Ethics in Lobbying: Why “Trust Me" Just Doesn’t Cut It
While the tired Hollywood trope of the shady beltway insider certainly sells a lot of movie tickets, in reality it could not be further from the truth. If there is one commodity that a successful government relations professional deals in, it is trust — from your clients and policy makers alike. If your partners and colleagues can’t take you at your word, no amount of access or connections can make up for it.

It should go without saying that you should never lie to a legislator. Even a seemingly innocuous omission can dig you a hole too deep to climb out of. Addressing objections from opponents can provide you a valuable opportunity to defend your position as well as reassure legislators that your organization has done its due diligence before your meeting. Gaining the support of an elected official is often about providing them the political cover to make the right decision. Knowing all of the facts going in will make them more comfortable in that decision.

Equally as invaluable is the trust your clients place in you. The whole purpose in hiring a lobbyist is to represent the interests of your association in front of policy makers, while your board and individual members tend to their other responsibilities. So maintaining an open and candid flow of information between your clients is crucial in building this trust. That can often mean delivering a frank assessment of the “facts on the ground” in the legislature without sugar coating. Telling someone that their bill is dead in the water may be uncomfortable in the moment, but it prevents a feeling of being blindsided later on.

While the machinations of the characters on “House of Cards” make for more entertaining drama, a truly effective government affairs professional acts with integrity and an openness that leaves little room for surprises. Endeavor to act with honesty and your outcomes will be much more predictable, and successful.

The Importance of Music Licensing
They say that music soothes the savage beast. Now, we aren’t saying our convention attendees are beasts – but music does add to the overall meeting experience. If you are playing music at your convention, you will need public performance rights. However, your convention manager would go insane trying to obtain public performance rights from every label and publisher. Simplifying the process are two organizations — ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated). Each one managesa catalog of more than 4,000,000 songs.

An association can purchase licenses from ASCAP and BMI for conventions and meetings to broadcast music. The fee is based upon the number of attendees and is paid annually. A report of events held is required to be filed so that the fee can be calculated. The fees are not terribly expensive, i.e., for a meeting of 500 attendees, the cost is approximately $200.

Do you have to obtain these licenses? You certainly don’t. You can obtain music that is produced specifically for meetings and events that are not included in these two organizations’ licenses. However, the music is not easily recognizable and is often similar to elevator music. But if you plan to use popular music by famous artists, you will need to obtain the licenses to avoid paying stiff penalties if you are caught playing music without a license. So, why take the risk? Spend a few hundred dollars to protect your organization and comply with the law, and have happy, rocking attendees!

Member Resources Add Value to Your Association
What do potential members look for when joining an association? Along with continuing education and networking opportunities, your audience is often seeking specific resources to assist them in their professional development. Associations are in a great position to provide resources that advance the skill set of their members.

Association leadership should assess the current needs of their members, and see if the association can pool their resources and knowledge to address those needs. Agentis has worked with a client to develop a collection of study materials for a new certification course. Members assisted with compiling a study guide book, and a series of recorded webinars that cover the information in each section of the course. Association leadership also assisted in teaching live seminar courses to help prepare their members in taking the certification course.

The project was a win-win for the association. By offering the materials for a fee, revenue was generated for the association. New prospective members accessed the course materials and later became members of the association. And, most importantly, the need for study materials for an important certification exam was fulfilled by the association. This not only serves the needs of the membership, but also increases the recognition of the association as an expert source.

Why Student Membership is Vital to an Association’s Future Success
It’s no secret that students and young professionals are the future of any association. All professional associations must continually attract new recruits in order to cultivate the next generation of leaders.

Increasing student membership in the ranks of your association is a win-win for both the association and the student. For students, the experience provides them with an excellent opportunity to network with professionals in their future field, especially if the association offers a mentoring program. Mentoring provides students with invaluable benefits that they will use throughout their careers. In today’s competitive work environment, networking is imperative to landing a job in your field after graduation. Student members also have access to resources and networking opportunities that can help them as they begin their professional careers. The quality of these resources will ensure that students continue on as full-time members after graduation.

For associations, student membership programs provide early access to future leaders. Also, many associations are dealing with declining membership, and student outreach is a great way to counter this trend. Student members can also assist in identifying needed resources for the association that are desirable for both students and other members.