In order to prosper well in the 21st century, and seize the benefits and mitigate the dangers presented by globalization, it is imperative for companies to expand internationally. But to do so, it is essential that elected officials do not craft protectionist policies, but instead, pass pro-globalist and trade liberalizing legislation that further opens foreign markets. In order to achieve this, businesses must better educate policymakers on today’s global economic realities.

An effective means to achieve this is through the building and managing of grassroots coalitions. To succeed, these coalitions must be well organized, and if possible, able to permanently operate on a national level. When selecting grassroots coalition participants, include employees who share common beliefs and interests. And remember, it is important to include other companies and their employees, as well as influential members of the business community who represent sizable employment. But to achieve a truly broad-based coalition, you must include opinion leaders, political contributors, academics, students, business associations and other organizations who understand the importance of trade and globalization.

To win each policymaker’s support, it is important to:

  • Publish compelling position papers that support your positions;
  • Coordinate meetings between policymakers and coalition members to discuss the positions and the impact on local companies, employees and communities;
  • Encourage coalition members to submit op-eds to local newspapers that explain the importance of the positions, and recognize the efforts of policymakers who already have supported them;
  • Encourage coalition members to attend newspaper editorial board meetings to explain the positions;
  • Generate letter-writing campaigns to encourage policymakers to advance the positions or to thank those who have already supported them;
  • Obtain quotes from coalition members expressing the importance of the positions to their companies and workers, and in turn, provide them to policymakers and/or include them in op-eds;
  • Educate newspaper reporters on your position in an attempt to generate positive or balanced articles; and
  • Sponsor educational events that promote the positions.

To ensure success, it is important to provide members of the coalition with talking points, as well as sample drafts of op-eds and “Dear Member of Congress” letters. And in order to get all boats moving upstream together, it is vital to compromise when necessary, focusing on common interests while setting aside differences.

Focus on Congressional Districts

Organizations that advocate anti-globalist policies are gaining strength. And during periods of poor economic growth characterized by rising unemployment, labor unions and other organizations put even greater pressure on Congress to protect poor performing industries. Unfortunately, although well intentioned, this pressure can result in anti-globalist positions that end in fewer, not more American jobs. National coalitions that counter these trends by advocating pro-globalist positions at the Congressional district level are increasingly necessary. Interestingly, national coalitions that operate at the district level also are becoming more effective and have a significant collective impact on the positions of Members of Congress.

As this occurs, the effectiveness of Washington, D.C.-based lobbyists may be declining. Why? Inside the D.C. beltway tens of thousands of lobbyists compete for the attention of policy makers. Distinguishing their messages and the degree of importance each one has on constituents back home is increasingly difficult for policymakers. In turn, D.C.-based lobbyists are finding it harder to acquire the attention of politicians.

For these and other reasons, messages initiated from districts that are championed by political supporters and friends of the policymaker, as well as local employers, are becoming increasingly potent. In turn, Members of Congress appear to be paying greater attention to the positions expressed by their constituents. But this is no surprise. Since “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” labor unions and other groups with anti-globalist agendas are increasingly establishing permanent field teams at the district level to engage in this more “retail” method of advancing political agendas. This personal style of advocacy has grown more practical over the years as Members of Congress seek to have expanded input from their districts rather than rely on “inside the beltway” sources.

Small and medium-size companies, which are impacted by anti-globalist policies, often want to tell their stories to policymakers and the media. But since many small and medium-size company executives wear several hats, little time and few resources are available to devote to issue management or advocacy. As a result, the need for big business or business organizations to build, manage, educate and lead coalitions composed of small businesses, as well as others, is very important.

Experience from the Field

Over the last dozen years or so, this author has managed numerous coalitions, including those established to support passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the GATT Uruguay Round Agreements, Fast Track Negotiating Authority, China Most Favored Nation trade status (MFN), China Normal Trade Relations status (NTR), China Permanent Normal Trade Relations status (PNTR), and Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). In the end, the Congressional votes needed were obtained. But it was not easy. It was partly accomplished by educating thousands of members of the business community and other publics as to the benefits of international trade to their companies, employees and communities. In turn, through phone calls and letters sent to Members of Congress, meetings with policymakers and their staffs, op-eds placed in local newspapers, favorable or balanced articles written by reporters, editorial endorsements from editorial-page editors, and countless radio shows, etc., our coalitions confidently expressed their support for the legislation we were seeking.

The result: during a 10 month period, our national media campaign designed to support a particular bill in Congress resulted in 75 op-eds placed, 24 Letters to the Editor placed, 64 editorial board meetings, 56 public/media events, and 25 articles crediting our organization. In addition, during this period our coalition also achieved 384 face-to-face meetings with Members of Congress, 178 face-to-face meetings with Congressional staffers, 30 public forum questions asked, 5,245 letters and faxes sent to Members of Congress, 544 e-mails sent to Members of Congress, 230 phone calls made to Members of Congress, and 745 phone calls made to Congressional staffers.

Additionally, our national coalition distributed 69,411 reports, and worked with the business community to place 84 articles in association mailings and 25 articles in employee newsletters. Our impact was broad and our messages reached numerous policy makers at critical stages in the legislative process. The efforts of our coalition during this campaign resulted in passage of the legislation in the House of Representatives by a margin of almost 55 percent.

Of the 124 Members of Congress targeted by our coalition, 81 voted favorably. This represented 65 percent of Members targeted—a 20 percent higher approval rate over the House vote. And those were among the more difficult legislators to persuade. Of the 57 Republicans targeted, 48 favored the legislation. This represented 84 percent of Republicans targeted. Of the 67 Democrats targeted, 33 favored the legislation. This represented 49 percent. From its modest beginnings in a handful of states, our coalition expanded to include more than two dozen states, and it reached 329 House districts and 50 United States Senators. This represented 76 percent of House Members and 50 percent of Senators.

This section appeared in Part II: Tips and Strategies for Communicating Responses of the book Grasping Globalization: Its Impact and Your Corporate Response, 2005.

John Manzella
About The Author John Manzella [Full Bio]
John Manzella, founder of the, is a world-recognized speaker, author and an international columnist on global business, trade policy, labor, and economic trends. His latest book is Global America: Understanding Global and Economic Trends and How To Ensure Competitiveness.

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