June 16, 2015
Communicating with Congress, state legislatures or regulatory bodies can be daunting—they receive thousands of letters, emails and calls daily. How do you get your organization and its issue positions to stand out? Consider executing a fly-in to get an exclusive opportunity to speak directly to decision-makers about key issues.
As we’ve written in the past, fly-ins—also known as a Capitol Hill Day or “Lobby Day”—are effective ways to engage lawmakers and regulators on issues important to your organization or your clientele. Fly-ins can range from just a few participants to hundreds, featuring a handful of meetings or a full day of canvassing. Fly-ins can also engage decision-makers in state capitals where your issues are heating up.
Kellen’s talented government affairs team has extensive experience handling fly-in logistics, strategy and execution for interfacing with Members of Congress and other legislative and regulatory targets. While these meetings are not necessarily scripted, and avenues of conversation may develop organically, a well-managed fly-in typically features the following execution points.
- Plan, Plan, Plan
What are the main objectives of your government affairs program? Before executing any fly-in, developing a “wish list” gives your organization a strategic plan for engaging legislative or regulatory officials and staff. You need to “define the ask”—whether it’s encouraging specific action on a particular bill or positioning your organization as a resource for testimony or information, or a combination of objectives—before ever scheduling a meeting.
- Schedule and Organize
Often phone calls and letters just aren’t enough to get your message across: meeting face-to-face provides you with a clear advantage toward specific action or building relationships. Congressional scheduling can be challenging, so prioritize your meetings, identify the targets you want to meet with and schedule them well in advance. Do not focus solely on meeting with a senator or representative, as congressional staffers often serve as the primary advisers on policy decisions. Meeting directly with a Member of Congress is often an added bonus.
- Strategize and Coordinate
Every meeting should be memorable to both your members or clients and the staffers you are meeting with. To be effective and efficient with your “wish list,” hold internal strategy sessions to keep each person in your organization on the same page. A thorough run-through of key message and talking points, your organizational objectives and the fly-in agenda will help coordinate your activities and avoid missteps on your fly-in day.
- Lighten the Mood
A fly-in can seem daunting and stressful for first-time participants. Break the ice, blow off some steam and hold a group dinner before your lobby day. This fosters camaraderie and familiarity with other participants, which translates into group cohesion during the actual meetings. And remind your members or clients that they are speaking from a position of expertise on your issues and should be confident. Legislators and staff enjoy meeting with people from their home district or state and are eager to listen to people who can help them do their jobs better.
- Have Something to Offer
Congressional offices and committees rely heavily on testimonials and information from issue experts and constituents to craft or sponsor legislation and make important decisions on key votes. A fly-in may be the best way for your group to influence progress on issues by displaying expertise for key issue staff and expressing a willingness to offer testify or offer other assistance.
- Leave Something Behind
Be memorable and leave behind reliable materials on your organization and issue positions. A refined message platform and compelling, well-designed collateral demand attention and can keep you top of mind and in front of the issue for key legislative staff.
- Follow Up and Maintain Relationships
After a fly-in, it important to stay in touch with the contacts you’ve developed. Follow up and provide any facts, figures and information that you’ve promised to officials or staff. Consistently serving as a reliable resource will help maintain these relationships, will translate into valuable opportunities and will make the next fly-in much easier and more effective.
Coauthor: Parker Wishik, Account Supervisor