From inception, chambers of commerce were built on a foundation of advocacy. They were a place for business executives to gather to talk challenges and find solutions. Public authorities began to see the Chamber as a trusted voice for common interests. Since then, our strength and platforms have continued to grow with advocacy becoming a core function of the Chamber. Today, it’s critical that we not only serve as a conduit, but also provide a return on investment.
An important step in advocacy is surveying and conducting outreach to developing a robust legislative agenda with priorities critical to business industry. But it doesn’t stop there. Next, is a Chamber-led advocacy trip or “Day at the Capitol.”
There is not a better opportunity to elevate the Chamber’s priorities than to have those men and women who are dealing with new regulations in their businesses every day. In our experience, elected officials want to hear our member-investors, their stories and their challenges and work together to find solutions. Some Chambers may already have these programs in place. If not, it’s time to consider developing a “Day at the Capitol” to provide a valuable experience and to move the needle on vital legislation.
To ensure success, it’s imperative these attendees feel comfortable and are prepared with the information they need. It’s likely there will be business executives who have never done this before, they may have never even spoken to an elected official or visited the capitol. Here are a few tips:
- Provide the Chamber’s legislative agenda and three or four talking points under each item to help them better understand the Chamber’s position and impact.
- Identify bills numbers, sponsors, a summary and an update on the status of the bill in the legislative process.
- Plan a pre-meeting to ask member-investors if they have real life applicable examples. Are they from a health care company or do they have infrastructure contracts? If so, this would be an excellent area for them to speak on. Assign topics.
- If the delegation is large, break into small groups with a team leader. This will allow you to visit a larger number of elected officials over the course of the day.
- Include a list of communication tips for interacting with elected officials. Give an example of a script on how a potential meeting might go or video a mock meeting.
- Provide an itinerary with helpful items such as parking, how security works, what to bring or not bring along, a map of the Capitol with rooms highlighted and contact information.
- Provide a biography and photo of the legislator who you are meeting and include the names of their legislative staff, as well as the staff contact person in case schedules change.
Equipping your attending member-investors with pertinent information, tips and tools ensures that they feel empowered to become the advocate, have candid conversations with elected officials and ultimately, move business priorities forward. Preparation and organization will help these leaders serve as the robust, cohesive and effective voice of business.
Lori Little says
Erica, nice insight and good tips for members. Our Capitol Day was a success earlier this year primarily due to a small, but strong contingent of members (mostly small business owners) willing to 1) show up, and 2) ask the hard questions of their legislators. Engagement is key.
Erica Mulder says
Great to hear Lori! It’s incredible the work a small group can accomplish at a place like D.C.