Posts Tagged ‘stephanie vance’
Monday, March 31st, 2014 by Geoffrey Lyons
BARRING ERRATIC WEATHER, it’s around this time of the year when the D.C. area thaws and blossoms and bustles again. Included in this resurgence are the droves of advocates who partake in the annual pilgrimage known as the fly-in.
Yet unlike a pilgrimage, conscripts are expected to do more than mere ritual. There’s a craft to advocacy for which even once-a-year novices are not exempt. That means fly-in organizers must ensure their advocates are properly prepared, lest their collective efforts amount to no more than a field trip.
Stephanie Vance of Advocacy Associates has made it part of her job to instruct fly-in organizers. In a sense, she trains the trainers. Earlier this month, Vance conducted a webinar for Lobbyists.info titled “Preparing Advocates for Fly-ins,” in which she detailed, among other things, how to educate advocates on congressional procedure.
Without spoiling the program (available for purchase here), Vance promotes a balanced approach to fly-in prep in which advocates are taught the essentials without being bogged down by procedural minutiae. Remind advocates of how bills are passed, Vance argues, but don’t exceed the basic tenets of Schoolhouse Rock. This approach helps avoid the sort of confusion that would only serve to confound and frustrate an already anxious group. It also frees advocates to direct their attention where it’s most needed, which is not in general procedure but rather in specific policy issues.
Vance covers much more ground than this, but it all links to the same general message: if you’re hoping for a successful fly-in, learn how to train your advocates.
Tags: advocacy associates, Preparing Advocates for Fly-ins, Schoolhouse Rock, stephanie vance
Posted in Lobbying News | Comments Off on ‘Tis the Season to Fly-in
Monday, July 8th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons
TODAY MARKS THE end of Congress’s last break until August recess. That means there’s only four weeks left to pass legislation, a fact duly noted and keenly felt by Congressional members and their staff, the President and his staff, and, of course, lobbyists. This last group has the most sweat to wipe from its brow for reasons other than DC’s unrelenting heat. For while Congressional staff will look forward to casual dress and a light August workload, lobbyists can expect diminished receipts. Although this year’s home stretch will be markedly less hectic than last year’s, there’s still a quickness in K St’s pace that betrays a sense of urgency.
Yet it doesn’t have to be that way. August can in fact keep business rolling for lobbyists if they know where to turn. One option is regulatory lobbying. Agencies don’t go on recess, and they have plenty of work to do in the months and years ahead. (See Lobbyists.info’s upcoming crash course on agency lobbying, “Understanding the Regulatory Landscape: Rule-making Basics for Agency Lobbying.”)
Site visits and town halls are another option. The logic here is that if policymakers are leaving town, follow them. (See Stephanie Vance’s .”)
Site visits and town halls are another option. The logic here is that if policymakers are leaving town, follow them. (See Stephanie Vance’s how to develop a district-based advocacy program).
Some have argued that August is not only more important than conventional wisdom allows, but that it’s in fact the most critical month of the year. Capstrat, a communications firm in Raleigh, N.C., is particularly vocal on this point. Account Supervisor Mike Kondratick claims that August recess is a “championship game” that determines “the difference between organizations that win their issues and those that don’t.” When Congress is in session
…every group is using the same set of communications tactics to move member offices on their issues….[T]he August recess not only creates a month-long window for more highly personalized communications, but it shifts that office’s view of every one of your communications from that point forward. That ability to stand out from the rest of the issue-pedaling masses is something that all of the money spent post-Labor Day simply won’t be able to buy.
In this sense, August is a time to develop visibility. In Kondratick’s words, it’s a time to “stand out, not check out.” Perhaps as the doors of Congress close, others will open for lobbyists. Whether they take advantage of this, however, is completely up to them.
Tags: Capstrat, lobbyists.info, Mike Kondratick, stephanie vance
Posted in Lobbying News | Comments Off on Standing Out in August
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
Friday, October 29th, 2010 by Brittany
An excerpt from the Advocacy Handbook:
Depending upon the issue and the nature of the network, advocate leaders may occasionally find themselves needing to either encourage more people to actively participate in advocacy efforts or encourage more quality communications with the target audience. Outlined below are a few of the key barriers to participation, options for overcoming those barriers and ideas for recognizing advocates’ efforts.
Barriers to Participation
Advocates often cite one of the following reasons to explain why they might be unwilling or unable to participate in efforts to make policy change:
- Lack of time
- A feeling that their participation doesn’t matter
- A feeling that the organization should do the lobbying, not them
- Unsure what to do / intimidated
- Advocate fatigue / over-activation
- Lack of progress
- Disagreement over policy direction
- Quick and Easy Activities: Advocate leaders should look for ways to draw potential advocates in to the network through some quick and easy activities. These might include sending an e-mail to a legislator through an action alert site, signing a petition, responding to a poll or survey or sending a postcard. This might be viewed as the “crawl before walking” approach. Once advocates become familiar with and comfortable with these simple activities, advocate leaders can work to encourage these individuals to engage in more substantive and effective communication strategies.
- Cultivating the Active: It’s not the number of communications that have an impact on policy outcomes, it’s the quality. Hence, it may make sense for advocate leaders to focus more attention on the powerful 5 to 20 percent of the network willing and eager to take substantive action, without, of course, ignoring the rest of the network.
- Training: The following components of a training program will help address some of the more common barriers to participation: why their voice matters, role in the GR campaign, long-term focus, and how to advocate.
- Engaging Champions: Legislative or regulatory champions of an organization’s issues can help deliver the message to advocates that their voice matters. In some cases, advocates may be more apt to believe a legislator than an organization’s government relations staff. Advocate leaders should consider asking policy champions to speak at events or make public statements about the importance of citizen advocates to the policymaking process.
- Strategic Activation: Advocate fatigue can be managed, in part, by being as strategic and focused as possible when activating the network. Organizations that frequently issue high-priority action alerts, particularly when those alerts aren’t warranted, may find their advocates becoming immune to their requests – and unwilling to take action when truly needed.
- Change the Definition of Victory: In developing advocacy plans, advocate leaders should identify internal goals that can be achieved regardless of external events. These might include targets for numbers of advocates in the network or developing a pilot program for coordinating a few site visits during a recess. These aspects of the campaign may be more within the control of the organization than, for example, whether a bill moves forward to the hearing stage or not.
- Managing Set-backs: How an organization manages the inevitable set-backs associated with any advocacy effort can make or break their future success. Advocate leaders should look to be as up-front as possible about set-backs, while identifying future plans of action.
- Setting the Policy Agenda: Organizations that set their policy agenda in concert with the advocacy network will likely have fewer disagreements with members about policy direction than those that adopt a more hierarchical approach. Before asking advocates to communicate with policymakers on a critical issue, it is imperative to ascertain that most members of the network are in agreement on the overall message.
- Agreeing to Disagree: In some cases, organizations may need to take controversial positions that may be unpopular with some percentage of their members. Advocate leaders should identify these potential disagreements as soon as possible and be prepared to address questions about the decisions made by the organization.
The Advocacy Handbook, written by the “Advocacy Guru” Stephanie Vance, and its insight into helping your advocates shake off their anxieties will help your advocacy mission become a success. Click here for more information on the Advocacy Handbook.
Tags: Advocacy, advocacy handbook, Lobby Days, stephanie vance
Posted in Advocacy | Comments Off on Advocacy Halloween Edition: Making advocacy less scary
Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 by Brittany
An excerpt from the Advocacy Handbook.
What is Advocacy?
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, advocacy is: “the act of pleading or arguing in favor of something, such as a cause, idea, or policy; active support.”
Under this definition, there are many types of advocacy, including:
Legal Advocacy: Arguing on behalf of a client in the legal environment
Child Advocacy: Making the case for children in a child-oriented venue, such as a school or in the context of child protective services
Patient Advocacy: Helping individuals navigate through the increasing complex medical arena and safeguarding their rights
Casework / Social Welfare Advocacy: Working with low-income or otherwise disadvantaged individuals to be sure they have the services they need
Corporate Advocacy: Efforts by corporations to promote a specific cause or idea for the benefit of the general public (also related to the idea of “Corporate Social Responsibility”)
In each of these circumstances, one person or a group of people pleads or argues in favor of a particular cause, idea, or individual. The difference between these types of advocacy and advocacy in the policy arena are matters of topic, scale, and audience.
Advocacy in the policy arena can be defined along the following lines:
Topic: Improvements to public policy or funding for public programs at the local, state or federal level
Scale: Focused on benefits for a group of people as opposed to an individual
Audience: Primarily targeted at policy makers at the local, state or federal level. Secondary targets may include opinion leaders, business interests and citizens in an effort to elicit change with relevant policy-makers.
In addition, the use of the term advocacy refers specifically to advocacy that is done by non-professionals as opposed to the “direct lobbying” done by government relations professionals across the country. A fourth area of differentiation, therefore, would be:
Advocate: An individual, such as an association member, company employee or citizen, who pleads the public policy case to a policy maker, often in concert with a larger organization.
Tags: Advocacy, advocacy handbook, stephanie vance
Posted in Advocacy | Comments Off on Back to Advocacy School
Tuesday, August 24th, 2010 by Brittany
an excerpt from The Advocacy Handbook
It’s recess time for Congress, but while “recess” sounds like fun and games, these times are district work periods for congressional members. Congress will be in recess for the month of August, and advocates can be involved in several types of activities to connect with their elected officials while they are home.
District-Based Lobby Days / Weeks
What is it?
Under this approach, advocate leaders work with advocates to coordinate meetings with policymakers in their own district offices. An organization might, for example, ask members of the advocate network to set up meetings with relevant members of the U.S. House when those members are in their legislative district during a district work period.
Why is it useful?
District lobby day / week events can be a great way to connect advocate network members with their policymakers, but without extensive travel expenses. Meeting with policymakers while they are home also further strengthens the message about the impact of state or federal level policy issues on the home district.
When should it be used?
As with traditional lobby days, any organization with a core of committed advocates can benefit from coordinating a district lobby event, either individually or in concert with a coalition partner. Lobbying events are most successful, however, when the organization has a specific policy agenda and core ask. Advocate leaders should work to coordinate the timing of the event with key legislative initiatives as well as other advocacy activities. For example, holding a district lobbying event during the work period directly after a national lobby day can serve to reinforce messages that were delivered in conjunction with the national event.
What is it?
A “site visit” is an in-person visit by a policymaker or member of his or her staff to facilities, groups and individuals in their district or state. These might include visits to:
- Manufacturing facilities
- Business headquarter offices to meet with key personnel
- Hospitals, school, libraries, recreation centers or other community service providers
- Local chapter meetings of interest groups
- Special events held by local groups
In essence, a site visit occurs whenever a policymaker or staff person goes to see something or meet someone in the district. These are different from district lobby events only in that the policymaker generally goes to see the advocate, as opposed to the other way around.
Why is it useful?
These visits help policymakers connect what sometimes seem like esoteric policy issues to the needs and concerns of individuals in their districts or states. When conducted properly, site visits help “bring the issue alive” for the policymaker.
When should it be used?
Any organization with a core of committed advocates can benefit from coordinating some type of site visit program. Those organizations with a network that already has some experience with other advocacy techniques, such as lobby days or written campaigns, may have more success. This is because arranging a site visit often takes a bit more time and commitment on the part of the advocate.
What is it?
Policymakers often arrange what are called “townhall” or “community” meetings to hear from people in their districts and states. They generally occur when the legislators are at home, such as during the district work periods of the U.S. Congress, although “telephone townhalls” (see notes below) are gaining in popularity. The meetings may be scheduled to address specific topics, such as economic issues or a local concern, or they may simply be arranged as general “listening sessions.”
Why is it useful?
Townhall or community meetings are generally pretty sparsely attended. Those advocates who do attend can often get some one-on-one face time with both the policymaker and key staff people. This face-to-face connection serves to build a strong relationship with the policymaker and delivers the message that the advocate really cares about the issues. Attending a townhall meeting is a relatively easy way for an advocate to raise the profile of an issue and make the connections necessary to achieve change.
When should it be used?
Any organization with a core of committed advocates can benefit from coordinating some type of townhall attendance program. The commitment on the part of the advocate can range from simply attending (either in-person or through a telephone event), to connecting briefly with the policymaker and staff before or after the event, to raising an issue publicly. It should be noted, however, that a public townhall meeting may not be the best venue to raise new or controversial issues. Advocate leaders should provide detailed instructions and talking points to ensure that messages are delivered as efficiently and effectively as possible. In some cases, this may mean talking directly to the staff as opposed to raising the issue with others.
Tags: Advocacy, advocacy guru, district visits, site visits, stephanie vance, the advocacy handbook, townhall meetings
Posted in Advocacy | Comments Off on Recess: Not just fun and games
Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 by Brittany
Get ready. Get set. Go! The elections in November 2010 are getting all the attention right now, but 2011 will be one of the busiest years on record for bringing members and citizen advocates to the Capitol… not to mention one of the most expensive.
Save time and money when you get planning advice from the experts – don’t waste your organization’s precious advocacy dollars. Make sure your message will be heard amidst the Congressional chaos. Maximize your advocacy impact while minimizing your costs.
Register now for Lobby Days and Fly-Ins: Time and Money Saving Tactics for Managing the Unmanageable. In this audioconference, top grassroots expert Stephanie Vance arms your entire team with expert guidance for making every aspect of your 2011 events a success. Start your planning now to take full advantage of all these tips and tricks for effectiveness.
September 23, 2010 from 2:00 p.m.-3:30 p.m. EDT
Where? Your office or conference room (no need to travel!!)
Audioconference PLUS Audio CD: $319-Best Value!
Audioconference Only: $247
CD Recording: $247
Tags: advocates, Citizen Advocacy, Fly-Ins, Lobby Days, stephanie vance
Posted in Training & Events | Comments Off on Lobby Days and Fly-ins: Managing the unmanageable
Monday, May 24th, 2010 by Brittany
On June 15 Lobbyists.info is hosting an audioconference on developing a district-based lobbying program. Speaker Stephanie Vance of Advocacy Associates will reveal a step-by-step plan for creating a district-level advocacy program that engages members of Congress in discussions about how new policies will affect local interests and the future of the community. You’ll come away with practical guidance on everything from the logistics of planning events, to strategies for getting time on representatives’ busy schedules.
For more information and to register click here.
Tags: Advocacy, advocacy associates, district lobbying, grassroots, stephanie vance
Posted in Training & Events | Comments Off on Maximize District-Based Lobbying Efforts