When winter finally ends and spring begins in DC, it’ll mean two things: cherry blossoms and fly-ins. Every year, trade associations, state and local legislators, and corporate executives fly into the Beltway to lobby the federal government.
Washington fly-ins are an important part of any organization’s advocacy efforts. But for many reasons, they can fall flat.
Citizen advocates have a few good meetings and perhaps enjoy a Manhattan at The Monocle, then return home and hope that, just maybe, Washington will remember what they discussed. The reality is, in most cases, Hill staff will forget about them until next spring when they get another meeting request as part of another fly-in.
But companies and associations can take steps to maximize their return on the significant costs these events represent. Here are seven ways we’ve found to maximize the impact during your next trip to our nation’s capital.
1. Run an op-ed ahead of the trip to make your case before you get there. Place it in DC publication, or a relevant trade journal. Hill staff will read your piece and already be familiar with your issue.
2. Deploy digital ads targeting Capitol Hill and the agencies that matter to familiarize them with your issues ahead of time. Facebook is the easiest way to do it, but you should also consider banner display ads that target the IP addresses in the House and Senate office buildings. It’s an extremely cost-effective way to reach the people that matter.
3. Set up interviews or sit-downs with Capitol Hill reporters and industry trade publication journalists while you’re in town. Organize a compelling story to pitch in advance. Having a good story to tell raises your chances of getting coverage either during the fly-in or later on when your issue resurfaces.
4. Schedule and deliver a presentation at a think tank or at least meet with some scholars to plant the seeds so next year you can do an event together. This is a great way to recruit more of the DC opinion elites to join your cause. If you can convince a scholar or two to weigh in, that adds credibility and intellectual heft to your lobbying.
5. Hold a press conference with Members who support you. Members love microphones, so give them a press conference. Invite the reporters you met with earlier. Now, this takes a bit of legwork, but if you can convince a House or Senate office to get behind it, then you can leverage those congressional resources to secure the space, attract the press, and pull off the event. Issue a media advisory beforehand and a press release afterward. You’ll want to make sure the congressional offices issue press releases, too (and promote them on social media).
6. Put together infographics for leave-behinds. No power points and no long white papers. You should have a one-page infographic that readily explains your issue, and is visually pleasing.
7. Create memorable videos that explain your issues. These needn’t be expensive. Today, a good public affairs team can create very affordable and compelling videos that can be emailed to Hill staff, journalists, and posted on social as well as used in digital ads and during presentations.
As you think about your lobbying strategy for 2020, consider incorporating these tools so you can break through the noise, and make more of an impact in Washington. And don’t forget to check out the Cherry blossoms too.
Chase Kroll is Director of Strategic Communications at Hogan Lovells Strategic Communications.