Sunday, October 25, 2009

Advocacy Guru: Stephanie Vance

At the Iowa Tourism Conference I got the opportunity to listen to two presentations by Stephanie Vance. I heard her through ears that were listening for things I could use for the Chamber, Tourism and for my business. You can find her at I recommend you go there at sign up for her newsletter, watch a clip of Stephanie in action and read some of her blog.

Did you know:
  • 1,320 bills were introduced in Iowa last year
  • 20% passed
  • there are 150 legislators, each represents 30,000 people
  • You can get an average of 7.5 minutes interview with your legislator
Advocacy is the pursuit of influencing incomes. You've got to ask for what you want.

"The legislative process is designed to be this mish mosh of craziness", said Ms. Vance. Read the Federalist Papers - they intended for government to be crazy.

What are some Influence Factors for Legislators?

  • Personal relationships (friends, family, staff)

  • Jobs and Issues in their Districts (development stories)

  • Media (ask your local paper if you can do a 1/2 column article on tourism every week)

  • Money

  • The Message - What you say

  • Their own principles and passions

  • Their Constituents

The Four Keys To Success

What do you want? Make the ask!

Do you want funding initiatives, policy change, support for a bill?

  • Do you want a relationship?

  • Do you want them to write a newsletter article? Make a Statement? A 5 minute speech? A site Visit? A website statement? Often, if you write out the article or statement you want, present it and ask for their approval - you just might get it!

Know Your Audience

  • Why are you relevant? Do you live or work or serve in their district?
  • What are they interested in?

  • What positions do they hold?

  • What are their politics?

How Should You ask? SPIT Rule

Specific, Personal, Informative, Trustworthy

The message formula is: Hi. My name is __________ from _______. I here to talk about ________. Knowing your interest is _________________, we think you'll be interested in this. It's important to the people in your area where I live/work/serve because __________.

There's a triage that occurs in the legislators office. The front desk person (usually an intern, a very young intern) goes through the letters and separates them between letters from their district and those that are not. Those that are not, get lost.

Then the letters get separated into more piles. Form letters. Crazy letters (these go to the FBI). Personal letters from constituents. And the Nirvana Stack - those who have written before.

Here's some tips using the four keys: What, Who, How and Follow Up

Ask more than once.

  • Connect with other advocates.

  • Send press releases to legislators office - fax it or email it to press secretary on staff.

  • invite them to come and hang out for a day (legislator AND staff)

  • get them to submit an article

  • visit

  • set up a legislative showcase (or attend one)

  • have tourism packets for your area available

Set up a site visit.
home style, not DC style

  • makes the issues real

  • show the impact on the district

  • often easier to get attention doing this

  • work with the staff

  • be sure you arrange EVERYTHING

Decide who to invite

  • legislator AND staff

  • don't invite opponent

  • decide what to show them

  • make sure real people on your end attend

  • record the event; photos, video, news

The Invitation Process

  • Write out an invite, email and fax it

  • 3 or 4 days later call

  • 2 days later call again

  • 2 days later call again

  • it takes an average of 7 times of contacting for it to work
Participate in town hall meetings

  • raises your profile
  • increases your credibility
  • required elected official to take a stance
  • find out from the legislators office when town hall meetings are scheduled

Visit to see who is co-sponsoring legislation
The federal district work period is generally scheduled around holidays. visit and for those dates.

Coalition and Network Building
The ability to focus the message helps build relationships with customer - and often spreads out the work.

Look at your audience, then find someone who thinks like your audience and ask them to join you.

Web 2.o
The key word is PERSISTENCE.
Visit to find legislative action centers
find connections on facebook, linkedin and twitter
include your facebook and twitter info on all press releases

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