The advocacy community is busy making final preparations for what follows after Election Day. The immediate concern will be the lame-duck period between November and the end of the year.
But separate from advocating for year-end priorities, there are also some immediate steps organizations can take with an eye toward the next Congress. Here are five things groups and advocates can do to best position themselves for January:
1. Provide high-level analysis
When the votes are tallied and the winners named from the presidential race right on down to state legislatures, your organization has an opportunity to share insights on the results in a customized way that explains the implications for your industry or issue set. Many media outlets are working overtime to produce high-quality graphics, charts, and breakdowns that can be used in presentations to select groups of your audience or your full audience. If your organization worked with a campaign professional, consulting firm, or pollster, schedule a video or conference call to discuss the results to add more credibility and value.
2. Explain your priorities
Even if all the projections and polls are off, chances are that you gamed out, or did some cursory planning for most electoral scenarios. You need to quickly and affirmatively state your plan for 2021 and even go under the hood to reveal some of the inner workings of your engagement strategy. What are the biggest challenges that your organization faces based on the results? What are the biggest opportunities that your organization faced based on the results?
Communicate your understanding of the current situation and lay the foundation for ways that your audience can get involved to address the challenges and develop policy around the opportunities. If you have a glaring outreach void, you should also detail a plan on how to fill that void and muster the necessary resources (consultants, coalition partners, congressional allies).
3. Respond to questions
The results of the election are going to yield many questions from your organization’s audience. What does this mean for my small business? What does this mean for our corporate strategy on X or Y issue? Provide a forum for your audience to ask these questions.
This is critical feedback that can help shape your strategy and give you some ideas on what engaged members are currently thinking as it relates to the election outcome. You may face some tough questions. Your organization may have supported some candidates through PAC or grassroots efforts that lost key seats. Be prepared to answer questions openly and honestly even if the election didn’t render your intended results.
4. Provide some deliverables
Whether it’s a one-page summary, an infographic, or a detailed election analysis report, it’s beneficial to provide your members with something that’s concrete and easily digestible. An electronic or printed report that’s released shortly after Nov. 3 will inspire confidence in your organization’s preparedness for what lies ahead. These reports, commentary, and analysis are highly influenced by internal and external variables and require both conjecture and malleability. It helps to go on the record with something substantive out of the gate. Wait too long and it’ll get lost in the post-election noise.
5. Congratulate winners and welcome newcomers
It’s important for your organization and your members to be prepared to help the victors celebrate hard-fought elections, console those candidates who didn’t succeed, and welcome incoming elected officials in a timely way. These are the attributes of a professional, organized, and effective policy shop.
Joshua Habursky is the Head of Federal Affairs at the Premium Cigar Association and Adjunct Professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.
Mike Fulton directs the Washington, D.C., office of Asher Agency and teaches public affairs in the West Virginia University Reed College of Media’s Integrated Marketing Communications program.