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Deep Dive Breakout 2: Help! Covid Broke My Advocacy Program

July 20, 2022 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

You tell us how your program was broken and we’ll help you fix it! A heavily discussion-based session with tips and ideas solicited from our experienced panelists and the audience. You can share your challenges anonymously or offer additional context to the group.

Jonathan Simons, NCTA – The Internet & Television Association
Stacey Chappell, American Hospital Association
Sarah Weissmann, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research
Rob Jordan, American Medical Association


Pre-COVID Advocacy

  • Focused on preparing new advocates for what to expect when they visit the Hill
    • Advocacy day videos that detail tips for a successful day:
      • Where to meet legislators
      • Expect security lines
      • Meeting in hallways
    • These videos are successful, but now need to be updated with virtual tips
  • Communication to advocates included:
    • Online social media promotion
    • In-person activations at SXSW and industry events
    • Weekly blog posts
    • CTAs focused on petitions

During COVID

  • Congress came to a halt during COVID
    • Advocacy programs needed to pivot
    • At the start, there was hesitation to talk about anything advocacy-related that wasn’t focused on health care
  • Health care organizations had to focus on the immediate and not long-term priorities
    • Hospitals did not have time to be advocates, they relied on associations to advocate on their behalf
  • Organizations wondered how and when to communicate that their events were canceled
    • There wasn’t time to reorganize for a virtual event, many fly-ins couldn’t happen
  • COVID didn’t necessarily break all programs for organizations already doing webinars but hindered their growth
  • In some cases, leadership isn’t interested in doing future fly-ins because of the cost when virtual meetings are an option
  • Many organizations will always do hybrid hill days moving forward
    • A lot of health care associations know firsthand how difficult it can be for their members to travel even before the pandemic
  • It became hard to recruit members and ambassadors
    • People’s livelihoods changed during the pandemic, they were no longer able to engage like they used to
    • Some organizations rely on in-person events to engage advocates depending on the audience
  • Along with Zoom fatigue, January 6 impacted advocacy programs
    • It changed internal advocacy priorities
    • Some advocates were expecting to meet with their legislators but were represented by an election objector who the association would not meet with
    • Historically non-partisan brands had to juggle how to keep that message in light of January 6
  • Other organizations took the opportunity to focus more on community advocacy
    • Broadband access continues to be an issue for students and families, but associations partnered with other organizations to promote tools to bring internet to those who needed it
    • This also became an opportunity to advocate for federal funding

Looking to the Future

  • “Building the airplane as we fly it” is the motto
    • Some organizations are resuming in-person activities
    • Blending in-person and virtual advocacy
    • Focusing on social media to engage advocates
    • Re-examining how to engage with advocates
    • Navigating virtual fatigue
    • Access to Capitol Hill in a post-Jan. 6 world

Q&A Session

  • Question: It was hard to get people to advocate virtually, but there was support and sympathy for frontline workers – did this also happen to you?
    • Health care organizations are hearing that while funding is great, most problems still need to be addressed
  • Question: More people were dropping out last minute from virtual Hill Days because there was less of a commitment – what tactics are you using to encourage people to participate?
    • Designated digital hand-holders to lead people to their meetings
    • Manage expectations upfront
    • Prep calls before every virtual meeting and if no one shows up they don’t get the invite to the Hill meeting
  • Question: Powerful part of Hill Days is the community who shows up. Anything to do to raise visibility of your groups in the virtual environment?
    • Good challenge for the profession
    • Geo-targeted ads for Hill Days
  • Question: How do you navigate advocates who don’t have reliable access to Zoom and broadband or virtual fatigue?
    • Some tactics to navigate fatigue: Custom Zoom background, sending advocates mugs to use during the event with organizational branding, asking advocates to take photos of things that have changed to show while they tell their stories, scheduling district meetings when possible
  • Question: How many groups at Buzz are doing in-person meetings?
    • Most groups are doing hybrid, it’s easier for advocates to participate and some don’t mind taking meetings in the hotel rooms
    • One group is hosting advocacy trainings in-person but hybrid Hill meetings
  • Question: Advocates expect 3 meetings, if you’re doing hybrid are you scheduling at least 3 for each advocate?
    • Set the expectation at the beginning, and have them check a box that says “I understand I’m not guaranteed a meeting” while signing up


July 20, 2022
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Event Category:
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