Think of how the world of government contracting works. Companies hire lobbyists to help them promote their products or services. Lobbyists then pick up the phone and request meetings, with the call going something like this: “Meet with my client who has a great product that can help your agency accomplish a specific goal.” It’s a tactical effort that is really focused on the ‘push.’
In contrast, branding is a ‘pull’ strategy. Branding is an expression of a company’s value proposition. It communicates characteristics and attributes – what the company stands for, how the company behaves, who the company hires. It encompasses the components that government officials will remember long after the meeting your lobbyist sets up. And, a brand’s image and presence is what makes government officials want to meet with companies in the first place.
When you think about the government market, it makes sense. Government by its nature is risk-averse. The last thing an agency wants to do is end up on the front page of the newspaper for failing to fulfill its mission to the taxpayers. And, certainly no agency director wants to report negative publicity to the governor’s administration. As a result, government officials are looking for companies they can trust to do the right thing and be a true partner – in other words, they’re seeking to work with only the most solid brands.
This means that finding a lobbyist who understands branding is critical. The lobbyist should be able to help its client understand brand perception, including whether the government believes the company has delivered on its promise. For example, did the company quickly remedy errors in its software application without requesting change orders? Did it continue to uphold the quality standards it’s known for? Is the company always ready to chip in when something goes wrong, whether or not it’s the company’s fault?
It is equally important to work with a lobbyist that takes an interest in developing and preserving your company’s brand. An effective lobbyist should be as much a business advisor who provides coaching on how to create value propositions, unlock opportunities and amplify your company’s integrity and collaborative approach in the government sector.
Finally, it goes without saying that a lobbyist is also an extension of your brand. Remember, your lobbyist is the keeper of the relationship that you want to cultivate. Does he resort to criticism and threats when an agency does not purchase his client’s products or services? Does her persistence drive officials away rather than draw them in? Every action and every request has the effect of either inspiring or deterring brand loyalty – and ultimately your sales.
Finding a lobbyist who understands branding and how to build a loyal government following is what companies need. Simply requesting a meeting may get your foot in the door, but branding is what gets you loyal government customers who ultimately even advocate for you.