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

 

Complacency Can Be Costly!

It’s so easy somedays to hit the snooze button and not to go to the gym. Isn’t it?  We convince ourselves that we’ll get up tomorrow and work out twice as hard. But then one day becomes two, two becomes three and so on and so on. Until we’re out of shape and have to start over.

Advocacy can be the same. Sometimes, especially during the summer it’s easy to become complacent and put off your advocacy strategies until later. This can be especially true when you know the legislative session is months away.

However, in the course of my interviews with Florida lawmakers we’ve asked them about the timing to request appropriations. Each and every one of them (both Republican and Democrats) have said it’s NEVER too early to ask…and the sooner the better! That means complacency won’t work, and could result in your city, town, association or organization not getting the money you need next year. Below are some tips to help you:

  • Start by having a conversation with your legislator(s) about your needs.
  • Follow-up with a tour (if applicable) of your project or facility so they can see exactly what you want funded and why.
  • If you received appropriations in the last session, share details about how you have utilized those funds and what they have done to benefit your city, town, organization, etc. An informed lawmaker is much more likely to help you!
  • Talk with the legislator’s staff about what specific information they need to help you.
  • Continue communication with them about the project, organization, etc.. This is especially true if something changes between now and when they submit the appropriations request.
  • Be ready to work for what you want. Some lawmakers may expect you to do the majority of the work to secure an appropriation while some may do it for you. But it is best to be prepared either way.

Want to discover more strategies to help you get the dollars you need? Email me to get a copy of my Appropriation Strategies Checklist and be sure to get a copy of my new book A Journey To Yes.

Your Partner in Advocacy…Kathy

#YourJourneyStartsToday

They Don’t Listen to Us Anyway!

So why should I bother? “They’ve already made up their mind when it’s time to vote, so they don’t want to listen nor do they care what I have to say”?

Sadly, I’ve heard these comments (and yes…excuses) more times than I can count for why people don’t engage lawmakers. But I can tell you from personal experience this is simply not true. In fact, it couldn’t be further from the truth. But what is true is that, on many occasions, legislators are looking to you to help educate them on an issue and help them decide how to vote.

And what’s also true is this. There is ALWAYS an opponent to every issue, no matter how popular it might be. And I promise your opponent isn’t staying silent! So you if choose not to get involved, lawmakers will only be hearing one side of the story and will think you don’t care or are happy with the status quo.

Legislators are incredibly busy, especially during the legislative session. They have several meetings each day with constituents, lobbyists and their colleagues. During these encounters, they hear countless bills, which means they don’t have the luxury of time to research and read every one. They often rely upon advocates like you to share what the legislation does (or doesn’t do), who will be affected, and how.

And this is where every advocate has the opportunity to be effective, from the novice to the veteran. You know your business, community or organization, and its people better than anyone. This means NO ONE, not even a professional lobbyist, can tell our story better than you!

No matter how discouraged you may get, or disgusted at the behavior of a few, keep this in mind: If you drop out, you leave the field to your opponents. – Joel Blackwell, Keep On Voting After the Election: How Ordinary People Can Get What They Want From Government. 

So can you really afford to stay silent or do nothing?

YOU have the power to influence the political landscape in your community! So speak out, speak up and get engaged today!

Your Partner in Advocacy…Kathy

#AJourneyToYes #YourJourneyStartsToday

 

Let’s Talk about I.N.F.L.U.E.N.C.E.

As I shared in my last post, the summer for advocates is anything but “lazy”! In fact it’s the time of year when you should be busier ever examining your relationships to ensure the are where they need to be when it’s time to influence leaders. To help you become the advocate you want to be, I’d like to share a brief story and some tips on how you can ensure your relationship with lawmakers is strong.

This post is a bit long, but I hope you’ll read it to the end. Trust me…it’s worth the time!

When I worked with the Florida League of Cities, they had a program to identify relationships between local and state officials. The purpose being so when it was time to contact lawmakers about a bill, they had a list of local advocates who could help them.

Unfortunately on occasion, those relationships were exaggerated and that eventually backfired, especially when the legislator made it very clear the relationship was not nearly as strong as perceived.

To prevent you from getting caught in this situation, think about the acronym I.N.F.L.U.E.N.C.E. It stands for I need to fully list, understand and evaluate the nuances of my relationship and commit to excellence.

So here are some questions to help recommit to and encure you’re read to influence leaders. But be very honest in your responses! Like in golf, cheating on your score doesn’t make you a better player, it just gives a falsehood to brag about and could put your city, business or organization in an awkward position that may be difficult to explain!

  1. Can I easily list their name and the anmes of the family?
  2. Do I know their profession and do we have anythign in common in this area?
  3. If I saw them socially, would we seek out and interact with each other?
  4. Are they a veteran or actively serving in our country’s military?
  5. What is their educational and professional background? Do we have aything in common in this area?
  6. If they run a small business, what type of business is it? Do we have anything in common?
  7. If asked, could I share their legislative priorities or campaign platform with some else?
  8. Does one of their priorities align with that of my business, city, or organization? Are they aware of this and have I offered to help them advance it?
  9. Who are the people on their staff and have I made any efforts to build a relationship with them?
  10. Would they contact me about my city, business, or organization if they had any questions I could answer?
  11. Have I made an effort to familiarize them with my city, business or organization?
  12. Do I follow them on social media and comment on any of their posts, tweets, and the like?
  13. Did I congratulate them on their election or re-election? (when applicable)
  14. When was the last time I said, “Thank you for your service?”

If you answered honestly, then this quick assessment can serve to highlight the area on which you need to work, which is a good thing? Knowing there’s room for improvement can help you focus on the strategies that will turn the no into ayes, thus leading to further success as an advocate!

Want to learn more about these and many other strategies for advocates? Be sure to check out a copy of my new book A Journey To Yes.

What readers are saying about A Journey To Yes:

After reading this book, I want to get more involved as an advocate, and I feel Ms. Till has given me clear-cut steps to do so. The book is well-organized, specific, thorough, encouraging, and positive. She liberally uses personal experience as examples which makes the book compelling. I believe anyone could be a successful advocate if they follow the advice in this concise, easy to comprehend book. – Dr. Nancy Kendall

Your Partner in Advocacy…Kathy

YOU Have The Power to Affect Change

That’s right YOU! Because despite the myths or public perception, the voice of the constituent is the most powerful one a lawmaker at any level of government wants and needs to hear. But I do know that when it comes to advocacy, it’s easy to get complacent during the summer. I get it/ With candidates focused on campaigns and families focused on vacations, it seems like there’s nothing to do that’s worth the time and effort. BUT THERE IS!

And your voice and engagement should start in your own backyard. So here are some tips to keep you busy and engaged this summer without ever having to leave your community!

Continue to Build the Relationship with your Local Elected Officials – These are the people that make the decisions that have more of an impact on your daily life than any other level of government. So I ask you…Can you really afford NOT to make an effort to get to know them?

A strong relationship with your local leaders is just as important as the one you develop with state legislators. They are counting on you to keep them informed of issues affecting your business, organization or neighborhood. So invite them for a cup of coffee to talk about what’s going on.

Be an Informed Advocate – Attend council meetings, and most especially those meetings when they’re discussing the budget. This is a great strategy to learn about the fiscal health/challenges facing your community in the coming year.

Consider joining a citizen advisory board if your schedule permits – This is an excellent way to stay informed about what’s happening in your city and to actively participate in shaping its future. Your local government is always looking for citizens that want to get involved. And when the time is right, this means you can communicate that information with legislators.

Help your Neighbors Be Informed – Work, school, family, civic or public service. These may be just a few of the many “hats” you wear every day. And it’s likely your colleagues or neighbors are the same. So making time to learn about your city or Municipal Home Rule can be a challenge. But you can help. Invite your Mayor or Commissioners to talk with a group of neighbors or business colleagues about Home Rule. The more they know, the more likely they are to join you in any efforts to protect this valuable and necessary local authority.

So take some time now to get involved, get informed and stay engaged. By doing so, you’ll be on the right path to your #JourneyToYes!

Your Partner in Advocacy…Kathy

What readers are saying about A Journey To Yes…

“This is a very readable book, written in a conversational tone from Ms. Till’s personal and professional experience in advocacy. It’s full of tips and specific steps that individuals and groups can take to promote their cause to legislators. The information is VERY transferable to other scenarios, such as nonprofit work, that depend on good relationships.”Muffet Robinson, Director of Marketing & Communications, Pathlight HOME, Orlando

THE SECRETS REVEALED!

What gets and keeps a lawmaker’s attention? Is it money, power, prestige? What about hundreds of people advocating to right an injustice? In some instances the answer to each question is yes! But what if you don’t have any of those things to offer? Is all hope lost? The answer to that question is definitely no because at the heart of influencing a lawmaker is a strong relationship. But how do you build or strengthen that relationship?

SECRET #1 – YOUR FRIENDSHIP ALWAYS COMES FIRST AND LAST!
When you think about a dear friend, what comes to mind? In many respects, building and maintaining a relationship with lawmakers takes nurturing the same trust, respect over time. And once you’ve developed that friendship, it far outweighs any legislation or issues you will work on.

SECRET #2 – SPEND TIME EXAMINING YOUR RELATIONSHIP STATUS
When I worked for the Florida League of Cities, they had a program to identify relationships between local and state officials. Unfortunately on occasion, those relationships were exaggerated and that eventually backfired. To prevent you from getting caught in this situation, it is always a good idea to spend a few moments examining your relationship status. As you do, I encourage you to think about the acronym I.N.F.L.U.E.N.C.E. It stands for I need to fully list, understand and evaluate the nuances of my relationship and commit to excellence.

SECRET #3 – HOW CAN I HELP YOU?
The first rule of thumb when it comes to building the relationship is you have to offer something before you can ask for something. Sadly, a sincere offer to help is something lawmakers don’t hear as often as they should, so when they do, it means a lot!

SECRET #4 – JUST SAY, “THANK YOU FOR YOUR PUBLIC SERVICE!”
A rarely used strategy, it’s one of the single most effective thing you can do to build a relationship. My son Jonathan Till worked as a legislative aide for Florida State Representative Danny Burgess. He shared with me they have a file containing every handwritten thank you note they have received.

SECRET #5 – FIND OPPORTUNITIES TO WORK TOGETHER
Does influencing a lawmaker always require a face-to-face meeting? Not necessarily. With very busy schedules (yours and theirs) making time can be difficult. But don’t let this hold you back! Here are some tips to help you have that influence at any time. Learn more about each strategy in A Journey To Yes!

1. Find common ground.
2. Support one of their priorities.
3. Treat their staff with the same respect as you do the legislator and take the time   necessary to get to know them.
4. Introduce them to your circle of influence.

Want to learn more? I encourage you to check out my new book A Journey To Yes. In it I delve deeper into each one of these strategies and many, many more so you too can #StartYourJourneyToday!

Your Partner in Advocacy…Kathy

 

Embrace the Detour

This week, I’m going “off the beaten path” to talk about how sometimes you need to embrace the detour along the journey to regain your perspective!

Never one to slow down much, I often continue my work on vacation. While that might sound crazy to some, for me it’s an opportunity to really let the creative juices flow. And upon my return to the regular road I find I come back renewed, refreshed and armed with some of my best ideas and new strategies to share in my books and with my clients.

As an advocate, this summer could be YOUR time to do some reflection about what is working or not working in your efforts to influence leaders. Then embrace the opportunity (detour) and try something new! We’ve all heard the saying, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”. I wholeheartedly support that philosophy, but I also believe that even if it isn’t “broke”, perhaps it needs to be polished or just made more secure.

Throughout my book, A Journey To Yes, I’ve tried to challenge even the most veteran advocates to think outside the box and incorporate a new strategy into their advocacy plan. I encourage you to do the same. And perhaps at the end of your road you too will find a new perspective and renewed energy to become the advocate you want to be!

Your Partner in Advocacy…Kathy

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