Welcome to Washington, D.C.

Welcome back to our ongoing series to help you advance your public policy success when conducting Washington, D.C., fly-ins with your employees and members.

Some of your advocates who participate in Capitol Hill fly-ins are no doubt unfamiliar with the ways of the nation’s capital. To help acclimate them, suggest that they put themselves in a lawmaker’s shoes. For instance, understand that schedules on the Hill are in a constant state of flux and often out of an individual lawmaker’s control.

What does this volatility mean to your troops? That scheduled 15-minute meeting may be cut to a 15-second trot to the elevator alongside the representative or senator. This brings to mind two important points. Number one, roll with the punches. Don’t take umbrage should this happen. It’s nothing personal, just a fact of life on the Hill. Second, make the most of those 15 seconds by honing your message to a fine point, one that empowers your grassroots representatives to deliver the most important information in that brief time span.

Some of your new envoys may not only be unfamiliar with Capitol Hill, some may have never before set foot in Washington, D.C. Yes, it is an impressive, aCapitol mapwe-inspiring place. I’ve been a creature of our nation’s capital for more than 25 years, and am not ashamed to admit being strongly affected to this day by the sight of the Capitol dome.

The perception of Capitol Hill (one that has been assiduously cultivated both by members of Congress and, yes, government relations professionals) is that of a stage built to a grand scale with larger than life players.

The reality? It is nothing more than an office building with harried employees just like the ones your advocates work with every day back home. Yes, the hallways are a bit wider, the marble more widespread, and the ceilings higher. But in the end, whether you visit the Russell Senate Office Building, the Rayburn House Office Building, or any of the other facilities, these are simply office buildings.

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