The August recess, or extended recess into September, is a time to catch up and take a breath for both Congress and the advocacy community. Now that everyone is back from the six-week hiatus, here are some ways to engage with Congress from the onset to counteract any malaise or lethargy from the recent break.
Utilize the recess as a segue.
The August recess is a perfect icebreaker as almost everyone in the policymaking business take a trip (or many) for work and pleasure. Connect with staff and ask them how their recess went and if they had a chance to return to the district or state. A lot of times their response will contain relevant information to your issue area.
They may have even met with one of your members, partners, or casual supporters. The August recess segue can come in the form of casual conversation in person, or even an email message request as a soft sell to schedule a meeting with staff. The recess likely brought to light new information, constituent interactions, data, and anecdotes that you’ll have to grapple with on behalf of your organization and, in some cases, counteract from other organizations. Using the recess as a segue will refresh your issues to the top of the order and allow you to gather any pertinent intelligence from in-district or in-state interactions.
Provide an activities summary.
It’s worthwhile to provide a summary of activities that went on during the course of recess to both the policy audience as well as your membership/employees. Again, the perception — even if it’s a misperception — is that recess isn’t a time when everyone is as busy as general session.
A lot of organizations work hard to refute this claim through robust activities and they should be duly noted. Don’t go overboard, and do a full readout of every activity down to the hour that you did during the course of recess. Showcase top-level information such as X number of in-district visits, major news highlights, or developments along other contours of federalism such as state, local, legal, or regulatory activities that have relevance to federal policymaking.
When you’re sending this communication to internal stakeholders such as your membership or board of directors, include visuals, highlight key metrics and minimize the text. Same holds true when you’re sending to policymakers. In fact, you may want to broaden your information to be about a particular issue area and stuff some specifics about your organization within a more inclusive summary. This will be viewed more as a resource and a softer push of your issues.
Access your strategy and timeline.
The clock is ticking on achievable legislative goals for the year. Serious efforts and engagement need to occur in September and October — before the holidays — to actually get something across the finish line. Your government relations team should already have a plan in place for the next few months that includes target offices, committees, and when/how all the engagement strategies will come together based on the intel and current state of play.
Ideally, you should have communications that are primed and ready to launch during the first week or two back. Access and reassesses your strategy during the first few weeks. Chances are some of initiatives lost momentum and others gained momentum during recess and in the midst of the flurry of world events.
Buckle up: Congress is back and ready for a three-week sprint that can largely determine the direction of the remainder of 2019.
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 Managemen