Connecting with Elected Officials: Try Giving Instead of Asking

Mayor Manheimer Addresses Asheville Restaurateurs

Mayor Manheimer Addresses Asheville Restaurateurs

Much of our public affairs work at Targeted Persuasion involves helping our clients build relationships with elected officials. For most models, this looks like scheduling advocacy meetings for an ‘ask.’ You probably know how this goes: someone schedules a meeting, the team has their pitch down, and they close with the ‘ask.’ However, in true relationships both parties give and both receive. And this premise holds true when helping build relationships with elected officials. So, instead of walking in with an ‘ask,’ how about finding ways to help the elected official.

Our team recently used this approach in Asheville. We hosted a meeting with Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer. The City of Asheville has three bonds on the November ballot. This bond referendum includes $74 million that if approved by voters would go toward improving transportation networks, recreation facilities, and affordable housing. And as a way for the Mayor to meet our client, we invited her to share and educate our group on what these bonds mean for Asheville.

Around 15 restaurateurs, were there to hear Manheimer. Representatives from Asheville Independent Restaurants, the Chamber of Commerce, the Asheville Grown Business Alliance, and the Carolina Small Business Development Fund also attended.

“It was great to finally meet the mayor and have her in our restaurant,” said Sherrye Coggiola, who owns The Cantina along with her husband, Anthony. “We’ve been here for 6 years and have been heavily involved in the community, so it was great to be able to engage her on this important topic.”

“You hear about the bond referendum in the news all the time, but when you have detailed questions it’s hard to get them answered by just reading an article,” said Liam Rowland, head chef at GO Kitchen Ready. “She took the time to make sure we understood the implications, which is really important.”

While restaurants play a major role in Asheville’s thriving tourism industry and employ thousands of people in the city, most of the attendees  had never previously met the Mayor. The restaurant owners were also interested in finding out more about the bond referendum and how those measures will affect their businesses.

In the end, everyone won. And it began by thinking of ways we could help the Mayor. And what better way to begin a relationship than by giving?