Posts Tagged ‘Congressional Communications Survey’

David Rehr: 7 tips for Embassy Relations with Capitol Hill

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 

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
2) CRS
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. 

Research Review: Communicating with Congressional Staff – What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why: Part One

Friday, August 3rd, 2012 by Vbhotla

Lobbyblog is happy to introduce our guess writer for this week, Amy Showalter with the Showalter Group.  Amy, thank you so much for being here this week.

I was happy to see some solid research conducted via a partnership between Original U.S. Congress Handbook, David Rehr of The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, and ORI. [ed. Found here at:]

The research sought to find out what tactics are most effective when communicating with congressional staff, particularly from a lobbyist’s perspective. The goal of the report is to help organizations and lobbyists learn how to better communicate with congressional staff.  I’m gratified to see several of the findings correlate with previous research conducted by Dr. Kelton Rhoads and myself, which you can find here: as well as research that formed the basis for The Underdog Edge: How Ordinary People Change the Minds of the Powerful. . .and Live to Tell About It. #underdogedge
I’ll be commenting on various aspects of the findings in this and future articles, including my insights on how to apply the findings to your work.  I believe the ground truth from the research is that is helps us focus on what matters, and which to tactics we should allocate more (or less) resources.  First, I want to address the best thing about the survey – the methodology.

Methodology Matters

The researchers asked congressional staff what they prefer regarding communications tactics, rather than asking the staffer what their member of Congress thinks about a tactic. Seems like a small matter, but in the research world, it’s vital. Asking someone what another person thinks or would do and drawing conclusions from that might be interesting, but I would not base a strategy on those kinds of findings. Dealing with respondent veracity is hard enough, but to ask an individual what someone else thinks puts the findings in a congressional staff member, how they personally view certain types of communications, so I give it an A+.
OK, I’ve stepped off the soapbox.

“Where You Are is Who You Were”

One of the questions asked staff what factors determine whether a lobbyist will gain access. The one that caught my attention was the “reputation of the individual seeking the meeting.”

In Chapter Two of The Underdog Edge, I write about building your street cred. We found from interviews with powerful people whose minds were changed that they factor in your reputation when deciding whether to give you time and access. Busy people don’t have time to do all the necessary research to determine if you’re a credible communicator. Therefore, your reputation determines in part whether you will get access.

The bottom  line: Where you are now is in part based on who you were years ago. Think about where you want to be in five years. Get your “street cred” repaired or ramped up for future success.

Lack of Bias = Lots of Influence

What’s effective to influence legislation? One of the top four responses include to  “present/refute opposing views.” Again, in Underdog Edge, our research revealed that a key element of credibility is being unbiased. Many of the legislators I interviewed whose minds were changed by constituents said that the unbiased presentation of the facts got their attention.

The bottom  line: Know what your opponents say, as well as their influence strategies, for increased persuasion (and more credibility).

What did staff consider an ineffective technique to get their attention? “Organizing email/postcard/call campaigns” and “sending daily issue emails/ newsletters” as well as those very expensive ads in Capitol Hill publications.

Why organizations do things that don’t get results, I’ll never know, but hopefully this research will provide for better allocation of organizational resources.  In the next Roots of Success, we’ll review more research findings and how you can apply them for greater communications and persuasion success.