As a member of the Walmart public affairs team, it’s Matt Fitz-Gerald’s job to communicate Walmart’s impact throughout the country to members of Congress. While this often includes email correspondence and meetings in a member’s Capitol Hill office, he prefers coordinated site visits with members of Congress at Walmart stores and facilities across the country.
Here are three reasons site visits are an effective strategy for organizations, like Walmart, to build relationships with government officials.
Site visits, according to Fitz-Gerald, give members a hands on experience of the impact that Walmart has in their district.
“We try and set up in-district meetings with members either to do work legislatively or where we have something unique in their district,” Fitz-Gerald said.
By seeing this impact in person, it is more likely to stick in a member’s mind. That way, when they are voting on an issue that will affect the way Walmart operates, the member will have the personal experience of the results that Walmart produces.
While Fitz-Gerald plans site visits for districts where Walmart has something unique, such as a dairy plant, it also provides an opportunity for the member of the Walmart team leading the visit to bring up policy preferences outside of the member’s office.
“We want to provide an opportunity to talk about something when they are sitting on our property and to be able to show the effect of whatever that legislative thing is in a see, touch, and smell kind of way,” Fitz-Gerald told Quorum.
Then, when a member of the Walmart team does go to Capitol Hill to meet with a member, the site visit can act as a talking point for the issues that Walmart cares about.
“When somebody goes into their office after visiting say a [workforce development] Academy, it gives them something one, to talk about and two, reminds them that we’re a good actor,” Fitz-Gerald told Quorum. “We’re doing the right thing by our associates and by our customers.”
After visiting a Walmart site, it is easier for elected officials to see why Walmart advocates for the policies that it does, rather than just listening to a member of the public affairs team across a table on Capitol Hill.
While Fitz-Gerald uses multiple facets of communicating with congressional offices to communicate impact, he believes site visits are significant as they provide a much more in-depth understanding of the place that Walmart is coming from in its policy discussions.
“Positive messages are hard to get to stick and so you want the ability to show someone or have them come in and say wow I get it, I see this now, this makes sense as opposed to just talking about it or reading an article about it,” Fitz-Gerald said.
If your organization wants to build strong personal relationships with members of Congress, give them a hands-on experience with your work.