Alum addresses students about lobbying

Written by Muleskinner Staff

Story by NICOLE COOKE, Copy Editor—
The newly recreated UCM chapter of International Association of Business Communicators hosted a speaker Thursday, Nov. 29 in Union 304.
Phil Wright, a political consultant for Madsen and Wright, is a lobbyist for UCM in Jefferson City.
He spoke to students about communication and government, and how business communi-cation and government communication collide.
Wright’s career has come full circle, as he graduated from CMSU in 1990 with a degree in business management.
During his last semester, Wright went to several organizations and companies to find an internship to fill his last credit hour requirement.
He met with the assistant to Ed Elliott, the president at the time, who suggested he take an internship in Jefferson City.
He ended up landing a political internship, which led him to volunteering for Lt. Governor Mel Carnahan’s campaign.
He put up posters, went to events, and completed other small tasks. His volunteer work led him to a position as Carnahan’s field director in June 1990.
“A lot of people thought it was weird that I was going into politics without a political science degree,” Wright said. “But it ends up that there is a lot of overlap and a lot of interconnected pieces and parts to it.”
The night began with a social hour, which gave students the opportunity to network with each other, as well as network with Wright.
He made the effort to introduce himself to students and shake their hand as each student came in the room.
The Susan G. Komen and Planned Parenthood case study was the focus of Wright’s presentation, which highlights the importance of good business communication.
“They forgot what their mission was,” Wright said. “They got sucked in and it was naive that they got sucked into politics and they forgot their mission. That mission was helping to provide funding to organizations that provide cancer screenings.”
Wright described being a lobbyist as being similar to an attorney representing a client.
The legislative season is from January to May, although bills start to be filed in December.
There isn’t any formal training to be a lobbyist, but there are a few key skills a lobbyist needs to have.
“The main thing is being able to network and meet people, and being able to study the main issues quickly,” Wright said.
Wright said that he enjoys working with UCM because it is a “fun client and it’s never dull.”
He lobbies for many issues for UCM, such as more training for teachers and concern for technology and library science.
He said that a major issue for UCM is autistic students.
The University of Missouri does a lot of research on autism, while UCM’s role is the applied study.
Because of this, he works closely with MU as well.
Along with the big issues, Wright also works on appropriations for universities and other issues.
He said an obstacle is the wide range of legislators that he works with.
Some are just starting out, and some are about to retire. He said that you have to work with their school experience.
“Some people think that public education is a bad thing and we’re just trying to get people’s money,” Wright said. “It’s my job to help educate them about public education. UCM is bringing other campuses in Missouri along with it, by doing things like the innovation campus in Lee’s Summit and doing everything we can to put the focus back on students.”
Wright left the students in attendance with this advice.
“Don’t let someone else drive you off course,” Wright said. “You may end up losing your job over it. It’s OK to lose a job, but don’t lose your integrity, and don’t lose your honor. Once you’ve sold it, it’ll be easier next time and you’ll never get it back.”
Mary Kate Kelly, president of IABC, said that she thought the presentation brought new and valuable insight to students in attendance.
“Having speakers like this reinforces the value of communicating with someone other than the professors and students we see everyday because he offers a different insight to the concepts and theories that we study,” Kelly said. “As students we get burnt out sometimes with so many papers, but this makes it more real and more important.”
Next semester, IABC will meet every other Wednesday at 6 p.m., beginning Jan. 16. Anyone is invited to attend.
For more information about IABC, contact professor Pam Glasnapp at [email protected].