Legislator Resource Center

COVID DOESN'T HAVE TO SIDELINE YOUR LEGISLATOR OUTREACH

 

COVID has changed all of our lives.  In response to the new reality of social distancing, reduced travel and avoiding groups, WCI provides this resource for our members who want to stay in touch with their legislators. 

 

Consider this an opportunity to connect with legislators and their staff that you might not be able to during an in-person fly-in.   Better still, it's a chance to show them your operations without the major logistical challenges of an in-person event.  

 

CONSIDER HOSTING A VIRTUAL TOUR OF YOUR FACILITIES FOR LEGISLATORS

 

COVID has changed all of our lives.  In response to the new reality of social distancing, reduced travel and avoiding groups, WCI provides this resource for our members who want to stay in touch with their legislators. 

 

This is a prime opportunity to host a legislator and Congressional office staff VIRTUALLY, if you can't have them at your site to highlight your operations and industry.  After all, it’s vital that legislators understand your opinions on issues and legislation.  The recent challenges presents shouldn’t scuttle your outreach, even under social distancing guidelines. Consider hosting a virtual tour.

 

There’s no substitute for a live event, with real-time back and forth between your team and a legislator/staff.  

Remember, if you’re not at the table, you might be on the menu.  

 

Planning tips:

  • Start planning 3-4 weeks in advance
    • Divide responsibilities - determine who will be the on-camera ‘host’, who else will be on camera/speaking, who will write down legislator’s questions, who will be the lead on technical issues..
    • What’s your platform?  Microsoft Teams is preferred in the U.S. House, the Senate prefers WebEx…Zoom is also an option
    • Reach out to the legislator’s staff with as-specific information as possible.  Be sure to emphasize that this is a virtual site visit, not a webinar
  • Plan for a 30-45 minute event
  • Ensure you have a reliable signal
  • Map out a route, in advance, of what you want to highlight from your facility
  • Have an ‘ask’, usually 2-3 key messages to relay.  WCI can help with this.  Know the status of that years’ appropriations.  What issues are you targeting? Is there specific legislation afoot?
  • Acquire permission - in advance -  from the legislator’s office to record the event
  • Do a full dress rehearsal within a week of the event….and test everything

Day-of tips:

  • Have your device at eye level – no one wants to see the inside of your nose
  • Look into the camera (make eye contact)
  • Invest in an after-market microphone with wind screen
  • Consider supplemental lighting to illuminate the host
  • Post the session on your social media feeds
  • Use a dedicated internet connection and close all apps and programs on the device
  • Take a ‘selfie’ of the legislator during the event (get approval first)
  • Have a backup plan in place -

 

Follow-up:

  • Be sure to send a thank-you email (or call) to the lead staff member
  • Provide any follow-through that was promised (remember the person who was in charge of taking notes?) during the event
  • Post any photos or video (that were approved by the legislator’s office) on your website, in your newsletter and internal communications – let your employees know the importance of reaching out to legislators
    • Encourage them to “like”, retweet or otherwise share on their own social media feeds, with the legislator tagged so it gets back to their office
  • Share that content with any associations (like WCI) to which you’re a member        

 

Education, Advocacy, and Lobbying - What's the Difference?

 

Advocacy or Education is public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy. Lobbying is seeking to influence (a politician or public official) on an issue or a specific ask such as supporting a specific piece of legislation.​

 

Advocacy happens in many different ways, but at its core it’s about raising awareness, educating others around the issues and policies impacting river transportation, and forming and maintaining relationships with policymakers who can make an impact.

 

There are many examples of this that do not cross over into lobbying. Advocacy can include such activities as:

  • Educating and informing lawmakers (site visits, in-district meetings with legislators) 
  • Making your voice(s) heard about why waterways transportation is important (on legislators' social media feeds)
  • Helping policymakers find solutions to problems
  • Providing critical information of introduced legislation
  • Urging the public to contact policy makers to advocate for adoption or rejection of legislation

On the other end of the spectrum are lobbying activities. Key lobbying activities include activities in direct support or opposition to a specific piece of proposed legislation. Most of WCI staff are registered lobbyists, and your company or association probably has at least one registered lobbyist (federal and/or state) on staff. The IRS has strict rules regarding the percentage of a nonprofit’s budget that can go toward lobbying activities. 

 

 

How to make an impact with Congressional offices - Q&A with Veteran Senate Staffer

 

how to conduct more effective meetings - Q&A with former chief of staff lea sulkala

 

Have ideas? Share here!

 

 

FOLLOW OUR "FIVE ON THE FIVE" INTERVIEWS

 

Five on the Five: December 2022, Rep. Garret Graves (R, LA-06)

 

FIVE ON THE FIVE: NOVEMBER 2022, REP. CHERI BUSTOS (D, IL-17)

 

Five on the Five: October 2022, Rep. Bob Gibbs (R, OH-07)