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Deep Dive Breakout 1: Fly-in, Drive-in, Zoom-in: More Opportunities to Empower Advocates

July 21, 2022 @ 11:30 am - 12:30 pm

This session will rely on a mix of case studies and audience-led thought experiments on how to directly connect advocates with lawmakers (and their staff) in our new reality. Particular emphasis will be given to engaging district office staff, leveraging recess/campaign periods, and incorporating virtual meetings.

Randy Dwyer, American Farm Bureau Federation
Leann Paradise, American Hotel and Lodging Association
Adam Katz, American Society for Microbiology
Sarah Mcdonald, The Home Depot


  • Former Staffer’s Perspective
    • District/state staff holds a special place in the office structure
      • Elected official depends on them to be eyes/ears
      • Knowledge feeds into official’s decisions
      • A deep sense of hot bill will have an impact on the community
      • Spend lots of time with official in-district
      • Use this to your benefit! Set up meetings before recess
      • They don’t want to go back to the district with empty time and prefer to maximize efficiency
      • Hill staff might lack focus (bills coming up etc.); district staff is more quality time
      • Misunderstanding about district staff’s importance
    • They are the most critical components of any staff
    • Mike Thomas (George Allen) – ran governor campaign in 1993, director of the transition, sec. of administration. Nobody knows VA politics like him. 
    • Often trusted, long-time advisors
    • Bring in local perspective and impact to issue decisions
    • Spend long stretches of time in the district 
  • Engagement
    • Don’t sleep on statehouses
    • Staff must be trained
      • Efficient and effective
      • Staff listening will be appreciative
      • What are you talking about, why do you feel that way, what do you want me to do about it
    • Local leaders are key
    • District staff are you FB’s wheelhouse
    • Focus on federal/state/local officials
    • When an issue is local & important = Action by Legislators
    • Issues important
    • Time is a major challenge! 
      • Bring advocates close to them
  • Learning Objective: Leverage campaign experience
      • Start early
      • Utilize network
      • Explain issues
        • Nobody wants to act unless they understand the issue
      • Share stories
      • Establish rapport
        • This is what it’s all about! People to people
      • Followup Q&A
      • Continue Dialogue
        • Not a blip on the radar – need to create an ongoing relationship
      • Win the vote!
    • If you want your voice to be heard, use your voice
    • Frequency of dialogue? Afraid of overwhelming legislators, is there such a thing as too much?
      • In DC office, we know who you are, we know what you want – foster a relationship to skip the introductory 
      • Met once per quarter; sometimes district, sometimes facility, sometimes DC, sometimes town hall
      • Doesn’t feel overwhelming (at least
      • If it’s too much, they’ll tell you (or ignore you!)
      • Not frequency for sake of frequency – do it when you have something to tell them
    • How much do you help advocates schedule meetings? We hire an outside firm to schedule meetings – staff can’t handle it, not confident that members will do it themselves
      • AK: Some organizations do it for them; do the handoff 
      • Other ways you can do it – for fly-ins (250 attendees) work with state affiliates if possible – states have relationships and want to do it themselves – rely on them if possible. Make it as easy as you can. 
      • Put in an ambassador program – 1 “owner” who takes the lead, they are conduits for others in the area. They bring interactions together
      • If your organization allows, a voter guide is a great way to be engaged, who are our friends vs. not our friends
    • Targeted hill days, done over 3 days (small groups, 3 groups of 3)
      • Due to last year being done entirely online – able to dial into advocates’ calendars, troubleshoot and react more quickly
      • Know leg calendar and when the leg is moving
      • Have about the same success rate being agnostic to session calendar
      • Equal impact of virtual vs in person
    • Leeann – Facility tours
      • Why host a facility tour?
        • Gives the official a hyper-local look at your company and industry
        • An anecdote about put official in hard hat, up in a bucket, change a lightbulb – still talking about it
        • Elected officials love the “live a day in someone else’s shoes” experience
        • Facetime for officials with constituents and vice versa
        • Officials love it, it’s their constituency
      • How can you facilitate
        • Create a toolbox or guide
          • Hand it to your staff or to member company to do themselves
          • Make it as easy as possible
        • Draft sample collateral – from invitation letters to agendas to one-pagers
        • Invite media or closed? 
          • Provided option, left up to host/members
          • Press release afterward, whatever comfort level is
          • Horror stories from facility tours?
            • Bubble gum factory – didn’t want to wait for a hair net! 
            • Sensitive to photos – those pictures (official in cherry picker) can go sideways
            • Make sure you know ahead of time
            • Member talks licensing for forklift went to store on his own, got on forklift sitting in the aisle, posted on social media
        • Work with member hosts or local personnel to staff the event – get out there!
        • Share information about the event
    • Incorporating Virtual Meetings
      • We hear that advocates like the hybridized model
      • More efficient, targeted, and in-depth with virtual (8 meetings per day!) 
      • Venn diagram of online/traditional hill days
        • Online
          • More targeted meetings
          • Enhanced access to policymakers
          • No getting lost
        • Traditional
          • Serendipitous opportunities – won’t run into a member in the elevator
          • More photo ops
          • Sightseeing
          • Travel
        • Both
          • Relationship building
          • Advancing policy for microbial sciences
          • Meeting structure
          • Networking – require people on camera for Zoom – nonverbal communication facilitates conversation, grows network within the field
          • Less difficult logistically – easier to clump people together – easier to combine/split
      • Similar but different
        • Can’t port the in-person program to online
          • Immediate debrief unavailable in person
          • Real-time feedback – first meeting good, second better, improving throughout day
        • The benefits – outweigh the disadvantages
        • Disadvantages – not a captive audience! People will say they can’t make a call due to a conflict, easier to cancel
          • How do you handle this? 
            • Able to reach out to the audience, do you have availability this week or the following week – easier to be flexible
            • Tell people the role they play ahead of time, give them buy-in
            • If there is a conflict, gather questions ahead so the questions can be asked even if they are unable to join
          • What is the “fun” activity? No more zoom happy hours, please
            • Jeopardy Q/A
            • Political Capital Board Game
            • Virtual Escape Room
        • Opportunities
          • Able to break into groups for time zone differences 
    • Q/A
      • How do you make online meetings engaging/fun?
        • Happy medium to facility tour – if appropriate/allowable, we provide branded zoom backgrounds, leave it on, put a microscope in your background, and it becomes a conversation piece
        • Using different media – don’t just do a Zoom call with a grid of faces, use (short) video or other multimedia to underscore the problem, and pictures to tell the story. Able to do this with an online platform?
        • Helps member retention
        • Have a video ask at the end of the video – call to action 
  • Virtual Meetings
    • Hill staff love them
    • Hill staff want to keep them
    • Groups must 
      • Embrace tech
      • Effective/efficient use of time
    • Mix w/in person
  • Two case studies
    • Co-op 101
      • Brings more people together
      • We provided the deck with content
      • Reached out with state organizations to schedule
      • States personalize to their needs/wants (Michigan example)
    • Virtual Legislative Conference
      • Nothing in 2020, in 2021 members were clamoring
      • Rural broadband? Can you rely on this? 
      • Pre-recorded as much as possible
  • Learning Events
    • Hybrid – yes or no?
      • Adam – No
      • Leeann – No
      • Brad – hybrid is a myth. It doesn’t exist unless you can afford a TV studio with camera lighting etc.
      • Randy – multiple goals for fly-ins – training, are people happy, cosponsors on the bill, seniority of meetings, participant demographics, take info back to districts


July 21, 2022
11:30 am - 12:30 pm
Event Category:
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