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Half of life is just showing up...

January 28, 2011
Those immortal words, repeated incessantly by my high-school basketball coach, still ring in my ears.  Because I tended to dismiss anything that anyone in a position of authority said during my teenage years, it took me a long time to figure out just how important "showing up" is. A recent report, "Communicating with Congress: Perceptions of Citizen Advocacy on Capitol Hill," released by the Public Affairs Counsel, demonstrates the value of that message.  The report, based on a survey of 260 congressional staffers, concludes that "the most influential advocacy strategies for swaying an undecided member of Congress depend on personal communications from constituent.” In short, showing up. The operative word here is "personal."  In the age of email, Wi-Fi, and YouTube, it's nice to know that taking the time to visit a congressional office in person - or meeting with a lawmaker in the district - is worth the effort. Personal constituent visits have far more impact than those from lobbyists (although professional advocates are still necessary to provide an ongoing presence on Capitol Hill). Here are a few of the report's most important findings:
  • "Astroturf" campaigns that rely on form letters, postcards and emails generate noise, but not influence.
  • Showing up in person still counts.
  • Meeting legislators and their staff in the district can be just as effective as coming to Capitol Hill.
  • Personal stories about how an issue impacts voters resonate with public policymakers.
  • Don't underestimate the value of meeting with congressional staff.
  • Those who ignore social media do so at their own peril.  Conversations about your industry and your society are taking place right now on the Internet - whether you're there or not.
American Fraternal Alliance members will have an opportunity to "show up" and meet in person with members of Congress and their staff at the 2011 Presidents Section Mid-Year Meeting in Washington, D.C., this May.  I hope every member society will send a representative to this first-of-its kind Fraternal Alliance event.  It's time we joined forces to tell public policymakers who we are and what we do - and ensure that when the debate over tax reform begins, members of Congress understand the tremendous return on their investment that we deliver to taxpayers and the nation's social fabric. Look for registration material in your email in-box next week.  See you on Capitol Hill...