Study: A Who’s Who of Advocacy Effectiveness

Being an effective public policy advocate involves more than having a unified voice and a well-tuned grassroots campaign, according to a new survey of trade associations in Washington, DC.

How does an association ensure that policy leaders, members, and other key audiences perceive the organization as a prominent voice for the industry, one that can effectively lobby for its interests?

A new study produced by APCO Insight, the National Journal, and EurActiv looked to answer that question by asking 456 policymakers in Washington, DC, to evaluate 50 associations across a variety of characteristics. The associations were then ranked for overall lobbying effectiveness based on how they scored in each of the 15 traits.

“This is the first study to ever tackle the question of association effectiveness with a formal, systematic, and objective approach to pinpoint the specific characteristics that define public policy effectiveness among Washington, DC, policy leaders,” APCO President Bryan Dumont said in a statement. “In addition, the TradeMarks model [used to rank the associations] provides an actionable roadmap showing associations how they can increase their perceived effectiveness and achieve their desired policy outcomes.”

Two sectors that scored high in the study were healthcare and telecommunications—two industries that have been extremely active on the Hill recently.

An infographic summarizing the results of the study shows which trade associations scored highest and which industries performed best and worst in each characteristic. The characteristics are listed in order of impact.

Although the study identifies lobbying as the most important function, “our research shows that effective trade associations need to serve many other functions … in order to be seen as effective public policy advocates,” Bill Dalbec, senior director at APCO Insight, said in the statement. “Lobbying only represents about 11 percent of what it means for a Washington, DC, trade association to be deemed effective. The ability to effectively work with stakeholders … and to have an impact beyond Washington, DC, and make a difference at the state and local levels are absolutely critical for trade associations to be seen as effective in the minds of policymakers.”

Dalbec suggested that organizations would be better served focusing on strategic characteristics like relationship-building and helping to protect and enhance the reputation of the industry if they wish to improve their public policy effectiveness.

“Tactical elements tend to have less impact,” he said. “With this analysis, we can show associations that if they make strategic decisions about where they focus their efforts, they will see tangible effects and greater effectiveness for their members overall.”


Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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