From the Congressional Management Foundation blog:
In the critically-acclaimed Broadway musical, Hamilton, "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story" is a powerful conclusion to a musical that encapsulates the power of storytelling through the lens of several fascinating characters. The qualities that make Hamilton's characters so compelling – empathy, determination, persuasion – are also traits that make an effective advocate both on and off the Hill, complete with a story to tell.
During "Fly-Ins: Catch Them in DC and Back at Home," political and grassroots advocacy experts gathered for an event hosted by the Congressional Management Foundation, produced by Beekeeper Group, and sponsored by VoterVoice. Weighing in on topics ranging from organizing efficiently to maintaining year-round momentum, panelists from the American Heart Association, the Michael J. Fox Foundation, and other organizations offered guidance and best practices for successful fly-ins.
Throughout the discussions, a theme emerged: the value added when passionate advocates provide powerful narratives. According to the experts, successful fly-ins not only need substantial preparation, timing, and communication, but also involve individuals who can tell a story, show empathy, and demonstrate enthusiasm. Stories can have a profound effect on Members of Congress – one of the panelists discussed a "leave-behind" from a previous year in which a Member was so moved by the advocate's story featured in the leaflet that he asked her to sign it.
To ensure the 'personal' makes it into your fly-in:
- Help your supporters to consider the legislators with whom they are meeting, and frame their request based on their knowledge of their Member's careers and voting preferences. Understand that they are parents, siblings, friends, volunteers, etc. and not just Members of Congress.
- Mobilize advocates who will have the greatest impact with the most powerful narrative. Always attempt to find constituents, as they are already connected to the Member geographically and likely have shared, local experiences.
- Generate goodwill by contacting offices ahead of time with requests, media appearances, op-ed pieces, etc. A heads-up can go a long way in showing respect for Members of Congress and their staff.
- Share stories in closed social media groups/webinars throughout the year in preparation for fly-ins, and maintain contact with already-supportive offices as a foundation for planning your next trip.
THIS IS YOUR MOMENT
In an era of impenetrable work ethics, unbreakable routines, and an inability to resist checking work email after hours, it's easy to forget that advocates and legislators are both human. By incorporating a personal approach with both preparation and practice, you are on your way to ensuring a successful fly-in. This is your moment on the Hill, and to paraphrase Lin-Manuel Miranda, you're not throwing away your shot.