Fact: Becoming a successful lobbyist takes years of cultivating contacts on Capitol Hill, donating money to Members coffers and learning the ins and outs of policy.
Or does it?
Lobbyist Elvis Oxley, the son of former Rep. Mike Oxley (R-Ohio), and a team from Villanova Universitys School of Business have put together a series for the do-it- yourselfers out there.
They are launching insidelobbying.com, a Web site with five short YouTube videos (complete with an electronic, elevator jazz-style theme song) and tips for anyone who wants to take on a meeting with a Member of Congress.
The site is for all folks who want to be more effective with their fly-ins in Washington, said Oxley, president of Oxley Consulting. What we really wanted to do is express what we know about lobbying to folks outside the Beltway.
Ive seen it time and time again, as a lobbyist, he said. Youve got multimillion, multibillion-dollar CEOs who are excellent at what they do, but they get to D.C. and they are just so lost here. Its a different set of rules. They need help.
Oxley narrates many of the videos, which include tips from longtime K Streeters, Members and Congressional staffers.
Do not try to impress the Member with how important you are, warns Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) in one video segment. Jeff Skilling, who was at the time the president of Enron, came into my office and proceeded to tell me how to run my subcommittee and how important he was and Id better do what he told me to do.
He was asked to leave fairly emphatically and was never invited back. You know what later happened to him, Barton added. (Skilling is in prison for multiple felonies related to the companys collapse.)
Many of the other tips are along the lines of Lobbying 101: Make your ask during the meeting with Members or staff, follow up, bring along a pile of letters to show support.
John Kozup, associate professor and founding director of Villanovas Center for Marketing and Public Policy Research, said he got involved with Oxley to try to make the students more valued and recognized in Washington policy circles and to give the students, who produced the videos, hands-on experience.
We see a few audiences that can benefit from this: consumers and small- to medium-sized businesses, he said.
Oxley is hoping to get future clients from the sites traffic as well as potential advertising revenue.
Weve created a model here that is something free to consumers that they can educate themselves with and be far more effective in Washington, Oxley said. Some will go so far as to take that next step and join a trade association or hire a registered lobbyist.
Oxley said he came up with the idea after reading a story in Inc. magazine about a modeling agency that saw its bookings increase after producing short videos.
Shortly after that, he was leading a chief executive officer for a fly-in lobbying day. I said, I need to put those two ideas together. Why not help the common man? he said.
One of his video tips suggests that companies or groups reserve a Capitol Hill room, such as Rayburn House Office Buildings Gold Room or Cannon House Office Buildings Caucus Room, to launch a new product or issue a new research paper.
Folks dont even know about the underground passages between Rayburn and Longworth and spend a lot of extra time going through security twice, Oxley said of the House office buildings. There really isnt anything like this on YouTube already.
Other Members he enlisted include Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), while the K Streeters include Bob Rusbuldt of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America who notes that In essence, everybody in the United States is a lobbyist.
Bill Tighe, chief of staff for Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.), weighed in, saying he likes to meet with really well-prepared constituents who know what the issue is that theyre talking about and not just being led directly by lobbyists or association professionals.
He added, If you know the staff, you have an instant line really to the Members.
Those connections are, it turns out, pretty crucial. Members of Congress are people, too, Barton said in one video clip. We relate better to people that we know. And we relate much better to people we know and like.