This afternoon I attended AdvocacY from A-Y: Approaching Congressional Staffers, a great panel hosted by the Government Affairs Industry Network (GAIN) and CQ. The four panelists (two current hill staff and two former hill staff) outlined the best strategies for being heard above the noise on Capitol Hill. Here are my top take-aways:
- Be a constituent, or be connected to constituents. If you can’t tie your issue back to the people they represent, you probably won’t get in the door (or in the e-mail queue). And you run the risk of annoying them.
- Don’t talk about the campaign in official meetings. It’s sleazy.
- You can’t just talk to a legislator or staff person once and expect them to do everything you want. You need to build a relationship.
- If you don’t know the answer to a question, say “I don’t know, but I’ll get back to you.” Then get back to them.
- Quality over quantity. Ten personal communications can be more effective than hundreds of form e-mails.
- Know the legislator you’re talking to. Understand where they’re coming from and how they see the world. Then pitch your message in a way that makes sense to him or her. Find out what bills they’ve introduced, what committees, they’re on and where they are on the political spectrum.
If these sound familiar, well, they are! I and others in the advocacy community have been harping on these ideas for years. Actually, it’s decades now. I’m old. The fact that Congressional staff still feel the need to say all of this tells me that we need to continue to help advocates understand these principles.
So, yeah. If you’ve read this far, you know I’m about to tell you about some cool thing we’re doing here at Advocacy Associates to achieve that goal. We’re trying to fight that good fight through online courses. If you’re interested in seeing what we’re working on, go to:
Use the passcode advocacyguest
There you’ll find some materials from an online class we’ve put together to help advocates be effective in their communications. You can learn more at: http://advocacyassociates.com/onlinecourses/
Of course, if you’re not interested, that’s fine too – happy advocating!
- Stephanie Vance