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.
As soon as you and your advocates have completed your Capitol Hill visits, I strongly suggest making it mandatory for all advocates to attend a post-visit debriefing session. It doesn’t need to be an hours-long marathon, but you do need to spend at least 15 to 30 minutes with everyone in the same room. If you need a hammer to enforce 100 percent presence at this crucial meeting, make the receipt of any stipend contingent upon signing an attendance form following your debriefing.
Make sure to build this time into the published agenda distributed before the fly-in. That way no one is surprised when asked to stay. It is also a good idea to discourage people from booking flights back home that depart too early to allow for this critical information gathering phase. You need to make this happen, for the longer you wait to assess feedback, the more stale and unreliable your information.
Work is not finished even after your day on the Hill has ended and everyone is back home. Encourage your advocates to flesh out their rough notes into a concise memo for you and your government relations colleagues. You might offer you a convenient form to submit. Let everyone know that their contributions to the organization’s institutional memory are priceless.
Next, assess the effectiveness of both your efforts and that of your advocates. Solicit feedback from those who participated as well as from all members of your government relations staff. You must take a cold, hard look at the level of success of your efforts. What worked well that you can duplicate next time? What needs to be changed? Examine everything from your message to your logistical preparation to the members of Congress you targeted.
Also, assess your grassroots advocates. Who are the leaders that can be relied upon in future endeavors? Who needs a bit more polish and experience? Who is hopeless (yes, much as we would like to find a role for everyone, it’s just not a realistic goal; a certain percentage, no matter how well-intentioned, will flunk out). How were the dynamics among advocates? Which groups clicked? Which should be broken up?