MARK COWAN, Senior Executive Vice President for International Business at Cassidy & Associates, also spoke at the Country Promotion Strategies Conference (see previous post). Here are a few of his pointers for ambassadors and embassy personnel seeking to win the support of “relevant stakeholders”:
“Talk to real decision-makers. Avoid uninterested staff” –Whereas an uninterested member may relegate proposals to his staff, an uninterested staff may relegate them to the dust bin.
“Prioritize your issues (key players are always busy)” – Self-evident, but paramount. It may also be suggested that in order to prioritize properly, one must be heedful of the legislative calendar. To have broached climate change in the midst of the health care debate would have been an exercise in extreme naivete. Hugh Halpern, Republican Staff Director of the House Committee on Rules, has also suggested staying a step ahead of the public eye. Anything congressional leadership is doing publicly has been decided a week prior. For Congress, the annoying adage rings true: “if you’re on time, you’re late.”
“Make your issues look sexy” – A promising issue that fails to galvanize will meet the same fate as one that fails all around. Furthermore, the sexiness of an issue should fit the circumstances. Veteran lobbyists will recall how some of their proposals died in committee because the committee itself wasn’t interested.
“Think American – bridge the gap between U.S. and your country” – Advice particularly relevant to embassies, though also important for any lobbyist advocating international issues. Recall the rhetoric from this past election cycle – “nation building at home,” “the best interests of the United States” – before crafting a proposal. These trite phrases are signals of genuine public sentiment – Washington’s prime mover. Every issue, foreign or domestic, must ultimately be domestic.
For a full version of Cowan’s talking points, email firstname.lastname@example.org