Job Rates Catalyst for New Interest on Capitol Hill

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The industry's high employment figures sparked an overwhelming reception by lawmakers on Capitol Hill during recent lobbying efforts by telemarketers.


Spouting impressive job rates, attendees to the American Telemarketing Association's 11th Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, last month were given the red carpet treatment in their 130 visits with congressional leaders. Some lawmakers even promised to visit call centers in their district.


"Legislators are starting to realize just how many employees they have in their state," said Mary Weyand, president-elect of the ATA, and president and owner of TMW Marketing, Fullerton, CA.


Telemarketing is the leader of the direct marketing labor force, creating 8.3 million jobs annually, representing 36.4 percent of all direct marketing employees in the U.S. "These are huge numbers," said Weyand.


Rep. Michael Castle's office was particularly attentive to the employment estimates in his state of Delaware. Angela Campbell Goodhart, Castle's senior legislative assistant, showed surprise at the high numbers of direct marketers working in the industry, according to Steve Fagan, vice president, sales and marketing, Impact Telemarketing Group Inc., Woodbury, NJ.


"Her eyes bugged out when she heard the employment numbers," Fagan said. There are 85,000 direct marketing jobs and 19,000 telemarketing jobs in Delaware, which has a population of almost 725,000. Growth in employment in direct marketing is expected to reach 105,000 by 2000.


Steve Brubaker, senior vice president, telemarketing operations, InfoCision Management Corp., Akron, OH, was asked several times by Reps. Thomas C. Sawyer and James A. Traficant, Ohio, "What can we do for you?" That's a big statement of support, according to Washington insider Powell Moore, senior principal and marketing director, Capitoline-MSL.


Legislators also were impressed by the number of major companies conducting telemarketing, said Brubaker, whose meeting with Sawyer last 40 minutes.


Besides discussing InfoCision and the nearly 1,000 people it employs in his district, Sawyer wanted to know how many other teleservices companies are in his district and how vast the industry is, said Brubaker. Apparently pleased with the numbers, the congressional office's parting gift to the company was the state flag.


The Holy Grail for the telemarketers, however, was a commitment from a legislator to visit their company's call center. Commitments reached the highest point this year, with over 20 reported.


An agreement to visit a site allows telemarketers to present their side of the story.


"Without knowing anything, they listen to bad press and say that [telemarketing] is all bad," said Weyand. "Being able to touch people and understand the quality of work that we do" makes the difference.


Debra Reese, co-president of Spectrum Marketing Services Inc., Philadelphia, was visited on site by Rep. Robert A. Borski, PA, last year. Borski left with a better knowledge of the industry, according to Reese.


"We gave the necessary figures on how many jobs and dollars to the tax base of Philadelphia we are responsible for," said Reese. "We showed him some of our campaigns, like blood acquisition for Red Cross. We proved to him that it is not a boiler room operation."


Borski spent an hour and a half with the telephone service representatives, asking them questions about their job, how they liked the company, how they felt making the phone calls, what kind of reception they receive.


"They loved it, and I think he liked being here for that," said Reese.


Reese returned to Borski's office this year and was again given a "warm, excellent reception."


"The site visits lend credibility to the industry," said Reese. "[When we get this kind of response from a legislator] it gives us all a feeling of confidence and professionalism. We take so many hits from the media that you can come away feeling bad about what you do."


The conference in general was a demonstration of the new status the teleservices industry has achieved.


Speaking at the conference was former attorney general Jerry Diamond and assistant attorney generals Helen MacMurray, OH, and Joe Smith, CO. "Their willingness to speak to the industry demonstrates acknowledgment that it is a viable industry," said Weyand.


Weyand, in her address to the assembly, said the industry is critical to the economy. "[It is the] lynch pin connecting catalog buyers with needed clothes and equipment… that answers vexing questions about the operation of equipment, computers and the effect of medicine."


This year's legislator visits focused on state legislation rather than federal. More than 50 ATA members have agreed to correspond and meet with legislators and keep watch over pending legislation in their given state.
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