Grassroots lobbying: The need-to-know points
It’s something that’s arguably gathered more traction over recent years, with technology and use of the internet certainly aiding this. Grassroots lobbying is something that can make or shape certain legislation although despite its power, only a small proportion of people seem to realize how it works.
There’s no doubt that the likes of Jack Bonner and his talks have aided understanding, but in general there is a lot of explaining required behind this form of lobbying. Therefore, we’ll now take a look at the subject in-detail and explain the ins and outs on how it can affect legislation.
In a nutshell, what is grassroots lobbying?
As you might expect from a technique which can effectively shape the way the country is run, one could probably pen a dissertation on just how grassroots lobbying functions in full.
For the purposes of simplicity, we’ll break it down though. It’s something that will raise public awareness of a topic in a bid to pressure a change in legislation. However, it’s not necessarily a “group of people coming together”, there are far more rules behind this form of lobbying which we will come onto later.
The big difference between this and other types of lobbying is that it will tend to target politics in smaller communities, which can be influenced a little more efficiently. Lobby is an increasingly accepted and incorporated into every day and business language of the civil, political term. The word lobby comes from the English “corridor or lobby”; but politically has a very specific meaning: it refers to the corridors of Parliament and the government, where the lobbies develop much of their functions.
Normally, the lobby is presented as a purely technical organization that leases its services to any interested party to intervene near the administrators of government power.
That is why the public relations professionals are challenged to develop communication plans to help the exercise of lobbying based on research, strategy and evaluation.
What are the primary tactics used?
As you may expect, the media play a huge role in grassroots lobbying. Without them, a campaign is unlikely to gather sufficient traction that will result in the change to legislation. Therefore, whether it’s in print or on the television, groups will attempt to leverage it to their advantage wherever possible. Of course, on some occasions budgets will mean that some forms of media can’t be turned to, but there are still free options which can be explored and have historically made a difference. Examples of these could be anything from demonstrations to boycotts.
As well as traditional media, we should also give a mention to social media. This should go without saying; it’s one of the easiest ways to target people. While paid social media advertising can work wonders due to the exact demographic targeting, if we return to the topic of free campaigns this is a method that can still be hugely successful as well.
What are the regulations that cover it?
As we’ve already explained, grassroots lobbying is governed by some laws and is not a case of a group simply coming together to attempt to influence change.
However, from a federal perspective there aren’t any regulations. Instead, it comes in the form of state law, with no fewer than 36 different states having their own regulations. Usually, these regulations expect disclosure reports to be submitted, with states having various requirements for the content of these reports. On some occasion it might simply be a registration document, while on others it might involve expenses and other complex issues. In the case of the latter, some states have criminal fines if the regulations are ignored – so it can be a very serious subject.