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WP_Query Object ( [query] => Array ( [name] => advocating-effectively-in-congressional-districts [post_type] => resources [resource-type] => blog ) [query_vars] => Array ( [name] => advocating-effectively-in-congressional-districts [post_type] => resources [resource-type] => blog [error] => [m] => [p] => 0 [post_parent] => [subpost] => [subpost_id] => [attachment] => [attachment_id] => 0 [pagename] => [page_id] => 0 [second] => [minute] => [hour] => [day] => 0 [monthnum] => 0 [year] => 0 [w] => 0 [category_name] => [tag] => [cat] => [tag_id] => [author] => [author_name] => [feed] => [tb] => [paged] => 0 [meta_key] => [meta_value] => [preview] => [s] => [sentence] => [title] => [fields] => [menu_order] => [embed] => [category__in] => Array ( ) [category__not_in] => Array ( ) [category__and] => Array ( ) [post__in] => Array ( ) [post__not_in] => Array ( ) [post_name__in] => Array ( ) [tag__in] => Array ( ) [tag__not_in] => Array ( ) [tag__and] => Array ( ) [tag_slug__in] => Array ( ) [tag_slug__and] => Array ( ) [post_parent__in] => Array ( ) [post_parent__not_in] => Array ( ) [author__in] => Array ( ) [author__not_in] => Array ( ) [ignore_sticky_posts] => [suppress_filters] => [cache_results] => 1 [update_post_term_cache] => 1 [lazy_load_term_meta] => 1 [update_post_meta_cache] => 1 [posts_per_page] => 10 [nopaging] => [comments_per_page] => 50 [no_found_rows] => [order] => DESC ) [tax_query] => [meta_query] => WP_Meta_Query Object ( [queries] => Array ( ) [relation] => [meta_table] => [meta_id_column] => [primary_table] => [primary_id_column] => [table_aliases:protected] => Array ( ) [clauses:protected] => Array ( ) [has_or_relation:protected] => ) [date_query] => [queried_object] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 8241 [post_author] => 43 [post_date] => 2022-02-01 03:00:44 [post_date_gmt] => 2022-02-01 03:00:44 [post_content] => Every August, members of Congress head back to their states and districts to campaign and commune with constituents. Some government affairs teams will be right behind them as they go. Advocating in congressional districts can be a high-impact strategy for organizations that want to gain traction on their issues, punch home a message or simply solidify relationships. From grassroots activity and media presence to meetings and facility tours, there is much you can do to communicate with Congress back home. Yet activity in a congressional district should also be thoughtful and well calibrated. You are communicating with a member of Congress and their constituents on their home turf during an election, and certain strategies can be perceived as  aggressive. Miscalculate and you could be dealing with an angry lawmaker. Done correctly, however, activity in the district can be a very effective way to carry your message and build relationships. Quorum’s State of Government Affairs survey, which took the temperature of almost 500 government affairs professionals, showed that one third think it is getting harder to secure meetings with members of Congress. Working in the district over the break can be part of a strategy to increase communication. To learn how your team can operate safely in congressional districts and increase your impact, keep reading.

Understanding the Landscape

Before beginning work in a congressional district, it is important for your organization to understand the political environment. Organizations that have a strong footprint in the state or district, whether that is affiliates and chapters or offices and facilities, will have an advantage. Having locals on your team who understand the political dynamics is an asset. For everyone else, some serious homework is in order. Indeed, 2022 is no ordinary summer. Lawmakers will be returning to districts where inflation is high, consumer prices and interest rates are rising and people are concerned over everything from the economy to public safety. Many states are also going through divisive debates over reproductive rights after the U.S. Supreme Court ended the federal right to obtain an abortion, leaving each state to decide what rights women have within its borders. Polarization and dissatisfaction also remain high. A gallup tracking poll in June showed that 87% of Americans are dissatisfied with the way that things are going in the United States, meaning that only 13% are satisfied. That’s the lowest point all year. A separate poll by  FiveThirtyEight found that Americans think extremism and polarization is the third most important issue facing the country, behind only inflation and gun violence. “Hatred—specifically, hatred of the other party—increasingly defines our politics,” the site said. This is also an election year, and that will also impact the environment in every state. The entire U.S. House and one third of the Senate will face voters. State legislatures will also be on the ballot in 46 states, as will gubernatorial seats in 36 states. Add to that a decennial  redistricting, changes to state voting laws, and a presidential race in 2024 that is already heating up and the situation can get complicated quickly. Understanding the state of play in states where you advocate is critical. Thankfully, it does not take too long to read in and get a basic understanding. Here is what that might look like:
  • Know the Issues. You certainly know your organization’s issues, but your understanding needs to reach further. If a state is going through a divisive fight over abortion rights, gun control or immigration policy, you need to get fluent on those issues. It will help you speak the language on the ground.
  • Track the Politics. Will there be major changes in the state legislature? How about in the governor’s mansion? Members of Congress are often involved in these races. By working for members of their party, they shore up support at home. You should understand the hot races and the state of play in each, too.
  • Read the Polls. Statewide or regional polling is available in most places, and candidates often have district polls that they share selectively. It pays to look at everything you can get. It will tell you what’s important to voters, what has them upset and how they feel about current leadership, all good things for a government affairs team to know before taking action.
  • Monitor Media. Start reading major news outlets in the states and districts where you plan to operate. For example, an  organization working in California’s 16th District, in the central part of the state, would want to keep an eye on both the Fresno Bee and The Mercury News, the two outlets most likely to write about that district. You can hit the websites or use a service, but you should see the news, editorial, op-ed and letters being written.
  • Understand the District. Who are the major employers? What is the ethnic makeup of the electorate? It is important to have a good sense of the district before you take action. The better you know the terrain the more likely you are to create a strategy that resonates. That knowledge can also decrease the chance of making mistakes.
Of course, all of this comes in addition to understanding what the lawmakers you will engage with are experiencing. Are they safe or sitting in a targeted seat? Are they raising money for their own tight race or giving large amounts to the party to help other candidates? Are they impacted by redistricting? No matter what you plan to do, you have to know the landscape in order to set strategy with impact and avoid missteps.

Make Strategic Decisions

There’s one more thing you need to know and this is equally vital: what do you hope to accomplish? This will drive your strategy. An organization that wants to build a relationship with a member of Congress will take one approach. An organization who wants that  member to take action on an issue might take another. Advocacy in congressional districts is about getting a lawmaker’s attention in ways that are difficult to do in Washington, but it requires care. For example, one traditional way to get a lawmaker’s attention is to run ads in their district. A group wants to pressure the lawmaker on their issue, so they run TV, radio and digital spots back home to provoke a response. It can be effective. But it is also aggressive. Ads may bring a lawmaker to the table, but they may not appreciate being dragged. By contrast, if that same group launched a grassroots campaign and flooded the district office with letters, the response might be quite different. Yes, large amounts of email can tax the staff. But personal letters from constituents always have value in a congressional office. A major outpouring of constituent sentiment can bring a lawmaker to the table willingly. The point is obvious: make sure you understand how your work will be perceived. If your goal is an aggressive campaign, that’s fine. If your goal is to build a relationship and foster cooperation, make sure your actions are in line with that outcome and won’t be misperceived. Communication in a congressional district should be strategic. To that end, any strategy you set should involve a few basic ingredients. One is that it should communicate the impact that you have on the district, whether that is the jobs you create, the services you provide or some other metric. You should always be looking to show why your organization matters and why lawmakers should listen. Showing direct impact on the district is the best way to drive those points home. The other ingredient is constituent voices. Lawmakers need to know how their constituents feel and they need anecdotes in order to support the positions they take. Authentic constituent stories are the very best anecdotes. When you communicate with lawmakers using constituents, you are speaking a language that they understand.

Practice High-Impact Advocacy

With all of that in mind, there are many things that organizations can do to get active in congressional districts this month and beyond. Here are some ideas:
  • Start With a Meeting. Before you begin launching campaigns and writing op-eds, talk to district staff and request a meeting with the lawmaker. Be clear about why you want to meet and your organization’s impact on the district. Whatever your relationship with the lawmaker and your reason for targeting them, members of Congress and staff will appreciate that you reached out and attempted to have a conversation before launching other efforts.
  • Use Your Assets. Organizations that already have a presence in the district have an advantage. Perhaps you work for a company that has a manufacturing plant or a nonprofit with a state chapter. Whatever the case, it means you have a group of constituents already affiliated with your organization located in exactly the right place. This can be helpful in many ways, but here’s one simple suggestion: invite your lawmaker to tour and speak at your facility. These meetings are often scheduled far in advance, but if the audience and the issues are right, you may get some traction. Even if your lawmaker declines, they will note that you asked and may book a visit down the road.
  • Activate Your Grassroots. Grassroots campaigns that deliver authentic constituent stories—not form letters—via email are powerful. Working in a congressional district allows you to grow your audience in that area. For example, a petition campaign targeting the district can show constituent sentiment and grow your list. The same is true of social campaigns targeting a specific locale. Growing your audience in a district that is strategically important creates an asset that will help your organization far beyond a single issue or a single campaign.
  • Attend Lawmakers’ Events. Lawmakers are often busy in August, holding town halls and speaking to groups around the district. One way to gain face time is to attend these events. You can be low-key, sending a single representative to approach the lawmaker for a chat after a speech. Or you can come in larger numbers. The situation and your goals will dictate the strategy.
  • Echo Lawmakers’ Messaging. Lawmakers often get sent home to their districts in August with canned messaging from congressional leadership. In some cases, this messaging gets very specific, including sample press releases and social media posts. In situations where your interests align, your organization can echo this messaging, whether on social media or other channels.  Ongoing support like this can help down the line, when you are asking lawmakers for support.
  • Get Help From Allied Groups. Recruiting other organizations in the district to join your cause can provide strong amplification. Your message gets more powerful as the number of constituents involved increases. Working with allied groups on an issue can increase engagement on grassroots and social campaigns, and enlarge your presence generally. When groups representing thousands of constituents in a congressional district pull together around an issue, it becomes very difficult to ignore.
  • Court Other District Officials. Support from public officials outside Congress can also help. Approaching state lawmakers, mayors and city council members from the district and asking them to support your position can enhance your credibility. These officials also mix with members of Congress at fundraisers, rallies and party events and may be willing to talk to their member of Congress about the issue.
  • Use Your Social Channels. Social media can help your work in the district for one simple reason: it can reach beyond your list. Paid social promotion can be geographically targeted. Organic can use local hashtags to generate interest. If the idea is to reach  constituents and draw them to the cause, social media is an effective and affordable channel.
  • Hold a Rally. Staging a COVID-safe rally around your issue can be very effective. It’s a great way to express a position and show that position has constituent support. A rally of respectable size—it need not be huge—is unlikely to escape a lawmaker’s attention, especially if it draws media coverage. One recommendation: hold a live call to action at your event. If people are taking the time to attend an event, they will take the time to email their lawmaker. Using text messaging, you can ask people to take action on the spot and report the engagement numbers right from the podium. It’s an interactive way to energize the audience.
  • Work the Local Media. Media within a congressional district often presents an opportunity for organizations who want to highlight an issue. News outlets need op-eds and letters to the editor that address local issues or national issues from a local angle. An organization with a large local footprint is likely to be taken seriously.
  • Commission a Poll. A poll showing public support for your bill, your position or your issue within a lawmaker’s district is not likely to be ignored. Public support is no guarantee that a lawmaker will back your position, but it will almost certainly gain their attention and could help get a conversation started. It can draw the attention of local media, too.
Of course, not every organization is ready to advocate directly in congressional districts and those that are will adopt very different  approaches. What’s important to know is that it is an option and one that can be extremely effective when carried out with care. In an election year, when noise and partisan rhetoric will be increasing and communicating on issues will be more difficult, organizations that differentiate themselves may have more success. Putting the summer doldrums to good use can be an effective strategy. [post_title] => Advocating Effectively in Congressional Districts [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => advocating-effectively-in-congressional-districts [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-02-01 03:14:41 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-02-01 03:14:41 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=8241 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object_id] => 8241 [request] => SELECT wp_posts.* FROM wp_posts WHERE 1=1 AND wp_posts.post_name = 'advocating-effectively-in-congressional-districts' AND wp_posts.post_type = 'resources' ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC [posts] => Array ( [0] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 8241 [post_author] => 43 [post_date] => 2022-02-01 03:00:44 [post_date_gmt] => 2022-02-01 03:00:44 [post_content] => Every August, members of Congress head back to their states and districts to campaign and commune with constituents. Some government affairs teams will be right behind them as they go. Advocating in congressional districts can be a high-impact strategy for organizations that want to gain traction on their issues, punch home a message or simply solidify relationships. From grassroots activity and media presence to meetings and facility tours, there is much you can do to communicate with Congress back home. Yet activity in a congressional district should also be thoughtful and well calibrated. You are communicating with a member of Congress and their constituents on their home turf during an election, and certain strategies can be perceived as  aggressive. Miscalculate and you could be dealing with an angry lawmaker. Done correctly, however, activity in the district can be a very effective way to carry your message and build relationships. Quorum’s State of Government Affairs survey, which took the temperature of almost 500 government affairs professionals, showed that one third think it is getting harder to secure meetings with members of Congress. Working in the district over the break can be part of a strategy to increase communication. To learn how your team can operate safely in congressional districts and increase your impact, keep reading.

Understanding the Landscape

Before beginning work in a congressional district, it is important for your organization to understand the political environment. Organizations that have a strong footprint in the state or district, whether that is affiliates and chapters or offices and facilities, will have an advantage. Having locals on your team who understand the political dynamics is an asset. For everyone else, some serious homework is in order. Indeed, 2022 is no ordinary summer. Lawmakers will be returning to districts where inflation is high, consumer prices and interest rates are rising and people are concerned over everything from the economy to public safety. Many states are also going through divisive debates over reproductive rights after the U.S. Supreme Court ended the federal right to obtain an abortion, leaving each state to decide what rights women have within its borders. Polarization and dissatisfaction also remain high. A gallup tracking poll in June showed that 87% of Americans are dissatisfied with the way that things are going in the United States, meaning that only 13% are satisfied. That’s the lowest point all year. A separate poll by  FiveThirtyEight found that Americans think extremism and polarization is the third most important issue facing the country, behind only inflation and gun violence. “Hatred—specifically, hatred of the other party—increasingly defines our politics,” the site said. This is also an election year, and that will also impact the environment in every state. The entire U.S. House and one third of the Senate will face voters. State legislatures will also be on the ballot in 46 states, as will gubernatorial seats in 36 states. Add to that a decennial  redistricting, changes to state voting laws, and a presidential race in 2024 that is already heating up and the situation can get complicated quickly. Understanding the state of play in states where you advocate is critical. Thankfully, it does not take too long to read in and get a basic understanding. Here is what that might look like:
  • Know the Issues. You certainly know your organization’s issues, but your understanding needs to reach further. If a state is going through a divisive fight over abortion rights, gun control or immigration policy, you need to get fluent on those issues. It will help you speak the language on the ground.
  • Track the Politics. Will there be major changes in the state legislature? How about in the governor’s mansion? Members of Congress are often involved in these races. By working for members of their party, they shore up support at home. You should understand the hot races and the state of play in each, too.
  • Read the Polls. Statewide or regional polling is available in most places, and candidates often have district polls that they share selectively. It pays to look at everything you can get. It will tell you what’s important to voters, what has them upset and how they feel about current leadership, all good things for a government affairs team to know before taking action.
  • Monitor Media. Start reading major news outlets in the states and districts where you plan to operate. For example, an  organization working in California’s 16th District, in the central part of the state, would want to keep an eye on both the Fresno Bee and The Mercury News, the two outlets most likely to write about that district. You can hit the websites or use a service, but you should see the news, editorial, op-ed and letters being written.
  • Understand the District. Who are the major employers? What is the ethnic makeup of the electorate? It is important to have a good sense of the district before you take action. The better you know the terrain the more likely you are to create a strategy that resonates. That knowledge can also decrease the chance of making mistakes.
Of course, all of this comes in addition to understanding what the lawmakers you will engage with are experiencing. Are they safe or sitting in a targeted seat? Are they raising money for their own tight race or giving large amounts to the party to help other candidates? Are they impacted by redistricting? No matter what you plan to do, you have to know the landscape in order to set strategy with impact and avoid missteps.

Make Strategic Decisions

There’s one more thing you need to know and this is equally vital: what do you hope to accomplish? This will drive your strategy. An organization that wants to build a relationship with a member of Congress will take one approach. An organization who wants that  member to take action on an issue might take another. Advocacy in congressional districts is about getting a lawmaker’s attention in ways that are difficult to do in Washington, but it requires care. For example, one traditional way to get a lawmaker’s attention is to run ads in their district. A group wants to pressure the lawmaker on their issue, so they run TV, radio and digital spots back home to provoke a response. It can be effective. But it is also aggressive. Ads may bring a lawmaker to the table, but they may not appreciate being dragged. By contrast, if that same group launched a grassroots campaign and flooded the district office with letters, the response might be quite different. Yes, large amounts of email can tax the staff. But personal letters from constituents always have value in a congressional office. A major outpouring of constituent sentiment can bring a lawmaker to the table willingly. The point is obvious: make sure you understand how your work will be perceived. If your goal is an aggressive campaign, that’s fine. If your goal is to build a relationship and foster cooperation, make sure your actions are in line with that outcome and won’t be misperceived. Communication in a congressional district should be strategic. To that end, any strategy you set should involve a few basic ingredients. One is that it should communicate the impact that you have on the district, whether that is the jobs you create, the services you provide or some other metric. You should always be looking to show why your organization matters and why lawmakers should listen. Showing direct impact on the district is the best way to drive those points home. The other ingredient is constituent voices. Lawmakers need to know how their constituents feel and they need anecdotes in order to support the positions they take. Authentic constituent stories are the very best anecdotes. When you communicate with lawmakers using constituents, you are speaking a language that they understand.

Practice High-Impact Advocacy

With all of that in mind, there are many things that organizations can do to get active in congressional districts this month and beyond. Here are some ideas:
  • Start With a Meeting. Before you begin launching campaigns and writing op-eds, talk to district staff and request a meeting with the lawmaker. Be clear about why you want to meet and your organization’s impact on the district. Whatever your relationship with the lawmaker and your reason for targeting them, members of Congress and staff will appreciate that you reached out and attempted to have a conversation before launching other efforts.
  • Use Your Assets. Organizations that already have a presence in the district have an advantage. Perhaps you work for a company that has a manufacturing plant or a nonprofit with a state chapter. Whatever the case, it means you have a group of constituents already affiliated with your organization located in exactly the right place. This can be helpful in many ways, but here’s one simple suggestion: invite your lawmaker to tour and speak at your facility. These meetings are often scheduled far in advance, but if the audience and the issues are right, you may get some traction. Even if your lawmaker declines, they will note that you asked and may book a visit down the road.
  • Activate Your Grassroots. Grassroots campaigns that deliver authentic constituent stories—not form letters—via email are powerful. Working in a congressional district allows you to grow your audience in that area. For example, a petition campaign targeting the district can show constituent sentiment and grow your list. The same is true of social campaigns targeting a specific locale. Growing your audience in a district that is strategically important creates an asset that will help your organization far beyond a single issue or a single campaign.
  • Attend Lawmakers’ Events. Lawmakers are often busy in August, holding town halls and speaking to groups around the district. One way to gain face time is to attend these events. You can be low-key, sending a single representative to approach the lawmaker for a chat after a speech. Or you can come in larger numbers. The situation and your goals will dictate the strategy.
  • Echo Lawmakers’ Messaging. Lawmakers often get sent home to their districts in August with canned messaging from congressional leadership. In some cases, this messaging gets very specific, including sample press releases and social media posts. In situations where your interests align, your organization can echo this messaging, whether on social media or other channels.  Ongoing support like this can help down the line, when you are asking lawmakers for support.
  • Get Help From Allied Groups. Recruiting other organizations in the district to join your cause can provide strong amplification. Your message gets more powerful as the number of constituents involved increases. Working with allied groups on an issue can increase engagement on grassroots and social campaigns, and enlarge your presence generally. When groups representing thousands of constituents in a congressional district pull together around an issue, it becomes very difficult to ignore.
  • Court Other District Officials. Support from public officials outside Congress can also help. Approaching state lawmakers, mayors and city council members from the district and asking them to support your position can enhance your credibility. These officials also mix with members of Congress at fundraisers, rallies and party events and may be willing to talk to their member of Congress about the issue.
  • Use Your Social Channels. Social media can help your work in the district for one simple reason: it can reach beyond your list. Paid social promotion can be geographically targeted. Organic can use local hashtags to generate interest. If the idea is to reach  constituents and draw them to the cause, social media is an effective and affordable channel.
  • Hold a Rally. Staging a COVID-safe rally around your issue can be very effective. It’s a great way to express a position and show that position has constituent support. A rally of respectable size—it need not be huge—is unlikely to escape a lawmaker’s attention, especially if it draws media coverage. One recommendation: hold a live call to action at your event. If people are taking the time to attend an event, they will take the time to email their lawmaker. Using text messaging, you can ask people to take action on the spot and report the engagement numbers right from the podium. It’s an interactive way to energize the audience.
  • Work the Local Media. Media within a congressional district often presents an opportunity for organizations who want to highlight an issue. News outlets need op-eds and letters to the editor that address local issues or national issues from a local angle. An organization with a large local footprint is likely to be taken seriously.
  • Commission a Poll. A poll showing public support for your bill, your position or your issue within a lawmaker’s district is not likely to be ignored. Public support is no guarantee that a lawmaker will back your position, but it will almost certainly gain their attention and could help get a conversation started. It can draw the attention of local media, too.
Of course, not every organization is ready to advocate directly in congressional districts and those that are will adopt very different  approaches. What’s important to know is that it is an option and one that can be extremely effective when carried out with care. In an election year, when noise and partisan rhetoric will be increasing and communicating on issues will be more difficult, organizations that differentiate themselves may have more success. Putting the summer doldrums to good use can be an effective strategy. [post_title] => Advocating Effectively in Congressional Districts [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => advocating-effectively-in-congressional-districts [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-02-01 03:14:41 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-02-01 03:14:41 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=8241 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 1 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 8241 [post_author] => 43 [post_date] => 2022-02-01 03:00:44 [post_date_gmt] => 2022-02-01 03:00:44 [post_content] => Every August, members of Congress head back to their states and districts to campaign and commune with constituents. Some government affairs teams will be right behind them as they go. Advocating in congressional districts can be a high-impact strategy for organizations that want to gain traction on their issues, punch home a message or simply solidify relationships. From grassroots activity and media presence to meetings and facility tours, there is much you can do to communicate with Congress back home. Yet activity in a congressional district should also be thoughtful and well calibrated. You are communicating with a member of Congress and their constituents on their home turf during an election, and certain strategies can be perceived as  aggressive. Miscalculate and you could be dealing with an angry lawmaker. Done correctly, however, activity in the district can be a very effective way to carry your message and build relationships. Quorum’s State of Government Affairs survey, which took the temperature of almost 500 government affairs professionals, showed that one third think it is getting harder to secure meetings with members of Congress. Working in the district over the break can be part of a strategy to increase communication. To learn how your team can operate safely in congressional districts and increase your impact, keep reading.

Understanding the Landscape

Before beginning work in a congressional district, it is important for your organization to understand the political environment. Organizations that have a strong footprint in the state or district, whether that is affiliates and chapters or offices and facilities, will have an advantage. Having locals on your team who understand the political dynamics is an asset. For everyone else, some serious homework is in order. Indeed, 2022 is no ordinary summer. Lawmakers will be returning to districts where inflation is high, consumer prices and interest rates are rising and people are concerned over everything from the economy to public safety. Many states are also going through divisive debates over reproductive rights after the U.S. Supreme Court ended the federal right to obtain an abortion, leaving each state to decide what rights women have within its borders. Polarization and dissatisfaction also remain high. A gallup tracking poll in June showed that 87% of Americans are dissatisfied with the way that things are going in the United States, meaning that only 13% are satisfied. That’s the lowest point all year. A separate poll by  FiveThirtyEight found that Americans think extremism and polarization is the third most important issue facing the country, behind only inflation and gun violence. “Hatred—specifically, hatred of the other party—increasingly defines our politics,” the site said. This is also an election year, and that will also impact the environment in every state. The entire U.S. House and one third of the Senate will face voters. State legislatures will also be on the ballot in 46 states, as will gubernatorial seats in 36 states. Add to that a decennial  redistricting, changes to state voting laws, and a presidential race in 2024 that is already heating up and the situation can get complicated quickly. Understanding the state of play in states where you advocate is critical. Thankfully, it does not take too long to read in and get a basic understanding. Here is what that might look like:
  • Know the Issues. You certainly know your organization’s issues, but your understanding needs to reach further. If a state is going through a divisive fight over abortion rights, gun control or immigration policy, you need to get fluent on those issues. It will help you speak the language on the ground.
  • Track the Politics. Will there be major changes in the state legislature? How about in the governor’s mansion? Members of Congress are often involved in these races. By working for members of their party, they shore up support at home. You should understand the hot races and the state of play in each, too.
  • Read the Polls. Statewide or regional polling is available in most places, and candidates often have district polls that they share selectively. It pays to look at everything you can get. It will tell you what’s important to voters, what has them upset and how they feel about current leadership, all good things for a government affairs team to know before taking action.
  • Monitor Media. Start reading major news outlets in the states and districts where you plan to operate. For example, an  organization working in California’s 16th District, in the central part of the state, would want to keep an eye on both the Fresno Bee and The Mercury News, the two outlets most likely to write about that district. You can hit the websites or use a service, but you should see the news, editorial, op-ed and letters being written.
  • Understand the District. Who are the major employers? What is the ethnic makeup of the electorate? It is important to have a good sense of the district before you take action. The better you know the terrain the more likely you are to create a strategy that resonates. That knowledge can also decrease the chance of making mistakes.
Of course, all of this comes in addition to understanding what the lawmakers you will engage with are experiencing. Are they safe or sitting in a targeted seat? Are they raising money for their own tight race or giving large amounts to the party to help other candidates? Are they impacted by redistricting? No matter what you plan to do, you have to know the landscape in order to set strategy with impact and avoid missteps.

Make Strategic Decisions

There’s one more thing you need to know and this is equally vital: what do you hope to accomplish? This will drive your strategy. An organization that wants to build a relationship with a member of Congress will take one approach. An organization who wants that  member to take action on an issue might take another. Advocacy in congressional districts is about getting a lawmaker’s attention in ways that are difficult to do in Washington, but it requires care. For example, one traditional way to get a lawmaker’s attention is to run ads in their district. A group wants to pressure the lawmaker on their issue, so they run TV, radio and digital spots back home to provoke a response. It can be effective. But it is also aggressive. Ads may bring a lawmaker to the table, but they may not appreciate being dragged. By contrast, if that same group launched a grassroots campaign and flooded the district office with letters, the response might be quite different. Yes, large amounts of email can tax the staff. But personal letters from constituents always have value in a congressional office. A major outpouring of constituent sentiment can bring a lawmaker to the table willingly. The point is obvious: make sure you understand how your work will be perceived. If your goal is an aggressive campaign, that’s fine. If your goal is to build a relationship and foster cooperation, make sure your actions are in line with that outcome and won’t be misperceived. Communication in a congressional district should be strategic. To that end, any strategy you set should involve a few basic ingredients. One is that it should communicate the impact that you have on the district, whether that is the jobs you create, the services you provide or some other metric. You should always be looking to show why your organization matters and why lawmakers should listen. Showing direct impact on the district is the best way to drive those points home. The other ingredient is constituent voices. Lawmakers need to know how their constituents feel and they need anecdotes in order to support the positions they take. Authentic constituent stories are the very best anecdotes. When you communicate with lawmakers using constituents, you are speaking a language that they understand.

Practice High-Impact Advocacy

With all of that in mind, there are many things that organizations can do to get active in congressional districts this month and beyond. Here are some ideas:
  • Start With a Meeting. Before you begin launching campaigns and writing op-eds, talk to district staff and request a meeting with the lawmaker. Be clear about why you want to meet and your organization’s impact on the district. Whatever your relationship with the lawmaker and your reason for targeting them, members of Congress and staff will appreciate that you reached out and attempted to have a conversation before launching other efforts.
  • Use Your Assets. Organizations that already have a presence in the district have an advantage. Perhaps you work for a company that has a manufacturing plant or a nonprofit with a state chapter. Whatever the case, it means you have a group of constituents already affiliated with your organization located in exactly the right place. This can be helpful in many ways, but here’s one simple suggestion: invite your lawmaker to tour and speak at your facility. These meetings are often scheduled far in advance, but if the audience and the issues are right, you may get some traction. Even if your lawmaker declines, they will note that you asked and may book a visit down the road.
  • Activate Your Grassroots. Grassroots campaigns that deliver authentic constituent stories—not form letters—via email are powerful. Working in a congressional district allows you to grow your audience in that area. For example, a petition campaign targeting the district can show constituent sentiment and grow your list. The same is true of social campaigns targeting a specific locale. Growing your audience in a district that is strategically important creates an asset that will help your organization far beyond a single issue or a single campaign.
  • Attend Lawmakers’ Events. Lawmakers are often busy in August, holding town halls and speaking to groups around the district. One way to gain face time is to attend these events. You can be low-key, sending a single representative to approach the lawmaker for a chat after a speech. Or you can come in larger numbers. The situation and your goals will dictate the strategy.
  • Echo Lawmakers’ Messaging. Lawmakers often get sent home to their districts in August with canned messaging from congressional leadership. In some cases, this messaging gets very specific, including sample press releases and social media posts. In situations where your interests align, your organization can echo this messaging, whether on social media or other channels.  Ongoing support like this can help down the line, when you are asking lawmakers for support.
  • Get Help From Allied Groups. Recruiting other organizations in the district to join your cause can provide strong amplification. Your message gets more powerful as the number of constituents involved increases. Working with allied groups on an issue can increase engagement on grassroots and social campaigns, and enlarge your presence generally. When groups representing thousands of constituents in a congressional district pull together around an issue, it becomes very difficult to ignore.
  • Court Other District Officials. Support from public officials outside Congress can also help. Approaching state lawmakers, mayors and city council members from the district and asking them to support your position can enhance your credibility. These officials also mix with members of Congress at fundraisers, rallies and party events and may be willing to talk to their member of Congress about the issue.
  • Use Your Social Channels. Social media can help your work in the district for one simple reason: it can reach beyond your list. Paid social promotion can be geographically targeted. Organic can use local hashtags to generate interest. If the idea is to reach  constituents and draw them to the cause, social media is an effective and affordable channel.
  • Hold a Rally. Staging a COVID-safe rally around your issue can be very effective. It’s a great way to express a position and show that position has constituent support. A rally of respectable size—it need not be huge—is unlikely to escape a lawmaker’s attention, especially if it draws media coverage. One recommendation: hold a live call to action at your event. If people are taking the time to attend an event, they will take the time to email their lawmaker. Using text messaging, you can ask people to take action on the spot and report the engagement numbers right from the podium. It’s an interactive way to energize the audience.
  • Work the Local Media. Media within a congressional district often presents an opportunity for organizations who want to highlight an issue. News outlets need op-eds and letters to the editor that address local issues or national issues from a local angle. An organization with a large local footprint is likely to be taken seriously.
  • Commission a Poll. A poll showing public support for your bill, your position or your issue within a lawmaker’s district is not likely to be ignored. Public support is no guarantee that a lawmaker will back your position, but it will almost certainly gain their attention and could help get a conversation started. It can draw the attention of local media, too.
Of course, not every organization is ready to advocate directly in congressional districts and those that are will adopt very different  approaches. What’s important to know is that it is an option and one that can be extremely effective when carried out with care. In an election year, when noise and partisan rhetoric will be increasing and communicating on issues will be more difficult, organizations that differentiate themselves may have more success. Putting the summer doldrums to good use can be an effective strategy. [post_title] => Advocating Effectively in Congressional Districts [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => advocating-effectively-in-congressional-districts [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-02-01 03:14:41 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-02-01 03:14:41 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=8241 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 1 [max_num_pages] => 0 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => 1 [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => [is_tag] => [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_privacy_policy] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => 1 [is_robots] => [is_favicon] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 6b348472600f09d4a5f4c8b57be0c80d [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )
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Advocating Effectively in Congressional Districts

Advocating Effectively in Congressional Districts

Every August, members of Congress head back to their states and districts to campaign and commune with constituents. Some government affairs teams will be right behind them as they go.

Advocating in congressional districts can be a high-impact strategy for organizations that want to gain traction on their issues, punch home a message or simply solidify relationships. From grassroots activity and media presence to meetings and facility tours, there is much you can do to communicate with Congress back home.

Yet activity in a congressional district should also be thoughtful and well calibrated. You are communicating with a member of Congress and their constituents on their home turf during an election, and certain strategies can be perceived as  aggressive. Miscalculate and you could be dealing with an angry lawmaker. Done correctly, however, activity in the district can be a very effective way to carry your message and build relationships.

Quorum’s State of Government Affairs survey, which took the temperature of almost 500 government affairs professionals, showed that one third think it is getting harder to secure meetings with members of Congress. Working in the district over the break can be part of a strategy to increase communication. To learn how your team can operate safely in congressional districts and increase your impact, keep reading.

Understanding the Landscape

Before beginning work in a congressional district, it is important for your organization to understand the political environment. Organizations that have a strong footprint in the state or district, whether that is affiliates and chapters or offices and facilities, will have an advantage. Having locals on your team who understand the political dynamics is an asset. For everyone else, some serious homework is in order.

Indeed, 2022 is no ordinary summer. Lawmakers will be returning to districts where inflation is high, consumer prices and interest rates are rising and people are concerned over everything from the economy to public safety. Many states are also going through divisive debates over reproductive rights after the U.S. Supreme Court ended the federal right to obtain an abortion, leaving each state to decide what rights women have within its borders.

Polarization and dissatisfaction also remain high. A gallup tracking poll in June showed that 87% of Americans are dissatisfied with the way that things are going in the United States, meaning that only 13% are satisfied. That’s the lowest point all year. A separate poll by  FiveThirtyEight found that Americans think extremism and polarization is the third most important issue facing the country, behind only inflation and gun violence. “Hatred—specifically, hatred of the other party—increasingly defines our politics,” the site said.

This is also an election year, and that will also impact the environment in every state. The entire U.S. House and one third of the Senate will face voters. State legislatures will also be on the ballot in 46 states, as will gubernatorial seats in 36 states. Add to that a decennial  redistricting, changes to state voting laws, and a presidential race in 2024 that is already heating up and the situation can get complicated quickly.

Understanding the state of play in states where you advocate is critical. Thankfully, it does not take too long to read in and get a basic understanding. Here is what that might look like:

  • Know the Issues. You certainly know your organization’s issues, but your understanding needs to reach further. If a state is going through a divisive fight over abortion rights, gun control or immigration policy, you need to get fluent on those issues. It will help you speak the language on the ground.
  • Track the Politics. Will there be major changes in the state legislature? How about in the governor’s mansion? Members of Congress are often involved in these races. By working for members of their party, they shore up support at home. You should understand the hot races and the state of play in each, too.
  • Read the Polls. Statewide or regional polling is available in most places, and candidates often have district polls that they share selectively. It pays to look at everything you can get. It will tell you what’s important to voters, what has them upset and how they feel about current leadership, all good things for a government affairs team to know before taking action.
  • Monitor Media. Start reading major news outlets in the states and districts where you plan to operate. For example, an  organization working in California’s 16th District, in the central part of the state, would want to keep an eye on both the Fresno Bee and The Mercury News, the two outlets most likely to write about that district. You can hit the websites or use a service, but you should see the news, editorial, op-ed and letters being written.
  • Understand the District. Who are the major employers? What is the ethnic makeup of the electorate? It is important to have a good sense of the district before you take action. The better you know the terrain the more likely you are to create a strategy that resonates. That knowledge can also decrease the chance of making mistakes.

Of course, all of this comes in addition to understanding what the lawmakers you will engage with are experiencing. Are they safe or sitting in a targeted seat? Are they raising money for their own tight race or giving large amounts to the party to help other candidates? Are they impacted by redistricting? No matter what you plan to do, you have to know the landscape in order to set strategy with impact and avoid missteps.

Make Strategic Decisions

There’s one more thing you need to know and this is equally vital: what do you hope to accomplish? This will drive your strategy. An organization that wants to build a relationship with a member of Congress will take one approach. An organization who wants that  member to take action on an issue might take another. Advocacy in congressional districts is about getting a lawmaker’s attention in ways that are difficult to do in Washington, but it requires care.

For example, one traditional way to get a lawmaker’s attention is to run ads in their district. A group wants to pressure the lawmaker on their issue, so they run TV, radio and digital spots back home to provoke a response. It can be effective. But it is also aggressive. Ads may bring a lawmaker to the table, but they may not appreciate being dragged. By contrast, if that same group launched a grassroots campaign and flooded the district office with letters, the response might be quite different.

Yes, large amounts of email can tax the staff. But personal letters from constituents always have value in a congressional office. A major outpouring of constituent sentiment can bring a lawmaker to the table willingly.

The point is obvious: make sure you understand how your work will be perceived. If your goal is an aggressive campaign, that’s fine. If your goal is to build a relationship and foster cooperation, make sure your actions are in line with that outcome and won’t be misperceived. Communication in a congressional district should be strategic.

To that end, any strategy you set should involve a few basic ingredients. One is that it should communicate the impact that you have on the district, whether that is the jobs you create, the services you provide or some other metric. You should always be looking to show why your organization matters and why lawmakers should listen. Showing direct impact on the district is the best way to drive those points home.

The other ingredient is constituent voices. Lawmakers need to know how their constituents feel and they need anecdotes in order to support the positions they take. Authentic constituent stories are the very best anecdotes. When you communicate with lawmakers using constituents, you are speaking a language that they understand.

Practice High-Impact Advocacy

With all of that in mind, there are many things that organizations can do to get active in congressional districts this month and beyond. Here are some ideas:

  • Start With a Meeting. Before you begin launching campaigns and writing op-eds, talk to district staff and request a meeting with the lawmaker. Be clear about why you want to meet and your organization’s impact on the district. Whatever your relationship with the lawmaker and your reason for targeting them, members of Congress and staff will appreciate that you reached out and attempted to have a conversation before launching other efforts.
  • Use Your Assets. Organizations that already have a presence in the district have an advantage. Perhaps you work for a company that has a manufacturing plant or a nonprofit with a state chapter. Whatever the case, it means you have a group of constituents already affiliated with your organization located in exactly the right place. This can be helpful in many ways, but here’s one simple suggestion: invite your lawmaker to tour and speak at your facility. These meetings are often scheduled far in advance, but if the audience and the issues are right, you may get some traction. Even if your lawmaker declines, they will note that you asked and may book a visit down the road.
  • Activate Your Grassroots. Grassroots campaigns that deliver authentic constituent stories—not form letters—via email are powerful. Working in a congressional district allows you to grow your audience in that area. For example, a petition campaign targeting the district can show constituent sentiment and grow your list. The same is true of social campaigns targeting a specific locale. Growing your audience in a district that is strategically important creates an asset that will help your organization far beyond a single issue or a single campaign.
  • Attend Lawmakers’ Events. Lawmakers are often busy in August, holding town halls and speaking to groups around the district. One way to gain face time is to attend these events. You can be low-key, sending a single representative to approach the lawmaker for a chat after a speech. Or you can come in larger numbers. The situation and your goals will dictate the strategy.
  • Echo Lawmakers’ Messaging. Lawmakers often get sent home to their districts in August with canned messaging from congressional leadership. In some cases, this messaging gets very specific, including sample press releases and social media posts. In situations where your interests align, your organization can echo this messaging, whether on social media or other channels.  Ongoing support like this can help down the line, when you are asking lawmakers for support.
  • Get Help From Allied Groups. Recruiting other organizations in the district to join your cause can provide strong amplification. Your message gets more powerful as the number of constituents involved increases. Working with allied groups on an issue can increase engagement on grassroots and social campaigns, and enlarge your presence generally. When groups representing thousands of constituents in a congressional district pull together around an issue, it becomes very difficult to ignore.
  • Court Other District Officials. Support from public officials outside Congress can also help. Approaching state lawmakers, mayors and city council members from the district and asking them to support your position can enhance your credibility. These officials also mix with members of Congress at fundraisers, rallies and party events and may be willing to talk to their member of Congress about the issue.
  • Use Your Social Channels. Social media can help your work in the district for one simple reason: it can reach beyond your list. Paid social promotion can be geographically targeted. Organic can use local hashtags to generate interest. If the idea is to reach  constituents and draw them to the cause, social media is an effective and affordable channel.
  • Hold a Rally. Staging a COVID-safe rally around your issue can be very effective. It’s a great way to express a position and show that position has constituent support. A rally of respectable size—it need not be huge—is unlikely to escape a lawmaker’s attention, especially if it draws media coverage. One recommendation: hold a live call to action at your event. If people are taking the time to attend an event, they will take the time to email their lawmaker. Using text messaging, you can ask people to take action on the spot and report the engagement numbers right from the podium. It’s an interactive way to energize the audience.
  • Work the Local Media. Media within a congressional district often presents an opportunity for organizations who want to highlight an issue. News outlets need op-eds and letters to the editor that address local issues or national issues from a local angle. An organization with a large local footprint is likely to be taken seriously.
  • Commission a Poll. A poll showing public support for your bill, your position or your issue within a lawmaker’s district is not likely to be ignored. Public support is no guarantee that a lawmaker will back your position, but it will almost certainly gain their attention and could help get a conversation started. It can draw the attention of local media, too.

Of course, not every organization is ready to advocate directly in congressional districts and those that are will adopt very different  approaches. What’s important to know is that it is an option and one that can be extremely effective when carried out with care. In an election year, when noise and partisan rhetoric will be increasing and communicating on issues will be more difficult, organizations that differentiate themselves may have more success. Putting the summer doldrums to good use can be an effective strategy.