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Our Programs Module 7

Module 7: Top Tips


  • Plan your lobbying strategically – including a mix of different ways of lobbying using a range of communications
  • Develop a clear understanding of legislative processes
  • Pay attention to timing
  • Focus for maximum impact
  • Be clear about your primary ‘ask’
  • Demonstrate both the problem and possible solutions
  • Develop the most effective arguments to use, based on your assessment of what will influence your target
  • Work on gaining policy influence – building your support base and weakening opposition
  • There is further advice on effective communications in Module 6 on ‘Media and Communications’.

Further Resources



World Animal Net (WAN) Animal Protection Society Resources: Lobbying

Policy Engagement: How Civil Society Can be More Effective

Charity Lobbying in the Public Interest

The Democracy Centre – Free Advocacy Materials

Tips on Political Lobbying


Politico's Guide to Political Lobbying
By: Charles Miller
Publisher: Politico's Publishing
ISBN: 1902301250

The Nonprofit Lobbying Guide: Advocating Your Cause-and Getting Results
By: Smucker
Publisher: Jossey Bass Wiley
ISBN: 1555423744

So You Want to Be a Lobbyist? Guide to the World of Political Lobbying
By: Corinne Souza, Iain Dale
Publisher: Politico's Publishing
ISBN: 1902301005

Amnesty International Handbook
Publisher: Amnesty International UK
ISBN: 0862102057

European Lobbying Guide: A Guide on Whom and How to Lobby
By: Bryan Cassidy
Publisher: Thorogood
ISBN: 1854181440

Timing and Focus


Timing is a vital element of lobbying strategy. Key questions include:

  • What is the timing for the legislative process?
  • Committee dates?
  • Meetings when decisions are taken?
  • Elections might mess up the schedule, or be an opportunity?
  • Government sittings/sessions?
  • Recesses and holidays?

You also need to focus for maximum impact. This means having just one agreed priority at any time (which should take most of your time and effort).

The Lobbyist


The lobbyist needs to:

  • Know the issue well
  • Know the political context (structures, processes and systems)
  • Have good interpersonal and communication skills

A lobbyist should also have the right attitude:

  • Unswerving belief in your cause
  • Loyalty to your organization or coalition/alliance
  • Optimism and perseverance
  • Always be a tough opponent – you will not be respected for giving in too readily!
  • Persuasive, not argumentative
  • Understand opponents’ views and position, but don’t be won over!
  • Never concede anything too early in negotiations

Lobbying is a combination of psychology and legal/political knowledge. You need to know the legislation and the policy context. But equally important is to know the people involved – both their positions and power bases, and their personal attributes.

Advocacy Tool

Tool 37. Top Tips for Lobbying
This tool contains advice on effective lobbying.

Lobbying Errors

Some corporate lobbyists have given lobbying a bad reputation. They take any opportunity to speak to the media, and get ‘profile’ even if they do not know the real facts. They like to spend time with major ‘figureheads’, and like to ‘wine and dine’. But often they do not know the policy issue in any depth.

There are three main errors in NGO lobbying:

  • 'Speak First, Think Later'
  • Knowing 'People in High Places'
  • 'Eating Your Way Out of Trouble
Charles Miller of Charles Miller Associates

We believe that effective lobbying for animal welfare NGOs is not about status and influence: it is about changing the ‘hearts and minds’ of policy makers – using information, communication, public pressure and engagement - to benefit animal welfare.

Charles Miller’s observation highlights the need for research – and this would include not only the issue in question, but also political structures, processes and systems.

Gathering Support and Neutralizing Opposition


Build Your Support Base
Neutralize Your Opposition
Use Effective Arguments
Understanding and Exploiting Weaknesses
Understand and Counter Prejudices


Two tried and tested ways of gaining policy influence are to:

  • Build up your support base - gather allies
  • Neutralize your opposition - weaken your opposition (strategically or tactically)

Advocacy Tool

Tool 9. Force Field Analysis
Use this tool to map the strengths of the actors who support change, and those who resist change.

Build Your Support Base

Formal linkages with other organizations (coalitions, networks and alliances) are dealt with in Module 4 – Networking & Alliances - but this is not the only way to increase your support base. Other options are to:

  • Obtain messages of support from influential organizations and individuals
  • Persuade other organizations and influential individuals to take on board your issue (even if this is not their primary issue, and they are not interested in joint advocacy)
  • Persuade donors (or international organizations) to raise your issue in negotiations with decision makers

It is often easier to obtain this sort of support if your issue is high profile or popular. Media coverage can raise its profile, and thus its support base. Celebrities and high profile individuals can be keen to be associated with the ‘issues of the day’, as this will help their popularity.

Networks and alliances are usually formed from like-minded organizations, but unusual allies can also be useful to an advocacy campaign. Whilst motivations for support may differ, it will help your cause if more organizations are pressing for the same outcomes. For example, national slaughterhouses may support a campaign to ban the export of live animals. Think outside the box when considering potential allies – but beware of any potential risk to your reputation through ‘unholy alliances’.

Neutralize Your Opposition

As regards neutralizing your opposition, this entails knowing them well, in particular: their beliefs, motivations, weaknesses and limitations. You can neutralize by:

  • Exposing falsehoods (destroying arguments)
  • Refuting their points (answering arguments)

Both of these can be done verbally or practically (e.g. by using pilot studies).

You can also make the opposition a target of your advocacy, trying to convert them to your solutions.

Use Effective Arguments

A range of arguments can be used in support of different issues e.g.:

  • Altruistic: For the sake of those affected
  • Moral/ethical: It is morally right
  • International acceptance: As above, but playing on a country's desire for international acceptance and regard (particularly useful when there are international conventions or standards)
  • Democracy: The 'people want it'
  • Protecting the country's 'heritage': For example, as regards the protection of indigenous animals, or their habitats
  • Social/humanistic: Failure to act could have an adverse impact upon society, sectors of society, or the country’s individuals
  • Public health: protecting public or animal health
  • Ownership/responsibility: Encouraging responsibility
  • Economic: Economic costs of inaction

NB. It is often the case that whilst the higher arguments hold more moral force, the lower arguments hold more sway (as they directly affect vested interests). Influence can be gained through understanding these different arguments, and being able to use them effectively.

Understanding and Exploiting Weaknesses

When you research your targets and opposition you will come across weaknesses (personal or role) that can be strategically exploited in order to gain influence. These might include:

  • Elected politicians – Ego and vanity (play on their desire for profile, publicity and votes)
  • Politicians aides – Intrigue and influence (use their skill at politics and influencing)
  • Bureaucrats – Lethargy/laziness (use their desire to save work and effort)
  • Opposition – The ‘ethical watchdog’ (use their role of watching and exposing government)

Of course, these are simple generalizations. It is always preferable to know individuals, rather than making broad assumptions.

As far as political influence is concerned, remember that election time is ‘crazy season’! Prospective politicians will agree to much more, if they feel it will be beneficial to their election campaign. But consider very carefully before you make deals with politicians. You need to be committed to your cause for the long-term, and with credibility. You will need to be sure that any short-term deals do not bring risks to your work.

Understand and Counter Prejudices

You will come across various prejudices as you try to influence others on your issue. These may include the following:

  • Your issue seen as marginal issue
  • Your issue seen as low priority (to be tackled ‘later’)
  • Your issue seen as a luxury consideration

Possible ways to overcome/answer these prejudices are:

  • Opinion surveys (polls) to demonstrate popular support
  • Show that the situation can improve without substantial cost
  • Show the potential costs of inactivity
  • Refer to neighboring countries where the issue has been addressed – use national pride (‘Our country is lagging behind’)

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