Posts Tagged ‘communicating with Congress’

Six Deadly Sins of Lobbying Days Part 2

Thursday, July 12th, 2012 by Vbhotla

In the last post, I covered the first three of the deadly sins of lobby days. To be most effective, you’ll want to avoid all seven, so here are the remainder!

Sin #4 – Member-itis: Never, ever insist that a meeting with a member is more important than a meeting with a staff person. In fact, it’s actually better to meet with the staff person.  All you’ll probably get with the member is a “grip and grin,” and the vague feeling that your issues weren’t really covered. True, it’s sometimes hard to get advocates to understand that — so tell them the Advocacy Guru said so!  But if that’s not enough you might consider inviting a member of Congress to your conference so everyone can meet a legislator.  Also impress upon them the fact that they can much more easily meet with the legislator in the district.

Sin #5 – Inflexibility: This is particularly a problem when it’s combined with high expectations. Too many groups offer a very small meeting window and then are irritated when staff or members are not available in the 12:00pm to 2:00pm time slot they’ve designated for meetings. Try to have an entire day available – and ask participants in your lobby day to bring a good book.

Sin #6 – Overzealousness: If you have multiple people coming from one district or state, do everything you can to coordinate before requesting meetings. In too many cases, each individual will request their own meeting. By the fifth meeting on the same topic, the staff are generally pretty cranky. They will thank you for your consideration of their time if you coordinate well.

Sin #7 – Abandonment: Once your advocates are done in Washington, DC or your state capitol, their advocacy for the year isn’t finished. In fact, it’s just started. In most cases you will need to work with the office on an ongoing basis to help them truly understand your issues and the impact of certain policy actions on their constituents. After your meeting, don’t abandon your elected officials and their staff – embrace them (although not literally. Some of them aren’t huggers).

Lobbyblog wants to thank Stephanie Vance for her special feature and remind evereyone to head on over to her site advocacyguru.com.

Six Deadly Sins of Lobbying Days

Thursday, June 28th, 2012 by Vbhotla

Lobbyblog.com is again happy to bring back Stephanie Vance with Advocacy Associates for a special two-part focus on common mistakes people make during fly-in days.

At Advocacy Associates we schedule thousands (yes, thousands) of Congressional meetings per year.  From the American Association of Museums to the Heating Airconditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International (a good group to know in a heat wave) – if you’ve got people coming to town, we make sure they get to Capitol Hill.

Although we now get between 99 and 100% of the constituency-based meetings we request, we’ve made the occasional mistake over the years.  The good news is that you don’t need to make those same mistakes – just don’t commit the seven deadly sins we’ll be covering in the next two blog posts and you’ll be just fine.

Here are one through three:

Sin #1 – Non-Constituency: When requesting a meeting, whether with the member or a staff person, the first question you will be asked is “are you from the district or state?” Elected officials and their staff are there to represent a discreet group of people. You absolutely MUST demonstrate your relevance to that discreet group of people or they won’t meet with you. Our meeting request letters always include the city of the constituent asking for the meeting – and some offices will ask for a full street address just to be sure!

Sin #2 – Non-Written Requests: OK, I lied. Actually the first thing you will be asked by the usually incredibly young person who answers the phone is “have you sent your request in writing?” Don’t even bother to call before you have either faxed in the request (look it up in the United States Congress Handbook or go to http://www.congress.org to look up fax numbers or e-mailed it through the Congressman’s website (accessible through www.house.gov and www.senate.gov).

Sin #3 – Assumption: As Robert Siegel once asked me when I worked at NPR “do you know the etymology of the word “assume?” My response was “who uses a word like ‘etymology’?” If you don’t want to make a donkey’s behind of yourself, never assume that your faxed or e-mailed request actually got to the office or that the scheduler will just magically get back to you. With hundreds of requests to go through a day, things get lost. Often. Be sure to follow-up (and be very polite – they don’t lose things on purpose, they’re just overwhelmed).

Stay tuned for four through seven — and  you’ll be on your way to a fabulous event in no time!