Today wraps up our ongoing series to help you advance your public policy success when conducting Washington, D.C., fly-ins with your employees and members.
Once a round of Capitol Hill visits is complete, your grassroots advocates return to their sometimes humdrum workaday world. Before that happens, coordinate your follow up actions and next steps. This could involve assigning one of your troops to maintain contact with a certain Hill staffer, deciding when you need to schedule another round of Hill visits, or deciding to re-tailor your legislative strategy.
Encourage your fly-in participants to send handwritten thank you notes or e-mails. This classy touch separates your organization from the pack. While there are few attention grabbers as effective as the handwritten note, two factors make this technique inherently difficult when contacting members of Congress. Reason one: Handwritten notes can take three weeks or more to arrive in the member’s office due to offsite security screening. We can thank the 2001 anthrax scare for that. Reason two: That screening process renders the paper so brittle that it may as well be a fragile document from centuries ago. Yes, you can have one of your government relations team or an intern hand deliver notes, but Capitol Police generally frown upon anyone entering the Capitol complex carrying a tray bulging with envelopes.
Remember that one-page leave behind containing your message that you presented upon your exit? E-mail a PDF copy to your staff contacts on the Hill so they have an electronic version, too.
Regardless of how you do it, it is important to maintain contact with those you visited. This should not be a one-time outreach effort, but a program over time that keeps your organization and your issues in their field of vision. When Congressional staff realize that you plan to see things through, they are likely to devote more attention to your issue and raise your perspectives with the boss more frequently.
One way to maintain this ongoing contact is to leverage efforts back in their districts. Suggest that your advocates invite elected representatives to site tours, ribbon cuttings, luncheons, and the like. Also advise that they attend the member’s district meetings, even if it’s just to reintroduce themselves and shake hands one more time.