The Public Affairs Council (PAC) recently invited me to address a webinar audience about the best practices and purposes of auditing outside professionals.
While I happen to be one of those “outside professionals,” the role we play at Stateside often involves helping clients with creating Scopes of Work and annual Audits of client lobbyists, GROUPS memberships and trade associations.
More than any other, this IS the time of year in which state government relations (SGR) professionals often turn their attention to audits or similar, but less formal reviews. Legislative sessions have wound down and department budget submissions loom on the horizon. While now is the best time to AUDIT, adoption of the AUDIT DISCIPLINE should have occurred many months earlier.
I am a passionate devotee of Audits. Why? More than anything, because we are in a profession that defies quantitative measurement. Many aspects of the programs we build are subjective and incremental–not normative. We should crave the opportunity to measure what we CAN, both for our benefit as professionals and to help us explain what we do for the benefit of upper management, business partners, members and colleagues.
SGR professionals, as a group, do not adopt the Audit Discipline to the extent we should. Often, the reason is fear or insecurity. These SGR professionals do not know what to ask for outside the core project (“kill the bill”), they are unsure of how or what to measure or they simply fear what an audit might uncover.
Sometimes, state government relations professionals embrace the “no one is watching me” syndrome. Those individuals do not ensure that upper management or other internal customers know how well a successful SGR program serves company needs. That is a dangerous game because corporate mergers, downsizing, new CEO’s and other management changes can make an “invisible” SGR program disappear.
My presentation for the PAC webinar addressed:
- Disciplined Decisions
- Designing the Audit
- Communications Before, During and Following the Engagement
- Interim Reviews of Performance
- Rewards/Recognition and the Re-hire Decision
The Audit Discipline produces information you can use to measure and manage your partners, yields consistency in how you approach management which is especially valuable for larger programs and gives both you and the audit subjects a greater opportunity to learn from your partnership. With the median cost of a contract lobbyist now around $35,000 per year–maximizing the value (at least the known value) of this relationship is essential.
In designing the Scope of Work for your lobbyists (the basis of what will become the Audit template) go beyond the core goal and build in other expectations that can deliver added value. Here is an example of an anonymized, but real Scope of Work I developed with a client:
- ?Educates COMPANY executives, other COMPANY corporate executives and SUBDIV executives about government processes and players.
- ?Recommends strategies for COMPANY to build brand awareness among government officials in order to increase likelihood of success in sales.
- ?Proactively identifies potential opportunities to market and sell COMPANY products and services to government.
- ?Recommends key government players who should be targeted for outreach by COMPANY SLGA and SUBDIV executives.
- ?Provides access to key public officials to support branding, marketing and sales objectives.
- ?Helps SUBDIVs analyze and address obstacles with respect to marketing and sales activities.
- ?Actively supports 3-5 major sales opportunities per fiscal year.
- ?Represents COMPANY interests to government officials.
- ?Recommends appropriate political contributions to state and local officials.
- ?Complies with all state and local lobbying registration and ethics laws.
It is easy to see how performance against this list of expectations can be measured at the end of the contract term. When managing multiple-state lobbyists, it is also helpful for all of them to realize that they are being similarly evaluated.
This is not a “catch as catch can” process, it is disciplined, thoughtful and forward-looking.