December 16, 2016
Whoa for 2016. We witnessed ups, downs, and all-arounds, and left plenty of issues needing advocating in 2017. To wrap up the year and prepare for the next, below are the Top Ten Advantageous Advocacy column tips.
1. Honesty is the best policy. Once credibility is lost, the ship has sailed.
2. Respect time. Wasting it is neither appreciated nor forgotten by an official.
3. Agree to disagree. Never make attacks personal or shoot the messenger. An advocate may disagree today, but may need to work with that same person in the future.
4. Do not talk about political contributions in an official meeting. It sends a signal that this person either thinks the staff can be easily bought or that the staff was not professional enough to help unless the “skids were greased.” Offending a staff person is never a good start to a meeting.
5. Trying to go over a staff person’s head is far more likely to damage an advocate’s reputation. He is often hurting himself and slowing down the process.
6. Honor the lifelines. As gatekeepers, they can facilitate a request or frustrate it. They can prevent an advocate/lobbyist from ever getting a meeting or provide useful knowledge.
7. Keep it simple. After surveying of dozens of Hill staff, a whopping 88 percent said that for a first meeting with any group, they would prefer the group assumes the congressional office knows nothing about the topic at hand. Start at the very beginning.
8. In developing a message for an elected official, think RED. Reason. Emotion. District. Voting is one of the most important duties of an elected official. In a majority of cases, one, or perhaps two, and sometimes even all three categories of RED will greatly influence how an official decides on a vote.
9. Listen. A person has two ears and one mouth, and should use them in proportion. Listening requires being humble enough to focus 100 percent on someone else. Listening entails complete concentration – not just hearing the sounds – but comprehending the words, and noticing body language and other non-verbal cues. Listening to what is NOT being said is also important because most staff and officials do not like giving “bad” news – therefore, an advocate sometimes needs to read between the lines and hear the unsaid no.
10. Develop relationships, not a network. Far too many individuals are focused on the instant reward, how fast they can work a room, and the number of business cards they can acquire at an event. What is often overlooked in the networking game is actually developing some of that network into a sincere relationship – yes, a real friend – someone who is trustworthy, genuine, and giving. In the age of virtual relationships, that real relationship can mean far more, both personally and professionally. Think more Vanguard, less Pay Day Loan. A person wants to invest in another person, wants for that investment to grow, and would even take it paying back dividends at some point. Note the order of that: giving, growing, possible return.
Remember that everyone is capable of advocacy; passionate and committed people are the crux of advocacy. In the story, “The Lorax,” by Dr. Seuss, he writes, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
An elected official works for the people. The people’s tax dollars pay his salary. The people who vote determine whether the official keeps his job. For an official to effectively serve and be reelected, he needs information from the people who know the issues best.
Bottom line: officials cannot represent us well if constituents are not willing to share their thoughts, ideas and knowledge through advocacy. Thanks to WisPolitics and everyone for reading. More on each of the top 10 tips can be found in full by visiting: www.1492communications.com. Happy holidays and looking forward to a great year of advocacy in 2017.