How you say what to whom and when. It seems so simple, but in the midst of government affairs or advocacy work, many tend to lose focus.
When a legislative battle arises, human instinct is to fight it with overwhelming logic and firepower. That may have worked in the past, but the state legislatures and Congress of today are much different than even ten years ago. Gone are the days of the grey-haired lobbyist going in to “fix the problem,” as are the chances of a lengthy, detailed fact sheet swaying votes.
Now you have less face time, increased bill load, and more threats. To borrow from a military theme: the “ground war” still matters, but “airpower” and “strategic deployments” play an increased role.
Streamline, Align Messaging
Your four-page thesis paper about the issue is about as useful as a chocolate teapot. Lawmakers are pressed for time, pulled in dozens of directions each day.
Figure out your one to three salient, cohesive, memorizable themes. Stick with that and build the remainder of your sparsely-inked talking points or one page overview. If someone needs more than that, he or she will ask you.
Ensure these few points align with your target audience. For example, when fighting an emotional issue, don’t bombard legislators with fourteen facts and figures. That brings up a good point – throw logic out the window. Only use it to reinforce emotional, ideological appeals.
Remove Your Lens
If you are impressed with your talking points or one-pagers, chances are they’re wrong. You don’t get to vote.
No one knows your issue better than you. That’s what makes removing your lens so challenging. The goal is to place yourself in the shoes of your audience. That means thinking like the legislators you are educating.
Befuddled of where to start? You’re not alone. A poll can help you understand the voters electing the lawmakers, which helps you know what makes the clock tick. More so, seek advice from a seasoned political or polling professional that understands the nuances of voters and words that move them.
Engage All Stakeholders
The needle will really move when you engage the people closest to your target. In many cases that is the voters who sent him or her to the legislature or Congress. For others, it can be influencers back in the district.
Either way, enlist the support of those “back home.” These voices carry much more weight – especially in chorus – than you can ever deliver in the halls of a Capitol or Statehouse.
Digital grassroots advocacy is a quick-start way to bring airpower to your ground game. This approach adheres to the crucial “know-like-trust” cycle required to generate real engagement from the district to the decisionmaker.
They say things can be simple, yet not easy. This article is a simple read, but the implementation can be everything except easy.
Challenging the status quo or recommending a wholesale change to government affairs strategy takes guts.
But the investment in resources, time, and internal political capital is worth the return. Politics is drastically changing, and your future success depends on current strategic alterations.