DC Wrap column


· Tammy Baldwin (D)
· Ron Johnson (R)

· 1st CD: Paul Ryan (R)
· 2nd CD: Mark Pocan (D)
· 3rd CD: Ron Kind (D)
· 4th CD: Gwen Moore (D)
· 5th CD: F. James Sensenbrenner (R)
· 6th CD: Glenn Grothman (R)
· 7th CD: Sean Duffy (R)
· 8th CD: Reid Ribble (R)



· July 2013: Wood's 2001 DC inauguration trip turned into new career
· May 2013: Hard work propels Berens from Doyle to Pelosi to DGA
· March 2013: Riemann uses PR skills, 'lunch-pail work ethic' to boost state interests in D.C.
· Feb. 2013: Stocks seeks to remake NEA as 'more than a traditional labor union'
· Dec. 2012: As modest Kohl bids farewell to Senate, others do the bragging
· Dec. 2012: Wisconsin experience provides guideposts to Priebus at RNC


· May 2009
· June 2009
· July 2009
· August 2009
· September 2009
· October 2009
· November 2009
· December 2009
· January 2010
· February 2010
· March 2010
· April 2010
· May 2010
· June 2010
· July 2010
· August 2010
· September 2010
· October 2010
· November 2010
· December 2010
· January 2011
· February 2011
· March 2011
· April 2011
· May 2011
· June 2011
· July 2011
· August 2011
· September 2011
· October 2011
· November 2011
· December 2011
· January 2012
· February 2012
· March 2012
· April 2012
· May 2012
· June 2012
· July 2012
· August 2012
· September 2012
· October 2012
· November 2012
· December 2012
· January 2013
· February 2013
· March 2013
· April 2013
· May 2013
· June 2013
· July 2013
· August 2013
· September 2013
· October 2013
· November 2013
· December 2013
· January 2014
· February 2014
· March 2014
· April 2014
· May 2014
· June 2014
· July 2014
· August 2014
· September 2014
· October 2014
· November 2014
· December 2014
· January 2015
· February 2015
· March 2015
· April 2015
· May 2015
· June 2015
· July 2015
· September 2015
· October 2015
· November 2015
· December 2015
· January 2016
· February 2016
· March 2016
· April 2016
· May 2016
· June 2016
· July 2016
· August 2016
· September 2016
· October 2016
Copyright ©2012 WisPolitics.com All rights reserved. | WisOpinion.com | WisBusiness.com  |  Website development by wisnet.com LLC  | Website design by Makin’ Hey Communications