Do you have a seat at the table? If not, you are on the menu.

Does the state and federal government know how important your business and industry are to the economy or society? They should.

Here’s the thing: whether we like it or not, decisions made by elected officials in Washington DC and the state capital have reverberating effects all the way down the line – including into your community and business. Politicians rarely fully comprehend the bills they vote on.

While it’s easy to get cynical, think there’s nothing we can do, and fume at the politicians for being uninformed, who can blame them? Many elected positions are technically part time jobs that demand full-time hours and politicians have to deal with a bevy of issues for which they are not necessarily prepared. Often times they are relying on overworked staff and self-interested lobbyists to inform them on the issues.

That’s the reality. How are you going to deal with it? How are you going to make sure the politicians hear your voice above the noise?

Have you considered going directly to the politicians to make your case? I’m not talking about a letter writing campaign or a tweet storm (although those things can help too). I’m talking something bigger.

I’m talking about a lobby day.

So, what is a ‘lobby day?’

Also known as an ‘advocacy day,’ a lobby day is most simply defined as an organized visit to a national or state capital to meet with elected officials and policy makers on a specific issue of interest to the group and advocate for that issue. A lobby day can also include a march, demonstration, press conference, and other public facing events designed to increase awareness among the general public through social and traditional media.

So, what are the key benefits of a lobby day?

  • Direct access to elected officials.

Let’s face it. Politicians get hundreds or thousands of emails from constituents every week. Meeting in person gives you the chance to build a personal relationship and put a human face on the issue at hand.

  • Amplify your voice.

Dozens or hundreds of constituents descending on the legislature sends a powerful message that people care strongly about your issue and that you demand to be heard.

  • Media attention.

A crowd tends to draw cameras. This is your chance to get noticed, not only by elected officials, but also by the media and the general public. Just be sure you have a carefully crafted message and talking points to make sure your cause is being portrayed in the best possible light.

Okay, so now you know how beneficial a lobby day can be for your cause. Now, how do you make it happen? Something this big requires a lot of organizing, and you’re going to need to engage a lot of stakeholders.

Here are three key things to consider before you get started.

  1. Identify your stakeholders and build out your contact list. Who cares about this issue and would lend their support? Who are key influencers who can get others involved? What voices will be especially important for elected officials?
  2. Come up with concise and clear messaging to convey what it is you’re doing and why it’s important. This is a lot harder than it sounds. There are 1,000 reasons why someone might care about your cause. You need to identify the 3 things people care about and hammer home those points. (Hint: the key message could be different for different audiences. Be sure to keep your audience in mind).
  3. Identify key tools for organizing. Email, online petition, website, social media – these are all standard tools for organizing a campaign like this. It’s important that these pieces are working together toward common goals (getting petition signatures, driving attendance to lobby day, etc.). A piecemeal approach will make your campaign appear disorganized.

Could your industry benefit from an advocacy day at your state capital or Washington, DC in 2018? Of course it could. And it’s not too late to start that conversation. Contact us today and tell us what’s important to you.

Building Out Your Communications Team: Hire Staff or Engage a Firm?

Your company is growing. The work is mounting, and you know increasing bandwidth is the next step. If increasing bandwidth includes bolstering your communications team, do you hire staff? Or do you engage a communications firm?

Or maybe it’s the opposite. Company sales are slumping. And you know that if you could just get your story out there, the new work would begin to flow. Again, do you hire staff or engage a firm?

You’re facing a valid question, and the right decision will depend on a number of things:

  1. How important is it to have someone on site, all the time?

Do you need to be able to pop in to his or her office on a moment’s notice for a discussion? If you only need to meet with your communications team once or twice a week to touch base, or are comfortable communicating electronically, having a full-time staffer in the office doesn’t provide a significant advantage over hiring a firm.

  1. How sure are you of the actual duration and the scope of work?

Here’s the thing: if you hire someone to do a full-time job, you’re going to want to get 40 hours of solid work out of them every week, right? Hiring a firm that has the flexibility to ramp up or shift down based on need can give you more flexibility.

  1. Do you need multiple skill sets?

Communications encompasses a variety of skills and expertise (paid search, public relations, events, web development and design, etc.) Does the person you’re hiring have the necessary skill set to get the job(s) done? Are they comfortable doing press releases and doing web design if needed? A good communications firm will have specialists on staff that can handle various aspects of communications. This specialization means the quality of work may be higher than if you hire someone that doesn’t have all of the skills you need.

  1. Do you have the necessary skills to get the person up and running?

Onboarding a new hire is a lot of work, especially for smaller businesses and organizations that may already be understaffed and/or overworked. Larger organizations may already have the capacity and economies of scale to identify and vet candidates, hire, and train. If your organization is already stretched thin, it may be too much work to go through the hiring and training process.

Sometimes organizations will retain a firm then convert to staff. In fact, a communications firm can help you make sure you hire the right person, set strategy, and conduct the on boarding.

Bottom Line:

If you’re still not sure, err on the side of caution. Begin with a firm because you can always terminate the program if your needs change or if any issues arise.

Bringing on and training an employee can be time consuming, and once that person is a full-time employee, parting ways can be difficult if your needs change or if it’s not working out for any reason. What once seemed like a solution can turn into an HR nightmare very quickly.

Of course, these are just some issues to consider when deciding whether to hire a firm or hire in house for your communications needs. To properly weigh your options, it’s best to consult a professional to take a deeper dive into your organization’s needs.