What’s Your Story?

If you had ten minutes to share your story (or that of your community, business or organization) with your lawmakers, what would you say that could convince them to help you?

So often I hear people share they believe politicians don’t listen and have already made up their minds on an issue. THIS ISN’T TRUE! In fact, it’s exactly the opposite.

Legislators seek out opportunities to help their constituents. But they can’t help you if they don’t hear from you. And frankly they are expecting you to talk to them and share the challenges (and opportunities) you’re experiencing so they CAN help you.

If you have ever listened to lawmakers share stories during committee meetings, on the floor of their respective chamber or on the campaign trail to reinforce their position on an issue or bill, they often start by sharing a story from a family, small business owner, veteran, constituent, and the like. They don’t make up these stories…they come from people just like you! So make sure they know and understand yours.

Your Partner in Advocacy…Kathy

#YourJourneyStartsToday

Put It in Writing!

One question I’m often asked by advocates is if letters or resolutions of support really make a difference. And my answer is always the same…“Yes”!

When lawmakers are presenting and debating bills in their state capital, they always appreciate knowing that people from “back home” support what they are doing. But so often their inbox only gets full when people want them to oppose something.

And while it’s perfectly fine to share your objection, you can’t stop there! A letter, email or resolution of support lets them know they’re not fighting alone, especially when that  support comes directly from their constituents.

But before you start writing, spend a few moments answering the following question so you can share this information in specific detail with your lawmakers:

  1. How will this legislation positively impact me, my business, city or organization? Some great examples include:
    1. For small businesses – I can hire more employees, give them a raise, expand their benefits, open a second location, etc.
    2. For organizations – We can expand our scope of services or the population we serve (feed more families, build more houses, etc.)
    3. For local governments – We can put more money in reserves, streamline services or operations, reduce our millage, etc.

In our on-going conversation about pro-active advocacy, sharing your support (in writing) is the perfect opportunity to continue on your journey to yes!

Your Partner in Advocacy…Kathy

#YourJourneyStartsToday

Is It Time for One Final Tour?

As I shared in last week’s post, advocacy is much more fun if done proactively! So let’s continue with that theme and focus on another strategy for engaging those you are trying to influence for the purpose of informing and collaborating for the benefit of your business, organization or community.

If you’ve never, or if it’s been a long time, NOW is the time to invite lawmakers for a tour. So often they share that seeing really is believing and essential in helping them make informed decisions.

This is especially true if you’re referencing your business, community or organization when you communicate. If they’ve seen it and talked with your staff or volunteers, they will have a much better understanding and appreciation of the “why and how”.

But don’t just do this once! This is especially true if you’re asking for their financial help. In many states, legislators have to prove why they are asking for money and how it will benefit not only their district but the state in general. It’s much easier for them to do that if they have an in-depth knowledge (and can share with their colleagues) their reasons for the request.

And if they are successful in obtaining appropriations for you, it’s an absolute must that you:

  1. Say, “thank you” in a big way!
  2. Keep them apprised of when you receive funding and how it is being used.
  3. Provide them periodic updates on how the money has benefitted your industry, organization or community.

Making pro-active advocacy part of your plan for influencing leaders can put you on a journey that will lead you to success and get the “yes” you are looking for!

Your Partner in Advocacy…Kathy

#YourJourneyStartsToday

 

A Major Player on the Team

The legislative staff. Often when thinking about advocacy and advocating for your town, small business or organization, the person(s) that comes to mind is the legislator. Obviously they are quite important, and the ultimate decision makers when voting on issues affecting your communities or ability to serve your customers or clients. However, there is another very important group of people that deserve as much of your time and attention as the lawmaker themselves. And that is their staff!

These individuals are much more than just an employee. They are often a confidant, advisor and influencer when it comes time for legislators to:

1. Decide what bills to file.
2. Decide to request appropriations.
3. Fully understand the impact of legislation (develop talking points).
4. Draft bill language, and;
5. Debate bills in committee.

So how can you include them in your advocacy plan? Here’s a fantastic, proven strategy!

Initiate a quarterly meeting with your senior staff and the lawmakers’ legislative aides for the purpose of keeping them up-to-date on activities within your industry, organization, town or business. And if you have a store front or corporate offices, this is also the perfect time for a quick tour! This strategy keeps participants (especially the aide) advised of what is happening and a chance to talk about your greatest challenges or  opportunities to work together.

Lastly…THIS is how good legislation becomes a reality and how pre-emptions or unfunded mandates are prevented.  And take it from someone who’s been involved in advocacy for over 15 years…it’s much more fun to focus on being a pro-active advocate vs. only reacting to the bad!

Your Partner in Advocacy…Kathy

#YourJourneyStartsToday

 

It’s Time to Say, “Thank You”

We all love to be appreciated right? It’s what motivates us to go that extra mile in our professional or personal lives. But how often do we really acknowledge and extend appreciation to our political leaders? Surprisingly, (and sadly) they will tell you it is very rare.

But YOU have the power to change that! Whether you are an elected leader or a constituent, if it’s been awhile or this is the first time, the time is NOW to say, “thank you for your service”

A strategy ANYONE can do in just a few minutes, below is a sample email you can use verbatim! And this is also a great strategy to begin or advance your relationship in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration with those you are trying to influence.

Dear Senator/Representative _____,

Thank you for your public service to the residents of _____________ (insert House or Senate district number here). As a constituent in ______ (insert your specific neighborhood or street name here), I wanted to congratulate you on your committee assignments and wish you much success as you continue to serve. 

If there is anything I or my (city/town/village/company, firm, association) can do to assist you or your staff, I hope you won’t hesitate to contact me.

Respectfully,
Your Name, Title
City/Phone/Email

Even if you don’t support or agree with your elected leaders here’s some food for thought. You rarely drown or get lost in the crowd when you take the high road!

Your Partner in Advocacy…Kathy

#YourJourneyStartsToday

A Report You’ll Actually Want to Write (and Use)!

If you’re like me, the thought of having to write a report takes me back to some not-so-pleasant memories from my school days! Meeting those deadlines, deciding what to write about, doing the research…yuck, right? And after I turned it in, that was it. Never saw it (or truth be told), never wanted to see it again!

However back when I was an elected official, I decided to give it another try and began preparing what I call a Pre-Session Legislative Report for my state lawmakers. And surprisingly I discovered that not only did I enjoy writing it, but it became a very valuable advocacy tool as I took another step along my advocacy journey. Here’s why…

A better, more focused advocate – When I decided to prepare the report, I knew I had to focus on only few issues (3 at most) affecting my city. Thus, the time spent doing research and data collection really helped me learn the issues, which helped me become a better advocate. And the time I spent presenting the report was an opportunity to ask for what I wanted for my city and offer help and support to my lawmakers during the upcoming session.

Informed Legislators – Once presented, they knew (and hopefully) understood in detail my top priorities for advocacy in the upcoming session and why I had chosen them. And they also knew when they heard from me is was going to be about one of those issues. Also, it provided them with valuable information they could reference if and when related legislation was filed. And if they couldn’t support my city’s position, this was an opportunity for them to tell me early on in the process so I didn’t waste their time or mine trying to follow-up or persuade them otherwise.

A Great Resource for the Staff – The report provided them with information they could incorporate into talking point for their boss, and now had all of my contact information for any additional follow-up. And I assured them that if/when related legislation was filed, they could count on me to keep the report current.

So what should you include in the report on each issue and how long should it be? Here’s a quick list to help you get started:

  1. The fiscal impact (positive or negative) of the issues or legislation. Lawmakers ALWAYS want to know this!
  2. A status report with basic information such as a bill number, sponsor, co-sponsors, committees of reference and committee outcomes (if applicable).
  3. A list of any known opponents for each issue. Legislators know that for every supporter, there is always an opponent. If you know who they are list them in the report. You don’t have to go into detail about their position, but at least know why they are in opposition in case you’re asked.
  4. Ask for what you want. Providing the info is great, but that’s all it is if you don’t make the ask! (BTW – Legislators will be expecting you to do this.)
  5. Lastly, prepare a cover letter highlighting what’s included with all of your contact information.
  6. While there’s no specified length for the report, a really good measurement is one to two pages per issue. If it’s too long they won’t read it, but it needs to be long enough to share all the necessary information.

Want to learn more? Be sure to check out a copy of my book, A Journey To Yes to get the answers you need design a great report that will help you stand out from the crowd!

Your Partner in Advocacy…Kathy

#YourJourneyStartsToday

 

 

 

Prioritize the Priorities

Last week I had the pleasure of giving a speech to a group of local government officials in Florida. The topic was preparing for the upcoming legislative session, which this year starts in January.

As I was preparing the speech, I started reflecting on my days as a city commissioner and advocate for my city. At the start of each week during session, I was so filled with excitement and determination to make a difference. Unfortunately with so many issues to focus on, I developed “analysis paralysis”. Meaning I would become so overwhelmed that I did nothing.

Well, it didn’t take long to realize that strategy wasn’t working. So I had to readjust my thinking and decide what issues were most important and what legislation would have the most dramatic (positive or negative) impact on my city.

Once I did that how things changed! I became a better advocate and was able to inform  my legislators what issues I was focusing on, they knew when they heard from me what it would be about.

But how do you decide what issues to choose? Sometimes the answer may be quite obvious, but sometimes it’s not. Below is the thought process that helped me decide, and I hope it can help you too!

  1. Less is Better – Just think “analysis paralysis”!
  2. Choose issues that have the greatest, direct impact on your community, organization or business.
  3. If there are no direct impact issues, maybe there is one that has a regional impact…meaning there is an opportunity to work with other like cities, organizations or businesses where you can work in partnership to advocate for the region.
  4. Think about the political and legislative implications. If your priority is in direct conflict with the philosophical beliefs of the majority parties, it can be an up hill battle to move it forward. The same with legislative considerations. If you’ve recently has a “win” with a new law or changes in current law, trying to push for more changes might be difficult.
  5. Consider advocating on a priority that lawmakers can support instead of oppose. How refreshing!
  6. Think proactively. Often advocates choose priorities based upon legislation that’s been or is expected to be filed and are reacting to its anticipated impact. So sometimes advocating on measure designed to improve your industry or community may be a great strategy!

Want to learn more? Be sure to get a copy of my new book, A Journey To Yes. And remember I will continue to be…

Your Partner in Advocacy – Kathy

#YourJourneyStartsToday

Adjust Your Lenses For a New Perspective

Often when I talk with advocates, they share their frustration about not having enough time to engage lawmakers as much or as often as they know they should. So a piece of advice I like to share is to “readjust their lenses”!

Now that probably doesn’t make much sense if you don’t wear glasses or have contacts, but what it really means is to simply think about some of the activities or responsibilities you’re currently doing and decide if with just a little effort it could become a great advocacy opportunity!  Below are just a few strategies to help you start thinking about your own possibilities.

  • Local Government Advocates  – The power of the personal invitation cannot be understated! If you are already attending events in your community and/or meeting with homeowners associations, civic or business groups, personally invite those you are trying to influence to join you. Even if the events open to the public, a personal invitation demonstrates their presence and participation are important to you.
  • Organizations – Extend a personal invitation to lawmakers from the board chairman to join you for all events. Even the smallest activity is an opportunity to include them and increase awareness about what you are doing in service to others. For example, if one of your clients who was homeless or unemployed now has a job or a place to live, that’s certainly a reason to celebrate! And it’s an opportunity for a legislator to meet this individual, hear their story, and most importantly, how your organization helped make it possible. This provides a great argument for continued and increased funding of your operations. 
  • Businesses – Have you just added a new product line or service, hired new employees, or increased their benefits? Extend a personal invitation to lawmakers to join you in celebrating this success! And if this was made possible because of legislation resulting in lower taxes, fees, or regulations, these are even more reasons to invite them. They will love to share your success story with their colleagues.

The point to remember is that advocacy doesn’t have to be, and actually shouldn’t be a full-time or even part-time job! Some of the easiest (and least time consuming) strategies can have the greatest influence if done at the right time in the right way! Learn more in my book A Journey To Yes. #YourJourneyStartsToday

Your Partner in Advocacy…Kathy

 

 

How Late is Too Late?

I’m often asked by advocates, “When is the best time to begin building a relationship with those I am trying to influence?” And no matter when I get this question, my answer is always the same.  NOW, ALWAYS, CONSISTENTLY! Just like the relationships with your family and friends, it has to be nurtured with intent.

But is there every a time when it’s too late to begin? Absolutely not! However, as your legislative session approaches, the strategies for fostering that relationship may need to change. During that time of year lawmakers are extremely busy. And while they love to see their constituents at the state capital, it’s often very difficult for them to get to know you (if they don’t already).

Have you ever had a stranger walk up to you on the street and ask for your cell phone number so they can call and ask you for help? Were you willing to give it to them? I’m guessing the answer is no. Why? Because you don’t know or trust them.

However, I’ve often seen people walk up to a legislator (who doesn’t know them) during session as ask (sometimes demand) their help! This is basically the same scenario as the stranger on the street. My point being is that just doesn’t work.

So I’d like to share some strategies for building that relationship even when time is very limited. And bonus…these are also excellent examples to demonstrate your sincerity to work with and support them during their tenure in public office:

  1. Support one of their priorities and helping them advance it in any way they need.
  2. Another great strategy is to simply offer your help. They will sincerely appreciate this, especially if you have expertise in an industry or profression they can call upon as a resource for information.
  3. Send them an email or handwritten note thanking them for their service, congratulating them on their committee assignments (even if they are the same as the previous year) and wishing them well in the upcoming session.
  4. Send an email and/or note to their staff, wishing them well and sharing your contact information so they can easily reach you if and when needed.

At the very foundation of being a successful advocate is a strong relationship with those you are trying to influence. By focusing your efforts on building that relationship, you will soon become a trusted friend and ally your lawmakers can count on for help. And better yet…be that friend THEY will want to help when you really need them!

To learn more, be sure to get a copy of my new book, A Journey To Yes.

Your Partner in Advocacy…Kathy

#YourJourneyStartsToday

Lessons Learned from the Storm

First and foremost, please pray for the people in the Bahamas affected by Hurricane Dorian. With unprecedented destruction and an increasing number of lives lost, it will take a very, very long time for them to recover. And if you can help in any way, please do what you can. As a resident of Florida and someone who has been through multiple hurricanes, I can tell you that any support is greatly appreciated.

And if you’ve experienced a hurricane, the weather always seems to be calm for a few days before its arrival . Literally the calm before the storm! But it’s only the weather that appears “normal”. When such a powerful event is approaching, lines at gas stations, grocery stores and home improvement stores quickly lengthen. It’s anything but calm!

As an author and professional speaker about advocacy, my mind can’t help but make comparisons between the “storm” of a hurricane and the “storm” of an approaching legislative session.

One of the greatest lessons learned with both approaching storms is that waiting until the last minute to prepare can be very risky and costly! In a hurricane it can mean little or no supplies are available, becoming a victim of price gouging or worse, a risk to your personal safety.

In advocacy the risks are:

  1. Having little or no relationship with the person(s) you need to influence and ask for support.
  2. Not getting the financial resources (appropriations) needed to serve your community or clients.
  3. Having to adapt to the unintended consequences of legislation that will negatively impact your constituents or community.

So I ask you as an advocate and influencer, “Can you really afford to just sit on the sidelines and wait?” Just like an approaching storm, little or no preparation is a cost you simply can’t afford.

Thank you for your prayers, support and your advocacy.

Your Partner in Advocacy…Kathy

#YourJourneyStartsToday