Posts tagged ‘lobbying and advocacy’

Tips for Developing and Honing Your Message

It is no secret that your message can be the lifeblood of your advocacy activities. Once you have decided upon a message, it is imperative that you refine it.


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The process of honing your message involves identifying, developing and refining the most compelling arguments, facts, examples and anecdotes. Take into consideration hot issues and news cycles in order to identify a hook that you can use to interest the media and the public. Ask yourself whether there are any other themes you might make use of, such as holidays or anniversary dates. Where is the story?

Developing a motto or a theme can prove to be extremely helpful. Your message must be interesting to ensure the media will include it. It must also be relevant so that people will remember it. In addition, it must be persuasive for those who do not yet agree with you. Finally, it must be motivational for those who do agree with you in order to keep them on board.

When evaluating your message and honing it, you might consider scoring it to determine whether it meets all of the necessary elements:

Interesting-Does your message tell a story, feature a perspective that is timely or Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelakinteresting or include a conflict? Remember, your message must always have a hook.

Relevant-Ask yourself why the audience should care. How does your issue impact lives?

Persuasive-Why is your position the right position? How is the opposing position weak or wrong?

Motivational-What is it that you expect your audience to do as a result of your message?

Educational-Does your message provide the target audience with the knowledge they need to take the desired action?

Targeted-Will your message be able to make its way to the intended audience?

Carefully consider all of these elements and whether your message meets the goals of those elements. If you find your message is lacking in any of these areas, it is time to go back to the drawing board and continue honing your message until it does meet each and every element.

To learn more about developing an effective advocacy message, consider signing up for TheCapitol.Net’s 2-day Advanced Media Relations Workshop.

Source: Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelak, Section 10.14 Media Relations Principle 6: Hone your Message.

For more information about message development and advocacy in Washington, see

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Tips for Coordinating Legislative Events

When you are involved in a legislative event, it can be helpful to understand a few key tips that can help things to go much more smoothly. First, introductions to policymakers should be brief. Lobbyists often make the mistake of speaking too long in introductions while attempting to do a suitable job. An effective introduction should provide essential information such as the district or state represented, committee assignments and one or two accomplishments which the representative is particularly proud of. You should also include anything specific regarding the issue that is being discussed.

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It is also important to confirm the logistics and time limits well in advance with the member’s staff. At the same time, confirm essential information such as the length of the speech and whether reporters will be present.

Whenever there is more than one congressional member participating in an event, there is the potential for the event to become complicated. This is why it is particularly important for such events to be carefully orchestrated ahead of time.

As a general rule of thumb, senators are typically recognized before House members and members of Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelakthe House leadership are usually recognized before other members. With that said, members of Congress can be sensitive about their order of appearance, therefore it is best to allow them to work out the speaking order themselves if matters become complicated.

Always observe congressional ethics rules regarding gifts, sponsored activities and meals, and make sure you are current on those rules.

If you are going to use a congressional facility, be aware of the rules. For instance, some congressional hearing rooms prohibit taping signs to walls. Signage may be limited. Make a point to arrive early and have multiple staff contacts in case there are logistical problems.

Be prepared to fill time if the featured speaker should be delayed or needs to leave abruptly or even cancels before the event. Hopefully you will not need to fill much time, but if the need arises it is better to be prepared.

Finally, mind your words. Make sure you know who is in the room and assume the press is present even if you are not aware of it.

To learn more about advocacy on Capitol Hill, consider TheCapitol.Net’s 1-day workshop Strategies for Working with Congress.

Reference: Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelak, Section 10.50 Tips for Coordinating Legislative Events.

For more information about advocacy in Washington, see

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Conducting Advocacy Issue Audits (Press Audits)

One of the important activities you can undertake as part of advocacy is performing an issue audit. The purpose of this audit is to assess media coverage and public opinion. This refers not only to current media coverage, but also to anticipated media coverage. Such an audit should be conducted on a national level as well as in key states and congressional districts.

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The first question to ask when conducting an audit is: what has been said in the media, on websites and in social media and by whom? Areas to consider include legislators, other interests, administration officials, prominent bloggers, commentators in the media and experts or academics, including think tanks.

You can begin to build your message as well as refute opposing arguments when you identify fallacies that exist or that you anticipate will be perpetuated. Look for questionable statistics, biased studies and biased groups. Also, analyze the way in which problems and solutions have been characterized or identified.

It is also a good idea to check public opinion polls and surveys that have been conducted and then consider conducting your own. Your media audit should always include a review of the different types of media sources, who is saying it and why, what is being said, when it was Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelaksaid and whether it is possible that conditions have changed since it was said, the effectiveness of results and the strengths and weaknesses of both sides of the argument.

There are several sources where you can keep a close eye on what is being said in the media, including the Federal News Service and Google Alerts. The Federal News Service provides verbatim, same-day transcripts of major congressional hearings, speeches, statements and press conferences by administration leaders, presidential speeches, statements and press conferences, White House briefings, State Departments briefings, Defense Department briefings, Justice Department briefings, Homeland Security briefings, U.S. Trade Representative briefings, Foreign Press Center briefings, speeches and press conferences by visiting international leaders, political interviews on morning and weekend TV news shows, key speeches at presidential political nominating conventions and presidential debates. You can also check various polls at PollingReport.com. Information on interest group positions on issues can be found at OnTheIssues.

Keeping your finger on the pulse of what is being said about your issue is the best way to stay informed and prepared to respond effectively.

Reference: Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelak, Section 10.6 Media Relations Principle 3, and Section 10.7 Conducting a Press Audit

For more information about advocacy in Washington, see

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Moving from Strategic Planning to Execution in Your Lobbying Practice

In a scenario that is all too common, an organization conducts an intensive strategic planning session involving a significant amount of resources – then the resulting plan gathers dust.

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During the planning session, everyone is enthusiastic and shares the same vision. You return to the office energized and ready to put the plan into action, but as time goes by and everyone settles into the daily routine, the strategic plan becomes somewhat forgotten. To avoid this, learn how to integrate planning into your overall efforts and learn to use your strategic planning as a compass for your daily activities so that you actually move from planning to execution.

First, you must have member or client input. The foundation for effective planning is formed by determining the concerns and priorities of your members or clients. Focus groups, surveys and member meetings can be used to identify important priorities and issues.

You must also evaluate the political, legislative, regulatory and judicial environments as part of your planning process.

Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna GelakIt can often be a challenge to identify and prioritize your current as well as future issues and yet it is central to your success. By synthesizing the information you gather from your clients or members, you can use those results to develop and update your issues list.

Your action plan should have specific goals for each issue, and incorporate priority ranking. Try to avoid the temptation to develop goals that are exceptionally ambitious, particularly if you have limited resources and staffing. As you go about the process of planning, work to identify issues that are interrelated so you can establish synergy between multiple issues. Assigning specific responsibility for action steps and establishing measurable outcomes and deadlines can help you to move from the planning stage to the execution stage.

Regularly updating your plan is important. Overall, there is often a short shelf life for legislative plans. In the political world, winds can shift quickly, which is why it is important that you be prepared to respond as new issues suddenly emerge in light of national and international events.

Reference: Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelak, Section 6.3 Turning Planning into Execution.

For more information about grassroots advocacy in Washington, see

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Expedited Delivery of Letters to Congress

Whenever time sensitive material must be delivered to a member of Congress without delay, you can use expedited delivery. Security procedures permitting, expedited delivery can be used to send unsealed mail through the Senate or House mail distribution facilities. These deliveries are accepted at the Congressional Acceptance Site, aka Congressional Courier Acceptance Site, 160 D Street NE, Washington, DC.

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A specific note can be placed at the top of the correspondence dictating that the letter is Time Sensitive or directing it to the attention of a specific individual. The House location will not accept expedited material for the Senate and the Senate location will not accept expedited mail for the House.

For the Senate, items are typically sorted during the early afternoon for delivery the following day. Unsealed letters or packages no larger than 4″ x 14″ x 18″ are accepted. Postage made payable to the U.S. Postmaster must be included, and checks will not be accepted. 202-224-5600

For the House, mail is usually delivered within 24 hours of being received provided all necessary requirements are met. Mailings should not be placed in envelopes, folders or any other types of containers. Accepted sheets of paper may be folded or stapled, but no sealed items are accepted. 202-224-7007

Mail that is directed to members of the House, House Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelakoffices or House staff without postage affixed are subject to a delivery fee. Payment for House mailings must be sent in the form of a check or money order and made payable to the United States Treasury.

All mailings must also include a cover letter. The cover letter should be written on your letterhead and include the following information:

  • Distribution requirements
  • Individual weight of each piece
  • Number of pieces
  • Rate per piece
  • Total money sent
  • Check or money order number
  • Name and phone number of contact person
  • An address where a receipt may be mailed

There are delivery services in DC that can arrange for expedited delivery, including:

To learn more about effective communications with members of Congress, consider taking TheCapitol.Net’s 1-day course, Strategies for Working with Congress, or the 3-day Capitol Hill Workshop.

Reference: Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelak, Section 8.23 Expedited Delivery of Letters to Congress

For more information about grassroots advocacy in Washington, also see

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The Annual Budget and Appropriations Processes

The president submits a proposed budget to Congress on the first Monday in February, although there can be some flexibility regarding the actual date of this submission.

The Proposal
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Known as the President’s Budget, this request to Congress is used as the basis for reports prepared by congressional budget committee members and staff. Appropriations hearings will be held to provide an opportunity for members of Congress to address concerns related to agency policies and programs.

Beginning in June and continuing through the month of October, both the House and the Senate work on the thirteen appropriations measures that ultimately fund the federal government.

Congressional appropriations bills must be passed by the beginning of the fiscal year in order for the government to be funded. The federal government’s fiscal year begins on October 1st, and if appropriations bills are not funded by then, Congress has the option of passing temporary stop-gap legislation that prevents the government from shutting down until appropriations bills can be finalized. When such measures are utilized they are known as Continuing Resolutions or CRs.

The need of lobbyists to track congressional schedules is Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelaklargely driven by the appropriations process. This remains true even when lobbyists are not directly involved in lobbying appropriations legislation. Important policy issues that are related to a lobbyist’s main area of interest can be considered and resolved quickly.

Free standing or separate legislation that is of interest to lobbyists can also be added into omnibus measures. This occurs when two or more of the thirteen appropriations bills are combined when Congress completes appropriations action in the fall. The end of the appropriations process is a challenge for Congressional members and staff, culminating in increased workload and late night sessions. As a result, it is not uncommon for provisions to be included with little or no warning or public scrutiny at all. This is why lobbyists must build and maintain a strong rapport with and proactively educate appropriations committee members and staff regarding their areas of concern before the beginning of the appropriations season. Failure to do so can result in action occurring that can have a strong impact on a lobbyist’s area of interest without the opportunity to take action.

To learn more about the President’s Budget, see TheCapitol.Net’s 1-day course, The President’s Budget. To learn more about the annual budget and appropriations process, consider TheCapitol.Net’s 2-day Advanced Federal Budget Process.

Reference: Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelak, Section 4.10 The Annual Budget and Appropriations Processes.

For detailed information about the legislative and budget process, see these resources from TheCapitol.Net:

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The Life Cycle of Lobbying

There is a distinctive life cycle in lobbying. The moment a bill is introduced, interest groups that track that issue will begin lobbying the legislation related to it. Often, reporters monitor congressional committee consideration quite closely and will pose questions to members of Congress regarding their position on that legislation. As increased public awareness is directed to the measure as a result of the media and interest groups, constituents learn more about the legislation and will then ask their own members of Congress to identify their position.

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Most members of Congress have decided their position on a piece of legislation by the time a bill moves to the floor. As a result, communications must be made as early as possible within the legislative process. The astute lobbyist begins the communications process before a member formulates their position on a bill.

You will have far more influence shaping member votes when you concentrate your efforts early in the legislative cycle. However, even when you are able to achieve victories early on this is not an indication that you can stop working. Lobbying, press and constituent pressures intensify immediately before a vote and can result in significant changes in position as well as the degree of support offered to legislation.

Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna GelakThe first stage of the lobbying life cycle involves planning and strategy. This includes surveys, research and analysis of issues. The second stage involves education and advocacy, including testimony, letters to Capitol Hill, personal visits, advertisements, emails and mobilizing grassroots efforts. During the third stage, you work on issue maintenance. At this stage you track developments in states as well as courts, while keeping an eye on public opinion.

The all important vote will occur during this final stage. During this stage, you focus on determining the next step. This can include whether the measure will move to the other chamber, joint House-Senate Conference Committee, Presidential consideration, implementation, etc.

To learn more about the lobbying and advocacy process, consider TheCapitol.Net’s 1-day course, Strategies for Working with Congress: Effective Communication and Advocacy on Capitol Hill and their 3-day Capitol Hill Workshop.

Reference: Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelak, Section 4.36 The Principle of Early Intervention: the Life Cycle of Lobbying

For more information about working with Congress, see these resources from TheCapitol.Net:

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Congressional Office Organization and Structure

The number and types of congressional offices can be overwhelming for people new to Capitol Hill. The purpose of the various congressional offices is to provide logistical, political and substantive support for members of Congress.

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Each member of Congress has an individual office, known as their personal office. In addition, they also have at least one office within their home state or district. Members who hold key leadership or committee leadership positions have additional staff and offices within the congressional complex.

The House office buildings are located on the south side of the Capitol. They include Rayburn, Longworth, Cannon, and Ford. The Senate office buildings are located on the north side of the Capitol building. They include Russell, Dirksen and Hart. (Map here.)

The average House offices features nine staffers while the average Senate office has 22 staffers. Five of those staffers are typically devoted to handling and responding to constituent mail.

Senate and House personal offices are usually issue oriented and address a wide range of issues and inquiries that are often politically focused. Committee offices are usually substance oriented and focused on particular issues. As a result, committee staffers often have more subject matter expertise.

The organizational structure for personal offices on the Hill varies based on the emphasis of the member on certain functions. For instance, a press secretary might report to the chief of staff or directly to the member of Congress, depending upon their relationship with that member.

The chief of staff is usually the most senior staffer within a Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna GelakWashington personal office. The highest ranking committee staffer is usually known as the staff director. In most instances, committees are divided into majority and minority staffs that include separate staff directors, offices and staff.

In many ways, the 535 congressional offices can be viewed as small independent companies that each deal with their own organizational structures and staffing issues. All offices may share some common attributes, but each can have their own unique features as well. While experience and background levels can vary, in most cases, the staff in congressional offices are recruited from their member’s home state. The only exception to this occurs with more senior positions, in which there is likely to be more varied experience. Senior staffers have often previously worked in another member’s office.

To learn more about how congressional offices are organized and run, consider TheCapitol.Net’s 1-day course, Strategies for Working with Congress: Effective Communication and Advocacy on Capitol Hill and their 3-day Capitol Hill Workshop.

Reference: Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelak, Chapter 4 Understanding Government Institutions and Process

For more information about working with Congress, see these resources from TheCapitol.Net:

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Recognizing Effective Grassroots Efforts

When your grassroots efforts are successful, there are many ways to recognize and reward those efforts.

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  • Give out annual awards for outstanding citizen efforts. Host a major event and present the awards during the event or cover it in a publication.
  • Provide an opportunity for citizens to share their success stories with their peers by holding informal sharing sessions at receptions during legislative conferences.
  • Profile grassroot advocates and their success stories in your publications. This is a great way to recognize individuals and educate others about your organization’s grassroots program.
  • Make a point of publicly recognizing successful advocates during meeting or speeches.
  • Create video or slide shows of advocates testifying before state legislatures or Congress.
  • If a constituent’s letter is used in a congressional newsletter, provide a copy of that publication to the constituent.
  • Whenever grassroots members are able to effectively recruit peers, make a point of recognizing those efforts. There are many creative ways in which you can do so. Appropriate gifts can be provided for specific efforts or contributions.
  • Provide access to premium opportunities, such as invitations to important conference calls, meetings or including members in the advisory council of your organization.

Taking the time and the effort to recognize the efforts and Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelaksuccesses of your members can help build loyalty while at the same time energizing the entire organization. It does not much time to recognize outstanding efforts by your grassroot advocates, but the impact can be tremendous. Technology now makes it possible to automatically generate thank-you notes to grassroots communicators.

Remember, people enjoy hearing updates regarding their efforts and they always enjoy the opportunity to win prizes and have their efforts recognized. Calling attention to outstanding examples of communication not only recognizes your members, but also helps to motivate others as well. Such rewards can also prove to be effective recruitment tools, helping expand your network.

To learn more about grassroots campaigns and networks, consider these Capitol Learning Audio Courses: Building and Nurturing Your Grassroots Campaign, How to Organize a Capitol Hill Day, and Visiting Capitol Hill for First-Time Grassroots Advocates: An Introductory Course.

Reference: Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelak, Section 7.13 Components for Building and Maintaining an Effective Grassroots Network

For more information about grassroots advocacy in Washington, also see

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Effective Strategy Planning Tips for Lobbyists and Advocates

The legislative environment can involve a high degree of pressure and present challenges to the lobbyist for strategic planning. Organizations that take time to invest in staff training, strategic planning and goal updates will be rewarded in the long term, including sustained legislative success and effective representation of client or member interests. Strategic planning can also provide crisis avoidance.

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When it comes to planning strategies, you want to “plan your planning.” Whenever practical and feasible, schedule strategic planning sessions during congressional recesses or during other times when lobbying work is likely to be slow. Effective planning requires intense concentration and it is better to schedule your planning sessions when you will be free from distractions.

You may find that a change of venue can benefit your Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelakteam in developing press ideas and perspectives as you revamp and refine your plans. In order to minimize interruptions and distractions, establish ground rules regarding the use of electronic devices during such planning sessions. At the same time, expect the unexpected and build in some flexibility to your plans to allow for new issues and unexpected developments.

Effective lobbyists work toward building a balance of communication and advocacy with those organizations they represent. In particular, lobbyists must balance their direct lobbying through advocacy work, interacting with those they represent, departmental and inter-departmental organizational activities and activities that are necessary for meeting long-term goals.

Rather than merely responding to issues as they arise, keep the end goal in mind and ensure you have a plan that will prepare you for upcoming legislative sessions. Ask yourself what it is that you will be most proud to announce at the end of the year? Once you have that picture visualized, work toward developing a plan for making it happen.

For more information about effective planning and advocacy, consider TheCapitol.Net’s 1-day course, Strategies for Working with Congress: Effective Communication and Advocacy on Capitol Hill and their 3-day Capitol Hill Workshop.

Reference: Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelak, Section 6.2 Basic Government Affairs Planning Strategies

For more information about working with Congress, see these resources from TheCapitol.Net:

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