The business of lobbying certainly got its start long before the word “lobbyist” was coined in Washington’s Willard Hotel from cantankerous old men waiting around the historic, posh hotel’s lobby, waiting to jump on a politician returning from Capitol Hill to buy him a drink and bend his ear on the latest issue of importance. But, the practice today is better regulated—lobbyists are now registered—but the importance of the task is still the measure of how business gets done in Washington and any little town in the country. It is the business operator’s way of getting the power brokers and decision makers’ attention and “educating” them to the real world.
More than two dozen attendees to PCIA’s Wireless Infrastructure Show in Dallas chose to forego happy hour and instead “listen and learn” and “learn from the best” in how to take their messages to policy makers in their hometowns, governments and industries.
Former PCIA lobbyist and veteran Capitol Hill arm-twister Matt Mandel moderated a program, “Lobbying 1010,” that re-enforced “Why is lobbying important.” He reminded the audience of the old Washington saying, “If you’re not at the table, then you’re on the menu.” Issues of national, personaland business interests are at stake, he said. And, they are.
Roger Hughlett, a seasoned newspaperman who earlier this year left the ink business to become communications director at PCIA, stressed the importance of building a relationship with the people you are lobbying. “You want to be more than a source, you want to be a resource.” Clearly he is a quick study and has been charming reporters for years. But, perhaps the most startling—and funny—take of the late afternoon session came from Roxanne Gould, president of Gould Government Relations, based in Sacramento, CA. “Never talk politics with policy,” she advised, a mistake too-often made when the lobbyist has enjoyed too many cocktails or just gotten too comfortable with the mission. “You never know when someone is wearing a wire!”
She was sitting next to Hughlett, who was visibly entertained by the colleague’s take. Even for a jaded ink stain, he seemed to be was caught off guard and was giggling. But the trouble is, after considering the possibility, many realized that Gould’s warning was valuable, and maybe on target.