Sheila Tate, president of Powell Tate, said she was aware of the "sacred" division of editorial and business functions at newspapers, and noted that the people publishers talk to on the Hill are aware of that, as well.
"You really are the quintessential small business, a status that bestows near-sainthood these days," Tate told those at the recent National Newspaper Association's government affairs conference in Washington.
While letters and phone calls to legislators are effective, Tate said there is nothing comparable to demonstrating one's commitment as "walking in that door."
The most important thing when lobbying is the message, according to Powell Tate vice president Judy Leon, who called it "the heart of almost everything we do."
In crafting the message, which should contain no more than three main points, Leon explained that you should ask what you want to leave that legislator [or aide] with when you leave.
It is also important to "assume no knowledge," she said, adding that you should explain what is at issue and why it is important to you and to the state or district.
Leon also urged people to stay "on message," and to employ "message discipline" by getting back to the message "no matter what."
"This opportunity is not a conversation. It's not a casual give-and-take," she explained. "In a very short period of time, you need to hit your points."
One tool for getting back on message is a statement called "the bridge," which Leon described as a "transitional tool to get you from where you are to where you want to be to deliver those messages."
Since among Powell Tate's offerings are training sessions for people who are going to be dealing with the media, a questioner wondered what they tell them about the press.
Using a lot of video, Tate said she tries to show some of the classic techniques used by reporters, such as "the interrupter," who she described as Sam Donaldson, and "the best friend," a technique she said she was constantly sucked into when she was a press officer at the White House.
Leon, a former reporter, said she tries to educate people about the news-gathering process and to prepare them for questions that likely will be asked.
She maintained that such training actually does the media a service, since the person involved is prepared for the interview.
"When your reporters talk to them, it is a better story," Leon said.
"It is not a level playing field, because the reporter has the advantage in shaping the story. People deserve a chance to level it and get their message across," Leon remarked.
By: DEBRA GERSH HERNANDEZ LOBBYING IS CRUCIAL to the continued economic well-being of the newspaper industry, according to the president of a public affairs firm that trains people to do just that.