Posts Tagged ‘congressional communications’
Tuesday, November 20th, 2012 by Geoffrey Lyons
David Rehr is author of The Congressional Communications Report and has been listed as one of the nation’s top lobbyists. He is an adjunct professor at the Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) at The George Washington University. David can be contacted at email@example.com.
LAST WEDNESDAY, I was honored to participate in the Country Promotion Strategies Conference: a gathering of over 200 ambassadors and embassy personnel for a day of presentations on how to best maneuver Washington’s corridors of power.
While there, I shared with the crowd seven tips that foreign diplomats should consider when interacting with Congress.
The research below comes from The Congressional Communications Report (hereafter CCR), a landmark study on communication methods used by lobbyists in their dealings with congressional staff.
1. Provide credible information:
According to CCR, the most successful way to gain influence and access with congressmen and their staff is to provide credible information. At least this is what 46% of survey respondents thought, which is more than double the support given to the next most popular answers:
2. Have an existing relationship with members/staff (28%)
3. Have a reputation of seeking meetings (12%).
Neither brand nor money is at the top of the list. This indicates a playing field far more level than conventional wisdom would have it.
2. Use email:
This is the preferred method of contact with congressional staff. In fact, 67% of staff prefer email, while:
18% prefer the phone,
10% prefer meeting in person,
4% prefer mailed letters, and a paltry
0.1% prefer social media.
3. …and when you do use email, make it short and to the point:
Not just because this is easier for the recipient, but also because it’s easier for the phone. Mobile devices used on Capitol Hill are probably different from those used by your embassies. CCR shows that only 9% of Hill staff use iPhones, 2% use the Android, and a whopping 85% use Blackberry. The implication is that you need to minimize graphics, superfluous information, and anything that impedes the ability to click on your message. If it takes more than a couple of seconds to load, it will be deleted or skipped.
4. Stay in touch with the Congressional Research Service:
CCR shows that the Congressional Research Service (CRS) is the most valuable source of information for congressional staff. This is followed by:
2) Academic/issue experts
3) The Congressional Budget Office (CBO)
4) Other Capitol Hill Staffers
Embassies should therefore consistently review how their country is being portrayed by these sources. They should also consider how and where to make a positive impact.
5. Improve your position on Google:
While staff rated the CRS and issue experts the most valuable sources, their preferred sources were slightly different:
1) Internet Searches
3) Other Capitol Hill Staffers
4) Relevant Federal Agencies
This means embassies should be Googling their country’s name to see what comes up. Whatever is there will be the foundation of many a staffer’s judgments.
6. Understand what actually influences decisions:
CCR measured 16 different lobbying tools. Here are several to keep in mind:
1) Reliable and concise information
2) Constituent support
3) Hiring of former members of Congress
It is important to note that there are substantial differences between Republican and Democratic staff on which tools are most effective.
7. Be cognizant of a Hill staffer’s daily routine:
Everyone knows that Hill staffers are busy, and CCR certainly confirms that. The average staffer receives 134 emails daily, with only 18% reading all of them. Some other stats:
20% of Hill staff visit more than twenty websites daily
25% conduct more than 20 web searches daily
77% meet with two or less lobbyists daily
72% meet with two or less other Hill staffers daily
Click here for a full version of The Congressional Communications Report.
Tags: congressional communications, Congressional Communications Report, Congressional Communications Survey, Country promotion strategies conference, David Rehr, embassy, george washington university, gw, gwu, hill staff, hill staffers, k st., Lobbying, lobbyist, lobbyists, rehr
Posted in Lobbying News | Comments Off on David Rehr: 7 tips for Embassy Relations with Capitol Hill
Thursday, July 19th, 2012 by Vbhotla
LobbyBlog is happy to introduce another guest writer: Dr. David Rehr with the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management.
The complexity of influencing or affecting public policy in Washington, DC has never been greater. According to Lobbyists.Info over $8.1 billion dollars was spent in the last two years by the lobbying community trying to affect the outcome of laws and regulations in the U.S.
For many, “lobbying” is a bad word. It connotes individuals using inside information, their personal connections, or other tools to impact the minds of 100 U.S. Senators, 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the over 12,000 congressional staffers that work in the legislative branch.
The focus of today is to help clarify which advocacy tools work and which do not work when an individual or organization wants to passionately impact the legislative process in Washington.
Newly released research from the Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) at George Washington University (www.gspm.gwu.edu) provides clues never before unearthed.
THE CONGRESSIONAL COMMUNICATIONS REPORT (www.CongressionalCommunicationsReport.com) provides a monumental look at how America communicates with the Congress. The nearly 3,000 congressional staff and lobbyists who participated in this study provided incredible insights and valuable outcomes measurement.
One question was designed to find out from congressional staff which lobbying tools influence members of Congress’ decision-making (just some of the 16 advocacy tools are listed below).
“In your opinion, how effective are each of the following lobbying activities in influencing or shaping members of congress’ decision-making on legislative issues?”
Effective (4 & 5)
Not at all
effective (1 & 2)
Presenting a concise
Making a pending vote an
results to be
Bringing in former
The tools are pretty straight forward. Most interesting is that congressional staff ranked “providing consistently reliable information” and “presenting a concise argument” as their top choices. This means that every American can influence the process provided they are able to meet these expectations.
Another “takeaway” is that these tools need to be “laddered” in their use and by the resources available. Less effective advocacy tools include making a vote a “KEY VOTE,” using surveys or polls to affect outcomes, or leveraging former members to affect their former colleagues or staff.
Here’s one insight: Take a look at the advocacy tools you use. Make an honest assessment of what works and what doesn’t. Then, measure your assessment against this landmark research to see how it fares. It will help you be even more effective.
Another question asked how congressional staff learns about policy issues. This reveals to citizen advocates and professional lobbyists where hey need to go to ‘shape’ the conversation (just a few of the 19 areas asked about are below).
“How valuable are each of the following as ways for you to learn about policy issues?”
Ways to learn
Valuable/Not at all Valuable
Academic or issue
Survey and poll results
Interest Group websites
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) and academic and issue experts were selected as two of the most valuable tools. Blogs, Constituents and Internet Searches fall into a second tier; Interest Group websites, and Survey and polls results are in the third tier.
Despite social media’s deep penetration into other parts of our society, it is not considered a valuable resource to inform policy at all by congressional staff.
Here’s one insight: As yourself and your team if you are connected with the CRS and do their researchers seek you out for data, empirical evidence or your unique perspective on an issue they are researching. Frankly, I don’t think many of us in the advocacy business think much about CRS. But we should since the data clearly indicates that congressional staffers find it highly valuable.
THE CONGRESSIONAL COMMUNICATIONS REPORT answers many of the questions I have been asking for decades. It’s a treasure-trove of data for those who want to be at the pinnacle of the advocacy field.
David Rehr, PhD, is the lead researcher for THE CONGRESSIONAL COMMUNICATIONS REPORT and an Adjunct Professor at the Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) at George Washington University. He is former CEO of the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the National Association of Broadcasters. He has been recognized as one of the most effective advocates in the nation’s capital. He can be reached at DavidRehr@gwu.edu or 202-510-2148.
Tags: Advocacy, advocacy strategy, communications report, Congress, congressional communications, Congressional Communications Report, Congressional strategy, Lobbying, Lobbying strategy
Posted in Advocacy, Legislative Strategy, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying Research, Lobbying tips | Comments Off on Lobbying Tools that Influence Congressional Decision-Making: What is More Effective, What is Less Effective
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.ã 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!ã But if that’s not enough you might consider inviting a member of Congress to your conference so everyone can meet a legislator.ã 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.
Tags: Advocacy, advocacy asso, advocacy guru, communicating with Congress, Congress, congressional communications, stephanie vance
Posted in Advocacy, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying tips | Comments Off on Six Deadly Sins of Lobbying Days Part 2
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!
Tags: Advocacy, advocacy associates, Communicating, communicating with Congress, Congress, congressional communications, Lobbying, Stephanie, stephanie vance, Vance
Posted in Advocacy, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying tips | Comments Off on Six Deadly Sins of Lobbying Days
Thursday, June 14th, 2012 by Vbhotla
This week LobbyBlog is happy to welcome guest writer and Advocacy Guru Stephanie Vance:
Advocacy Guru Stephanie Vance spills 50 D.C.-insider secrets for effective influence. These tactics will move any immovable object, be it Congress, a corporate board or your intransigent children, to action — or inaction, depending on your preference. In an exclusive set of blog postings, LobbyBlog will be covering several of these tactics in the coming weeks. To start, we’ll look at perhaps the most important thing any effective lobbyist should know – 5 things NOT to do.
Number 5: Use the “Because I Said So” argument.
Good lobbyists know how to answer the question “why should I care about what you have to say?” effectively. They make a connection either to what gets the legislator up in the morning (like policy issues they love) or what keeps them up at night (like a high unemployment rate or re-election concerns). Bad lobbyists use the “because I said so” argument.
Number 4: Interrupt the Decision Maker with Communications That Are Not Really High Priority.
“High priority” communications include those from constituents, those related to a specific (and timely) ask and those that will help the legislator move forward on his or her policy agenda. “I just wanted to touch base” meetings are not high priority.
Number 3: Be Vague About What You Want.
Without a goal, you’ll never know if you’re getting to yes — nor will your audience know what they can do to help you. As one chief of staff I know put it: “You get one ‘hey how are you doing’ meeting per year: after that, you better want something.” Don’t start your government relations effort until you know what that is.
Number 2: Not Knowing What You’re Talking About.
Nothing says “you really shouldn’t listen to me” like peppering your communications with inaccuracies. Take steps to learn everything you need to know about your cause, including the benefits and downsides of your proposed solution to a problem. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say “I don’t know, I’ll get back to you.” Then do it.
Number 1: Give Up.
It can take years to move a relatively minor proposal through the legislative process, even with a variety of powerful tools at your disposal. The founding fathers designed our system of government to be completely and totally inefficient – and they did an excellent job. Persistence is the only thing that ever works – and it works almost all the time.
Stephanie Vance, the Advocacy Guru at Advocacy Associates, is the author of five books on effective advocacy and influence, including The Influence Game. A former Capitol Hill Chief of Staff and lobbyist, she works with a wide range of groups to improve their advocacy efforts. More at www.theinfluencegame.com
Tags: Advocacy, advocacy associates, advocacy guru, Communicating, congressional communications, Influence Game, Lobbying, stephanie vance
Posted in Advocacy, Legislative Strategy, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying tips | Comments Off on Why Some Special Interests Dont Win in The Influence Game
Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 by Vbhotla
As the writer of both Lobbyblog and one of the authors of this report, I am extremely excited to announce that it is nearly complete and almost ready for sale. While I have gone out of my way to avoid mentioning all the work that has gone into this report the past few weeks, I want to share with LobbyBlog readers part of the release for the Report so that they can know about this landmark study.
Lobbyists.info, in partnership with the Original U.S. Congress Handbook, George Washington University School of Political Management, and research partner ORI, is set to release the landmark “Congressional Communications Report.”
The report is the result of one of the largest surveys ever completed of Congressional staff and the lobbying community. Of nearly 3,000 responses, more than 700 came directly from Congressional staff.
“We have been overwhelmed by the number of surveys we’ve gotten back. To get this kind of response from the Congressional community and lobbying industry is incredible” remarked Dr. David Rehr, one of the survey’s creators. “I’m unaware of any Hill survey that is even close to the kind of numbers we’ve been seeing.”
Also shocking is the disconnect the numbers reveal between lobbyists and staff. “Lobbyists with 10, 15, even 20 years of experience may no longer know how best to interact with this current group of Congressional staff. A lot of what they are doing and information they are putting out there is just getting lost in the shuffle. People who have been working in the industry for a long time will be play online pokies amazed, and maybe even disturbed, by the difference in lobbyists’ perception of what staff thinks verses reality.” Remarked Joel Poznansky, President of Columbia Books Inc., parent company of Lobbyists.info & The Original U.S. Congress Handbook.
The report covers with detailed charts and analysis:
· The best ways to contact members of Congress and their staffs
· How changes in Hill demographics that have shifted perspective – and what common practices can now be a waste of resources
· What factors determine who gets access to Members or Hill staff
· How staffers prefer to learn about issues
· What lobbying tactics get results
· Which Congressional staffers are engaged in social media – and why
· How to walk the fine line between information and information overload
· Surprising findings about how staffers view bias in today’s information age and how they weigh it
· How staffers interact with each other and with media during their work day
· What types of media staffers prefer to hear, read and see
Lobbyists.info and the report’s sponsors are also holding a June 12th breakfast for the launch of the report. At the event an expert panel of lobbyists, researchers and Congressional staff, will break down the results and reveal groundbreaking news for an audience of industry insiders and lobbyists. Using the hard numbers in the report, strategies for how to best maximize lobbying time and money will be analyzed, discussed and dissected.
The Congressional Communications is currently available for pre-order at www.congressionalcommunicationsreport.com and will be published in June 2012. For more information on the expert panel breakfast in Washington DC on June 12, 2012 please visit www.congressionalcommunicationsreport.com/live
Tags: Congress, congressional communications, Congressional Communications Report, David Rehr, george washington university, landmark study, lobbying industry, ORI
Posted in Advocacy, Just for Fun, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying News, Lobbying Research, Lobbying tips, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Lobbyists.info set to release report on landmark Congressional Communications Report
Wednesday, January 18th, 2012 by Vbhotla
A common mistake is to overvalue the recent past. It is easy to look at the last action or series of actions, and say that was the cause of success or failure for a given issue, when in fact the seeds may have been planted long before the legislation is ever actually introduced. As a result, the planning that was put into the introduction of legislation is rarely re-evaluated since it happened at the beginning of the process. One of the aspects of that planning that is often over-looked is the process of gathering co-sponsorships and that a genuine strategy needs to be developed, rather than just trying to get as many as possible as fast as possible. Because most issues aren’t going to lead the 6:00 news or become the point of major partisan policy, what determines their success or failure is the plan that is put in place at the beginning. To avoid getting bogged down, buried in a committee schedule, or become part of the partisan debate, a plan needs to be in place from the beginning that keeps these factors in mind when soliciting co-sponsors for your topic.
First, figure out where you are, where you actually need to go legislatively, and how many co-sponsors you need to get there. From that number, set your goal for 10 more offices than you need as your minimum in the House, 5 in the Senate. Throughout the year members that support you are going to retire, resign, etc., and you want to make sure you have enough lee-way to still pass your issue. Knowing from the start how broadly you need to craft your legislation to reach your goal will make life easier down the road and give you guidelines for all the co-sponsor decisions you will be making. If you make a deal that gets you one co-sponsor at the cost of not getting two down the road, it only makes sense if you are at or near your goal and not at the very beginning of the process. Sticking with a goal will keep you from mortgaging the future for the short-term, a more temping thought in the heat of the moment that people expect. It is an extremely dangerous game to start adding or subtracting things after introduction to get more co-sponsors and still keep the ones already on it happy. REMEMBER: you don’t need everyone! You just need enough to win and no one piece of legislation is ever going to make everyone happy.
Alright, so we have a number, how do we get to it? Getting co-sponsors is a lot like throwing a party. You’re going to want to make sure that everyone you want comes and, most importantly, you aren’t stuck with a bunch of pizzas by yourself at the end of the night. Therefore your first goal is going to be to introduce the bill with as large a number of initial co-sponsors as possible. In every Congress thousands of bills are introduced, sent to committee, and die. The initial co-sponsor offering and constant follow-ups are what is going to separate your legislation from those other dead pieces of legislation.
To do this, you’re going to have to consider the order in which to solicit co-sponsors. First, who are the friends of your issue and of the legislation’s sponsor? Consider those your first picks, they should be easy and added upon introduction. Who is on pokies hard the committee of jurisdiction for the topic
? Usually the Chair and Ranking Member won’t co-sponsor legislation in their committee, but you’ll want as many of the other members as possible, if for no reason other than they are easy to approach and “cold sell” as well as allowing potential legislative maneuvering later down the road.
Continuing on that train of thought, an often overlooked resource is the Congressional caucuses. People tend to forget about caucus membership (even those who actually belong to the caucuses), as well as “axillary” committees, for example Veteran Affairs for an Armed Services issue. Next, look at other members of the sponsor’s state or region of the country, especially if it is a rural issue. Lobbyists.info’s US Congress Online database of members will allow you to quickly locate good targets, especially the ones that fall under more than one of your groups.
Another good target group are the Freshmen Members. They tend to be “cheap dates” as they are eager to get their name out, do favors, and like being asked to help more than some of the more senior offices do. Finally, seek out the more “popular” members. People in leadership positions tend to make the issue “safe” for the rest of their party and makes recruiting other co-sponsors easier. Using the party analogy, people will often ask “is XYZ on it” when first contacted and you want as many people out of the gate since it is easier to keep the ball rolling than it is to jump-start it.
So while that gives you a good list of targets, there are a few pitfalls to avoid. First, make sure you don’t go heavy on either Dems or Reps early. Try to keep the ratio as close to even as possible and it will be much easier to recruit on both sides. Stray too far to one direction and you might pick up the “partisan” tag when it isn’t necessary. Same thinking for regional issues, make sure everyone isn’t just from the Mid-West or cities. Also, avoid anyone who might be seen as “toxic,” which I loosely define as “would you cringe if you saw their name next to your issue in the paper.” Very controversial members can sometimes cost more co-sponsors when other offices see their name attached to an issue than having their one co-sponsorship gains.
Keep in mind, even though adding their name to a bill doesn’t technically “cost” a Member anything, they are free to co-sponsor as many pieces of legislation as they want, most offices are hesitant to actually co-sponsor anything without getting something in return. This is primarily for two reasons. One, co-sponsoring something is basically a favor and it is rare in DC that favors are done without getting something in return. Two, because so many bills aren’t successful, offices feel that the odds of any one thing going through are low so why support a failure? Get ready to hear “we can’t help now, but come back when you have the required number and we will join then.”
After all, success has many fathers while defeat is an orphan. A good co-sponsorship strategy will often lead to an overwhelming victory, as it is not uncommon to see something like 90+ Senators on a winner. However, a poor effort with no plan or momentum will add yet another “Cosponsors (12)” tagline to the thousands of other lost bills on Thomas.
Tags: co-sponsors, congressional communications, Congressional strategy, government relations, legislative strategies, lobby, Lobbying, solicitation
Posted in Advocacy, Legislative Strategy, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying Communications, Lobbying tips | Comments Off on Legislative Strategy: Co-Sponsorship Solicitation
Thursday, July 15th, 2010 by Vbhotla
K Street Cafe has added some interesting content to their ongoing discussion on advocacy, communications, and technology.
“The Congressional Conversation Index (CCI) is a joint effort by Fireside 21, a communications software provider to more than 100 Members of Congress, and Adfero Group, a public relations firm that runs issue advocacy and public awareness campaigns for corporations, associations and non-profits.
For the first time ever, the CCI allows the public a glimpse into the issues driving citizen engagement with Congress. Each month, the CCI measures the average number of recorded emails, letters or phone calls that participating Members of the U.S. House of Representatives receive about various issues from the constituents they represent.”
June’s CCI measures increased constituent concern on two main areas – environment/energy, and financial services. With both issues consistently in the news lately, it is small wonder that the we’re seeing increased constituent/Congressional communication relating to those things.
The CCI also has issue-specific charts, on financial services and the BP oil spill this month.
Tags: BP oil spill, congressional communications, k street cafe, Lobbying
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