By Charlene Komar Storey, Editor-in-Chief
Politics are always with us, but 2012 will see a frenzy of electioneering. The presidential race has been under way for some time, with a Republican candidate finally chosen after others went from the top of the polls to “what was his name again?” And that’s barely the beginning. With November 6 still far away, few other contests have drawn much general attention, but that will change swiftly.
The entire United States House of Representatives is up for election this year, and candidates will battle for 33 Senate seats. On the state level, there are 11 gubernatorial races, and a plethora of legislative seats will be up for grabs. Many more elections will generate heat on the local level. And although no other race is as sexy as that for the presidency, all of these elections will be important.
That means opportunity — and work — for savvy pawnbrokers. Although getting the industry message across is always vital, an election year means there are even more politicians to reach. Elected officials must be contacted, but opponents also need to be made aware of the industry’s issues and concerns.
“In this day and age, it’s essential to be politically involved,” says Robert Lambert, lobbyist for the Ohio Pawnbrokers Association. “It’s just as essential as having money on the street.”
The greatest need is to educate regulators, elected officials and other decision-makers, Lambert says. This is especially true in states and cities with term limits, where new people are always appearing who know little or nothing about pawnbroking. “The last thing they’re thinking about is the pawn industry,” Lambert points out.
Professional lobbyists employed by industry associations are important when it comes to meeting this challenge. More influential yet are top corporate officers. But the stars of the advocacy effort often are store managers and customers. They’re perceived as real people — the kind politicians don’t see enough of.
Business owners, managers and, increasingly, customers can play different roles in different configurations.
But Lambert says the best way to reach and educate decision-makers is.
“Invite them to your store,” he says. “Let them see your operation.” The perception is that pawn operations are dingy and grungy. “That’s not the case. Show that that it’s just another industry,” Lambert says.
It also allows your guest to get to know you, meet your customers, and be educated about how your operation works — and how regulated you are.
If you can’t get a public official to your store, you can make an appointment at local offices. That’s not ideal, says Lambert, because time is usually limited when the lawmaker or staffer has a series of meeting scheduled, but it’s better than nothing.