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WP_Query Object ( [query] => Array ( [name] => how-to-build-key-contact-advocacy-program [post_type] => resources [resource-type] => blog ) [query_vars] => Array ( [name] => how-to-build-key-contact-advocacy-program [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] => 7663 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2022-10-13 12:07:12 [post_date_gmt] => 2022-10-13 12:07:12 [post_content] => [embed]https://youtu.be/G0ufPkcdM3E[/embed] Constantine Simantiras (00:31): All right. Welcome to our session today. While we give you know, all the folks, a few minutes to log in. Wanna throw out a fun icebreaker? Since we are talking to the apartment association today, can folks throw in the chat where they'd buy an apartment if could go and buy a home anywhere? Constantine Simantiras (02:16): Okay, so now I think we've given everyone enough time to hop on, we'll kick things off, and I'm thrilled to be here with Austin O'Boyle, Senior Manager of Grassroots Advocacy and Stakeholder Engagement at the National Apartment Association. Prior to the National Apartment Association, Austin was the VP of Grassroots and Political outreach at AMP DC and the grassroots and PAC coordinator at the American College of Surgeons. So I've actually been lucky enough to get the work with the National Apartment Association over the past two years or so at this point, and with many of their national affiliates and state affiliates and local affiliates. So I wanted to take the time, and I'm very excited to learn what Austin going to be speaking about with us here at Wonk Week today. So right off the bat, Austin, I'm gonna kick things off. Can you tell us a little bit about your role and where it fits in with the National Apartment Association organization structure as a whole? Austin O'Boyle (03:13): Yeah, absolutely. Well, like you said, Constantine on the senior manager of grassroots advocacy and stakeholder engagement at the National Apartment Association very long, title <laugh>. But yeah, so I am in on the political affairs team housed within our bigger government affairs department. You know, so I obviously work with our policy team. I work with our, you know, external affairs team as well as the PAC team and lobbyists to you know, obviously advocate for the rental housing industry as best we can. Constantine Simantiras (03:42): Awesome. Thanks for that. Tell us a little bit about, you know, what are some of the key issues that NAA engages on, you know, on an annual and, and even a monthly basis? Austin O'Boyle (03:52): Yeah, so we have a, especially at the federal level, we have a wide array of issues that we focus on. Anything housing affordability revitalizing the Section eight HCV program. You know, reducing barriers to housing development, you name it, you know, we probably advocate for it in the housing affordability space. So you know, but then we also touch upon other issues that might just impact the operations of rental housing, whether that be, you know, carried interest or you know, the CARES Act notice, the vacate provision is a huge one for us that we're working on right now. So you know, we have a wide array of issues that we work on. Constantine Simantiras (04:29): Excellent. Now, appreciate that. When it comes to grassroots advocacy, what are some of the overall goals of the National Apartment Association? Austin O'Boyle (04:37): Yeah, I mean our, our big goals with, you know, our grassroots advocacy program is, you know, to make a direct impact on policy, right? And I think that grassroots in general is seen as a more micro game if you will. What I mean by that is, you know, people are looking for metrics, right? They're looking to check a box in a way. You know, how many emails did we send? How many phone calls did we, you know, get made? Which is, don't get me wrong, I mean, numbers are very important, especially when you're running an advocacy campaign to, you know, take back to your stakeholders or to your board and just kind of show them volume-wise what's going on. But our focus with our advocacy programs has really been to impact legislation. Cuz at the end of the day that's, that, that's the win and loss column, right? So for us, it's really about building out a program that yes, can put up metrics, but the ultimate goal is to really, you know, as cliche as it sounds, to move the the needle on policy. So, <laugh> Constantine Simantiras (05:32): Love it. I was just about to use that phrase. So when you're talking about moving the needle, when you're looking at who are your advocates, can you tell us a little bit about a, what, you know, what the makeup of those advocates looks like, and then what is the person's level of comfort, you know, when it comes to the awareness of some of those issues? Austin O'Boyle (05:51): Yeah, so I mean, we're fortunate. We have a very broad membership, right? So we have, you know, executives of property management companies you know, and within those companies, you know, all the way down to leasing consultants or maintenance techs or what have you. So not only do we have executives of these companies, some developers are in here, supplier members, some people that are vendors for folks in the rental housing space. So we have a very you know, wide assortment of members, if you will. You know, so, it really varies, right? You know, just cuz obviously you have some, you know, you might have an executive of a company who has a good personal relationship with a member of Congress and, you know, you might have a, a leasing consultant who at the same time is willing to kind of take the steps, right? Send the emails, take, you know, action on our alerts that we do, and everything like that. So it really varies. It just depends on how enthusiastic somebody is. But our messaging obviously needs to vary depending on who we're trying to talk to since it's such a wide-spanning network. Constantine Simantiras (06:51): Awesome. No, I love that. And, I definitely wanna pry in a little bit more some of those, those nuances that you kind of dove into here in a little bit. But I wanted to shift gears a little bit more to, you know, goals for the year. You know, year one we're looking at growth, you know, overall for the association and proof of concept. So, you know, we're discussing the building and the growth of this program. And, before you got started, you know, with this effort what was the status quo of, you know, your team's grass tops advocacy? Austin O'Boyle (07:23): Yeah, so I guess I should start with the program technically existed prior right, So this isn't a brand new program, but it is in a way just because, I like to coin it, you know, program and name only because what was kind of going on with it was and the first step was basically identifying who was still in the program. Cuz we did a survey every year where we would ask who has a relationship currently with a member of Congress or their staff, and they'd put their hand up, we'd put them in a spreadsheet, and if we needed them, we would reach out. But there was nothing ongoing. There was no, you know, advocacy year-round that would keep people engaged. So my first step in this was basically to kind of go through the existing spreadsheets that we had from the past several years and kind of piece it together, do individual outreach. Austin O'Boyle (08:11): There was a lot of sweat equity involved just kind of getting people to buy back into the program and let them know that we were gonna be revitalizing it. So that was the biggest first step, just to get our program off and running in the, in the right direction was taking the time to do the outreach and see a) who still has a relationship, and b) who's still willing to take the necessary steps to be a key contact. So it took some time, but it was, it was worth it in the end. Constantine Simantiras (08:37): Oh, I can only imagine. Yeah, that's, that's a heavy lift too, to kind of start you know, right off the, off the bat there. But when it comes to recruiting some of those new key contacts, how did you identify who would be a good fit when it comes to maybe your advocates or your grass tops tier individuals? Austin O'Boyle (08:56): Yeah, so we're very fortunate to have an amazing affiliate network. You know, they do a great job, and they're really localized, right? So, you know, there are some members out there that probably don't even know that they're NAA members, right? They know of their local apartment association and then by turn are NAA members you know, so they know their members day to day, they talk to them much more often depending on who they are. You know, so we, I really partnered with them to identify some folks on the ground that, hey, do you know anybody who has a relationship? But at the same time, you know, we took the step of expanding the word key contact to mean more than just you have an existing relationship with somebody, right? Because it's a very finite universe when we're talking about who is a college roommate of a congressman, or who knows somebody from their old neighborhood or whatever it may be. So we started recruiting top-level advocates, right? People that were taking action on all of our alerts. You know, were partaking in our at-home program, which is where we set up meetings in the district during the August recess. And we're kind of going above and beyond. So they didn't, they might not have necessarily had an existing relationship, but you know, with, with our program, we took steps to help them cultivate one and get them in front of those offices. Constantine Simantiras (10:09): Love that. You've been talking a lot about, you know, that the key contact sort of program holistically, you know, what were some of those expectations for this program? You know, getting off the ground and, and, you know, as it has progressed so far? Austin O'Boyle (10:22): Yeah. Well, I mean, we wanted to set a firm benchmark, right? To start off with. So we, you know, the expectations for an individual key contact vary, right? So we kind of took it as what folks do for us, right? We have a bronze, a silver, and a gold tier, and there's a recognition system at the end of every year, as well as some, you know, swag items and thank you events and stuff like that. You know, so something that we really plugged in there was the bare minimum standard to kind of be that upper echelon advocate, which in this case obviously is a key contact, you know, take action on all of our grassroots alerts. At the very minimum, reach out to your designated congressional office at least once per quarter. And that means more than just your alert, right? Austin O'Boyle (11:04): Send an email, we'll give you the contact information. I pull it from Quorum, I give them the legislative director's contact, or whoever it may be because I want them to act as a resource. That's the biggest thing, you know, in this program, is this is a real relationship that we're trying to build. So we can't just constantly be asking, we also wanna let these members of Congress know our folks are here, right? So if you have a question on housing, we have somebody that can answer those questions and help you and guide you on where you should go. Or if you have an operations question, they can be there to help. So those quarterly outreaches are, you know, is, is very important. You know, and then at the same time meeting with your member of Congress twice per year. And we give them opportunities, right? Austin O'Boyle (11:46): This isn't something that you need somebody who's, you know, dedicating all their time. Like, we make it so that it's very easy to do, whether it's in our fly-in during advocate every year or during the at-home program in the district. Just making sure that you have that face-to-face interaction, whether it's with the congressional staff or the member themselves is very important. But those are kind of the bare minimum expectations if you will. And then, obviously, as we go up into that silver and gold tier, you know, we're talking you know, helping out their campaign you know, volunteering, making phone calls for them you know, and all, all that good stuff. So, we get a little bit more in-depth as we go up the ladder. Constantine Simantiras (12:23): Awesome. Now, I think, I think just the thought, the NAA swag itself is probably enough you know, to start enticing people off the bat. But kind of my next question is, you know, I want to talk a little bit about how you, how did you get buy-in, you know, for this approach from your individual organization's leadership? You know, I know it takes, you know, an army to take this thought process and kind of put it into motion. What did that look like for you? And then, you know, if you don't mind talking about kind of how that has morphed as well. Austin O'Boyle (12:54): Yeah. honestly, it didn't take much just because they, you know, leadership here knew that it was a necessary push, right? They knew this was something that was needed. You know, we keep up to date with you know, Congressional Management Foundation studies and kind of asking what members of Congress are looking for. And in my view, the pandemic expedited advocacy, right? So where we were going to be is, you know, it is relationships now, and it always has been, but even more so because, you know, advocates have a million different ways to get in contact with, with a member of Congress now, whether it's through social media or email, phone, virtual meetings, you know, so there are a million different things. So the way that we're really gonna stand out is not just by having the constituent volume in terms of the number of outreach that happens with a particular office, but it's the depth of that relationship and how we can build that up over time. And you know, we saw it as a, as a long-term investment to really make sure that we're, you know, building those relationships. But getting the number of people in the door to commit to this program was first and foremost on everyone's mind. But I, there really hasn't had to be any more buy-in, cuz they've seen the growth happen at a pretty fast pace this year. You know, so they're, they're very happy with where we are and hopefully, we can continue to expand. Constantine Simantiras (14:09): Fantastic. Well, let's keep on that train. Let's talk about the impacts, you know, of year one. Let's go into the successes, you know, what you've seen in, you know, since, since you have spun up this individual program. Can you talk a little bit about, you know, some metrics that you've seen, you know, in this first year, whether that's, you know, number of contacts, percentage of growth, whatever, you know, you all measure your ROI with? Austin O'Boyle (14:33): Yes. I jotted 'em all down here so I didn't forget 'em. So, we saw 86% growth in the program from this year you know, compared to last year. So we started off with 112 key contacts last year or at the end of '21, I should say. And we were able to build that up to 208 now. And they cover 210 congressional offices currently. Cuz those, those are the metrics that we gauge, right? It's the individual key contacts, but then at the same time, you have your rockstar advocates that are willing to take on more than one office. You know, especially if they already have a preexisting relationship. But those are, those are the metrics and we're very happy with where we're at. But we're hoping to end the year somewhere around 220, 225 total individual key contacts this year. Constantine Simantiras (15:17): Amazing. that's, that's incredible to hear. So, so excited to kind of see that progression occurs in such a short amount of time too. On that same note, you know, how has the growth of that key context program impacted, I would say the holistic advocacy efforts for this year? Austin O'Boyle (15:37): Yeah, I mean, we, we lean on them a lot more, right? And you know, that's always part of our campaigns, right? So whether it's we're trying to get a sponsor on our, our new notice to vacate bill that was introduced, or it's, you know, the Section eight program, you know, we're reaching out to the key contacts that have those relationships, no matter how strong they are, even if they've just started you know, we have different levels of asks, right? So, hey, I need you to send this tweet and tag your member of Congress and let them know you're a constituent. You know, we craft the content and get it out to them. Or if somebody, I'll give you an example. We have a key contact in South Carolina who was able to muster up another sponsorship today of a bill. But she herself has gotten, I think it's gonna be three co-sponsorship to this bill within the next week or so. Austin O'Boyle (16:23): And that's just from her relationship. She meets with them on her own. She goes above and beyond. So being able to kind of lean on these folks to do some of the legwork in terms of education and you know, we're all government affairs professionals, right? So, you know, they know this is our job, but it makes such a bigger impact when a constituent goes and says, Hey, this is something I'm very passionate about because this is how it impacts me and my day-to-day job and my business and everything else. So we definitely, lean on them a lot more, and they're always part of conversations in terms of how we move policy forward. Constantine Simantiras (16:56): I love that. And I, and I think what that does is that, you know, it entrusts you, you know, as a, as the national association to continue to branch out to those, you know, that can continue to grow that individual program, right? Where I want to take this is, you know, into the next steps, you know, what training and effectiveness ultimately look like. So what's your next step in building out this program? What, you know, what are your goals? What does next year look like? And, you know, tell me a little bit about, I think what the tiering system that you have, you know, already alluded to so far, looks like. Austin O'Boyle (17:26): Yeah, so I mean, now it's, you know, I, I'm very happy with the number of key contacts where we are. I think we probably have the capacity for about 300 in total over the next year and a half or so. But I truly think the word that you use that hits the nail on the head is effective, right? That's, that's what we wanna be, is we have the opportunities for folks through various programs that we've set up, and we, we have the people in, in the door. We've built up the metaphorical army, so to speak. So now it's about when they have the opportunity to have a meeting or they have an opportunity to get on a phone call with somebody and influence policy, we want them to be as impactful as possible. So how do we do that, right? We push a whole lot more education. Austin O'Boyle (18:06): I think I'm gonna be doing a lot of advocacy training this year, bopping around to a couple of different places you know, but at the same time doing a bunch of webinars, you know, we're gonna be updating them on what happened with the election as a lot of people do, right? But I'm doing it from a key contact perspective. You know, here's what this looks like for the future of housing policy, here's how your office specifically was impacted. And then at the same time, you know, taking my individual list of key contacts, and we're gonna break it down. There's gonna be a lot of you know, manual work <laugh> in store for me in December. But basically, I want to know exactly who each participant is how willing they've been to interact with me and the program over the past year. Austin O'Boyle (18:51): You know, and that goes back to how many opens of emails that I've sent out, have there been how many clicks, how many actions have they taken how many meetings, and just kind of giving them a great, right, one to five, five being the rockstar who's gonna answer the phone whenever I need them, or, you know, whenever something important pops up. And one being somebody who, you know, is in the program in theory, but is selective when they answer and everything in between. So we wanna make sure that we are, you know, encouraging our, our top rate advocates to keep going and trying to motivate the ones on the lower end of the spectrum. Here's how you can step your game up and give them tasks that aren't as daunting as I need you to go set up a meeting and influence them to jump on this bill. Right? So <laugh>, those are the next steps. It's about making 'em effective and, really just education. Constantine Simantiras (19:41): Yeah. No, that's fantastic. The ever large elephant in the room, something that's, you know, always topical, you know, it's an election year. How does a new Congress potentially impact, you know, your efforts, and what does the coming year look like because of that? Austin O'Boyle (19:57): Yeah, so, I mean that was a big question I had earlier in this year, honestly, because it was something where you know, our membership, and I think everybody's membership, for the most part, is based on this, in the fact of trying to separate the group of members from their individual political identity, right? Where we represent the industry, we represent them in their business. So we're trying to get them to, you know, understand that even though, you know, you are a member of Congress right now, let's just say is a, is a Democrat, and you have a great relationship with them, right? Let's just say they lose their seat in the midterm election, hypothetically here and now you have a Republican in office, but your home district is, you know where it is. And I need you to look beyond your personal political affiliation and understand that you're representing the rental housing industry as a whole, right? Austin O'Boyle (20:47): So that's what we've really been focusing on because there's gonna be a shift whether, you know, I'm not a, you know, an election prognosticator here or anything, but there's going to be a shift. People are gonna win and lose seats. There's gonna be new folks that come into the fold, and it's our job to educate them on these important issues as if it was the same person, right? If it's square one, you had a great relationship with this member of Congress, it's gonna take time to build it up. But at the same time, it's, it's a necessary part of the process, right? So that's really the education and the messaging that we're pushing out is, this is bigger than you, this is, this is the industry, right? So this is for you, your business, and the industry. So we're gonna need you, you know, regardless, we, we need you in front of that individual. Constantine Simantiras (21:31): Awesome. Thank you for that. I wanted to field a couple of questions, you know, that, that is, that are on the chat here. Austin, if you didn't mind me shifting gears just a little bit Stephanie had asked, with quarterly outreach, do you provide the information that your key contacts share with their individual lawmakers? Or are you focused on recruiting subject matter experts who have their own information? Austin O'Boyle (21:54): Both <laugh> in a really terrible answer for me. Both. basically, yes. And, and obviously, if there's somebody who is a top-notch advocate, who knows their stuff and fully understands the topics we want that person in the program, especially if they're willing to take these steps, right? So we try to get them in and obviously if they feel comfortable reaching out and discussing something that's on their mind, or, you know, again, just to check in an email to say, Hey, I'm here. Not sure if there's anything on the housing docket for you right now, but let me know. They have the green light, right? And basically, anybody has the green light, because, you know, how we've seen it unfold here is the folks that don't have a plethora of experience in advocating or issue knowledge they're hesitant, right? Austin O'Boyle (22:43): This is an intimidating task, getting to build a relationship with a member's office. So they're not just gonna fly by the seat of their pants, right? Because they've kind of vetted you know, we ask people individually to be a part of the program. Everybody that's in it, I have a conversation with to make sure that no one's gonna fly off the handle about a political issue or anything like that. So it's important to know that they're probably gonna reach out to you. If you have a new group of advocates, you know, I, I probably brought on probably 15 or so key contacts over the past month and a half or so. You know, I reach out to them individually and get them comfortable, and I'll give them some talking points if they want them. But mostly, you know, I'm sending curated content for them to send to those offices if they're a targeted office, right? If we need their co-sponsorship, I'm gonna make sure we're, we're crafting some messaging for these folks to really hit the, hit the nail on the head form. Constantine Simantiras (23:35): Great. Thanks for, thanks for covering that one. One more is Jessica had asked how do you train your grasstops advocates onto how to effectively engage with their individual legislators if that is something that you know you're doing at all? Austin O'Boyle (23:48): Yeah, no, we, we definitely are. And it's, it's a huge priority for me because again, we've seen it, right? I've been on these meetings with our key contacts sometimes where we don't have a group who wants to meet with the office. It's just a key contact, and that's fine, I'll go on with them. And that way they have a buffer and they feel more secure in the meeting if they forget something. But you know, we, we really try to harp on, you know, again, like, you know, touting CMF every now and then here, but you know, we use a lot of their data, right? I show them the facts and figures of, hey, this is what a, you know, senior congressional staff person says, right? It's about building the relationship with the staff. It's about, you know, taking the time to make sure you're including points ABC, whether it's how a particular policy impacts the broader district has the policy impact. Austin O'Boyle (24:39): You know, what, what's the flip side of the coin on the bill? Because that's always something that people forget in these meetings as an example. But just making sure they have those nuanced points, right? Do your, do your homework is always a huge one that I push out there, know the member you know, for example, I, I mean, party affiliation shouldn't meet as much as it does sadly in, in our society today, but it does. And you need to know, Okay, I'm gonna go meet with a Republican's office today. Here's where they likely lean on my issue, Right? Who are the stakeholders in the issue? So just those, that kind of common sense things for us as government affairs professionals need to be relayed just so they fully understand exactly what to go in there thinking. So I hope Constantine Simantiras (25:22): I think that's, that's important. One other question, you know, from Allison that had come in is, you've talked a lot about, you know, the makeup of, you know, these key contacts, how you're acquiring them, how you're educating those individuals. Can you dive a little bit more into that recruiting process and after they've routinely taken action, how do you approach them and how, how do you add that individual responsibility to those folks as time goes on? Austin O'Boyle (25:51): Yeah, so I mean, I'll give you a quick rundown of how, you know, how we kinda get the recruitment going. Cause I look at it as a marketing and sales funnel, right? That's essentially what it is. We're not selling them a pair of shoes, but we're selling them on the idea of this program and why it's important. And, you know, as I said before lean heavily on my affiliates, right? They do a great job of knowing the members, knowing who might be willing you know, to kind of take this responsibility on. And also who knows their stuff, right? Somebody that doesn't necessarily need a 101-level course, but is a little bit further down the road and, and knows their stuff a little bit better. But then at the same time,I use Quorum not to hype you guys up here or anything, but I, lean on Quorum a lot, right? Austin O'Boyle (26:34): So I go through the campaigns like if there's a specific office that I don't have a key contact for, I'll go look at my grassroots actions in a specific district and target it down and say, okay, well here's somebody that I don't even know who they are. But they've taken action on every campaign I've put out this year. I'm gonna reach out to them and see if they're interested in this. And I send them a personal email. I, I set up a call and we go through it. And then we also develop the key contact handbook. And I do set up kind of lead generation tools, right? So something I do on the action center is I set up a campaign, I plug my key contact handbook in and I say, Hey, download the key contact handbook today. And I kind of share that link innocently, right? But if you get somebody who's willing enough to take the time to go on to the action center, click the download the key contact handbook button, you know, you probably have a good enough shot if you set up a call at them afterward that they're, they're a solid lead, right? They're kind of a hot lead cuz most people aren't gonna take their time to go do that. So that's kind of been our lead generation tool. This, was three avenues. You know, they've, it's worked out really well. Constantine Simantiras (27:39): Excellent. Another question from Jenny here is, you had touched on actually on districts and where there are key contacts reside. Do you allow more than one key contact per district? Austin O'Boyle (27:50): Yeah, absolutely. I encourage it <laugh> just because, I mean, here's the thing. Everybody has a different relationship strength, right? I mean, there are people who are in the program who we have a million different programs over here, but like we, you know, we have people who are part of our influencer program which is all social media-based advocacy, but that's really their forte, right? Like, they'll reach out to the office via email, and then they're gonna tag them in tweets on important information that we put out. But then I'm gonna have somebody else in that district who loves meetings, They don't care, you know, they'll drag the chief of staff with them to get them to put on this bill sort of person. So I'm gonna use both of them for what they're good at. And that's why it's important to kind of know who your network is because I'm gonna put you out there. So yes, I'm gonna give you content so that you can tweet and tag the legislator, and then at the same time, this other key contact, I'm gonna help them set up a meeting with the lawmaker to talk about it in person. And, you know, anyway that we can surround them with that kind of 360-degree view of our issue, it's gonna be better for us. So I never, I never say no to multiple key contacts. I try to encourage it when we can. Constantine Simantiras (28:58): That's great. I, I wanted to, I'll come back to a couple of the other questions that, you know, I wanted to field here on the Q and A, but wanted to, you know, take this to more of lessons learned for others and building, you know, building out that key context type program. Awesome. You know, for you, what's the biggest lesson that you've learned in building this program? Just, just kind of from, you know, year to year and what that looks like on your end. Austin O'Boyle (29:26): Yeah, I mean, honestly, I think the biggest thing is that people are willing to do stuff if you ask them. And I think that's too often overlooked because this is a program where people are supposed to feel important, right? This is something where you're not just a typical advocate. You are taking on a responsibility to be not better, I guess is the wrong word, but you're looking to really represent the industry. And I tell them that when I talk to them, especially even on the first call this is for the entire industry, right? So you have one designated office that I need you to speak to but you represent NA's 93,000 plus members, right? When you're talking to them, that's the kind of responsibility that you have. And they usually love it. They run with it. Because again, if they've taken the steps, they've been identified in one way or another as somebody who has some background with advocacy, has a relationship or you know, has come through one of our lead generation tools. Austin O'Boyle (30:20): They're already halfway there, right? They've shown some inkling of interest somewhere down the line. So it's just about, you know, kind of fleshing out the rest of it, so to speak. That would be the biggest lesson is don't be afraid to ask. I mean, reach out to folks if you, you know, it, it stinks, right? People don't like doing the kind of manual sweat equity I can't think of any more hard, hard work elbow grease, medical, you know, whatever. But it's you know, it's tough, right? But making the time to set up, you know, sometimes I'll block off like three, four hours to make these phone calls just to get people in the door and get them set up in the program. So it's really just about that individual outreach. Constantine Simantiras (30:57): Love it. I'm gonna lump a couple of questions together here. Yeah. As, as we come down to the tail end here. But, you know, what is something that you might have done differently if you know, with what you know now and if you had additional or other resources, you know, what would those have been and what could you have done with them? Austin O'Boyle (31:15): Yeah. so something I would've done differently is done kind of the individual scoring system earlier, right? I would've, you know, kept better track of the individual key contacts and kind of gotten their information in terms of what they're willing to do, and kind of gauge that along the way that I didn't have to do it in one big <laugh> effort. But it is what it is. So relatively minor, in the grand scheme of things. But if I had more resources, I think something I'd definitely invest in is, an advocate training virtual academy of sorts, right? Like, I, I tried to make videos on my own using Zoom which turned out awful. So I won't be sharing those with anybody. <Laugh>. I tried my best, but you know, I think it's important because some people enjoy the webinars, they enjoy the live stuff, and obviously, I send out recordings once our webinars are done, or you know, share PowerPoints at live presentations, that sort of thing. But some people like to move at their own pace and, you know, if we can invest some, some capital into having some highly, you know quality videos recorded and then shared in almost something like a bootcamp where they can go through and educate themselves and come back to it for a refresher, I think that's something that's definitely worthwhile, especially in the education side. Constantine Simantiras (32:34): Awesome. Let's look at this, you know, like an alternate universe, you know, know if you had fewer resources, you know, what was something that you would've had to have done differently? Austin O'Boyle (32:45): Yeah. I mean, I, I think in a world, if I didn't have Quorum to kind of track the data and I promise they're not making me say this, I'm saying but if it, if I, honestly, if I didn't have Quorum to kind of track the data and kind of house the information it would be tougher, right? Because I have my key contact list within Quorum. But you know, we were in a transition period between you guys and another vendor prior. I, you know, I was using a spreadsheet like I was plugging in, you know, everybody who represents what office. And it's definitely doable that way. Again, it just takes a little bit more time, a little bit more, I'll keep going back to the sweat equity you know, into that process. You know, so that's something that would, would definitely be a hindrance, but doesn't make it impossible, I suppose. Constantine Simantiras (33:29): Awesome. my last scripted question here, so I don't have to sound like a robot anymore. You know, we've talked a lot about how you've measured success in year one. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative> overall, how do you plan for the future to measure success of that program holistically? Austin O'Boyle (33:44): Yeah, I mean, at the end of the day, it's about policy wins, right? And, and that's what I care about. Metric-wise, you know, growth is gonna be put on the back burner a little bit now that we've hit, you know, 200 plus people. But, you know, growth is still important, but education and effectiveness are where I'm gonna really lean into. You know, so this year, if there are any bills that are popping up, you know, what did our meetings do, right? What did our outreach do? And, we're seeing some trickle, trickle-down impact from our, our at-home program this past August where we had key contacts having meetings and we've seen co-sponsorship come in from those meetings. You know, so that's gonna be where, where my success meter is, and that's where I'm gonna gauge it. Cuz ultimately that's what we're in the business of doing. So, <laugh> Constantine Simantiras (34:29): Amazing. One final question from the field here from Robert, is how often do you undertake stakeholder analysis? So you evaluate and prioritize the most critical relationships? Austin O'Boyle (34:41): That's a good question. I'm assuming you're talking about, you know, important relationships in terms of who we're targeting congressionally. And if that is the case, which I hope I'm answering a question, but you know, we, we obviously have committees of jurisdiction, right? Where, you know, we're focused on house financial services, we're focused on you know, ways and means at times or, you know, it depends on what the bill is and where it's currently moving. But house financial services is our bread and butter and we're always looking to make sure we have the program fully stocked for those districts. You know, and, and definitely, multiple key contacts there because if we have a big push on a bill, I wanna make sure I have, if somebody for some reason can't come through, they have a family emergency or something's going on with them, I want to have at least one other person to be able to pick it up and run with it. You know, so we evaluate those on, you know, I would say a congressional basis, cuz I'm definitely gonna have to look into our priorities and kind of who our target congressional people are this new Congress. But we, we focus on committees you know, but I wanna keep contact in every district, so truly <laugh>. But yeah, we, we definitely, you know, we prioritize. [post_title] => How to Build and Grow an Effective Key Contact Advocate Program [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => how-to-build-key-contact-advocacy-program [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-10-13 12:07:12 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-10-13 12:07:12 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=7663 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object_id] => 7663 [request] => SELECT wp_posts.* FROM wp_posts WHERE 1=1 AND wp_posts.post_name = 'how-to-build-key-contact-advocacy-program' AND wp_posts.post_type = 'resources' ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC [posts] => Array ( [0] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 7663 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2022-10-13 12:07:12 [post_date_gmt] => 2022-10-13 12:07:12 [post_content] => [embed]https://youtu.be/G0ufPkcdM3E[/embed] Constantine Simantiras (00:31): All right. Welcome to our session today. While we give you know, all the folks, a few minutes to log in. Wanna throw out a fun icebreaker? Since we are talking to the apartment association today, can folks throw in the chat where they'd buy an apartment if could go and buy a home anywhere? Constantine Simantiras (02:16): Okay, so now I think we've given everyone enough time to hop on, we'll kick things off, and I'm thrilled to be here with Austin O'Boyle, Senior Manager of Grassroots Advocacy and Stakeholder Engagement at the National Apartment Association. Prior to the National Apartment Association, Austin was the VP of Grassroots and Political outreach at AMP DC and the grassroots and PAC coordinator at the American College of Surgeons. So I've actually been lucky enough to get the work with the National Apartment Association over the past two years or so at this point, and with many of their national affiliates and state affiliates and local affiliates. So I wanted to take the time, and I'm very excited to learn what Austin going to be speaking about with us here at Wonk Week today. So right off the bat, Austin, I'm gonna kick things off. Can you tell us a little bit about your role and where it fits in with the National Apartment Association organization structure as a whole? Austin O'Boyle (03:13): Yeah, absolutely. Well, like you said, Constantine on the senior manager of grassroots advocacy and stakeholder engagement at the National Apartment Association very long, title <laugh>. But yeah, so I am in on the political affairs team housed within our bigger government affairs department. You know, so I obviously work with our policy team. I work with our, you know, external affairs team as well as the PAC team and lobbyists to you know, obviously advocate for the rental housing industry as best we can. Constantine Simantiras (03:42): Awesome. Thanks for that. Tell us a little bit about, you know, what are some of the key issues that NAA engages on, you know, on an annual and, and even a monthly basis? Austin O'Boyle (03:52): Yeah, so we have a, especially at the federal level, we have a wide array of issues that we focus on. Anything housing affordability revitalizing the Section eight HCV program. You know, reducing barriers to housing development, you name it, you know, we probably advocate for it in the housing affordability space. So you know, but then we also touch upon other issues that might just impact the operations of rental housing, whether that be, you know, carried interest or you know, the CARES Act notice, the vacate provision is a huge one for us that we're working on right now. So you know, we have a wide array of issues that we work on. Constantine Simantiras (04:29): Excellent. Now, appreciate that. When it comes to grassroots advocacy, what are some of the overall goals of the National Apartment Association? Austin O'Boyle (04:37): Yeah, I mean our, our big goals with, you know, our grassroots advocacy program is, you know, to make a direct impact on policy, right? And I think that grassroots in general is seen as a more micro game if you will. What I mean by that is, you know, people are looking for metrics, right? They're looking to check a box in a way. You know, how many emails did we send? How many phone calls did we, you know, get made? Which is, don't get me wrong, I mean, numbers are very important, especially when you're running an advocacy campaign to, you know, take back to your stakeholders or to your board and just kind of show them volume-wise what's going on. But our focus with our advocacy programs has really been to impact legislation. Cuz at the end of the day that's, that, that's the win and loss column, right? So for us, it's really about building out a program that yes, can put up metrics, but the ultimate goal is to really, you know, as cliche as it sounds, to move the the needle on policy. So, <laugh> Constantine Simantiras (05:32): Love it. I was just about to use that phrase. So when you're talking about moving the needle, when you're looking at who are your advocates, can you tell us a little bit about a, what, you know, what the makeup of those advocates looks like, and then what is the person's level of comfort, you know, when it comes to the awareness of some of those issues? Austin O'Boyle (05:51): Yeah, so I mean, we're fortunate. We have a very broad membership, right? So we have, you know, executives of property management companies you know, and within those companies, you know, all the way down to leasing consultants or maintenance techs or what have you. So not only do we have executives of these companies, some developers are in here, supplier members, some people that are vendors for folks in the rental housing space. So we have a very you know, wide assortment of members, if you will. You know, so, it really varies, right? You know, just cuz obviously you have some, you know, you might have an executive of a company who has a good personal relationship with a member of Congress and, you know, you might have a, a leasing consultant who at the same time is willing to kind of take the steps, right? Send the emails, take, you know, action on our alerts that we do, and everything like that. So it really varies. It just depends on how enthusiastic somebody is. But our messaging obviously needs to vary depending on who we're trying to talk to since it's such a wide-spanning network. Constantine Simantiras (06:51): Awesome. No, I love that. And, I definitely wanna pry in a little bit more some of those, those nuances that you kind of dove into here in a little bit. But I wanted to shift gears a little bit more to, you know, goals for the year. You know, year one we're looking at growth, you know, overall for the association and proof of concept. So, you know, we're discussing the building and the growth of this program. And, before you got started, you know, with this effort what was the status quo of, you know, your team's grass tops advocacy? Austin O'Boyle (07:23): Yeah, so I guess I should start with the program technically existed prior right, So this isn't a brand new program, but it is in a way just because, I like to coin it, you know, program and name only because what was kind of going on with it was and the first step was basically identifying who was still in the program. Cuz we did a survey every year where we would ask who has a relationship currently with a member of Congress or their staff, and they'd put their hand up, we'd put them in a spreadsheet, and if we needed them, we would reach out. But there was nothing ongoing. There was no, you know, advocacy year-round that would keep people engaged. So my first step in this was basically to kind of go through the existing spreadsheets that we had from the past several years and kind of piece it together, do individual outreach. Austin O'Boyle (08:11): There was a lot of sweat equity involved just kind of getting people to buy back into the program and let them know that we were gonna be revitalizing it. So that was the biggest first step, just to get our program off and running in the, in the right direction was taking the time to do the outreach and see a) who still has a relationship, and b) who's still willing to take the necessary steps to be a key contact. So it took some time, but it was, it was worth it in the end. Constantine Simantiras (08:37): Oh, I can only imagine. Yeah, that's, that's a heavy lift too, to kind of start you know, right off the, off the bat there. But when it comes to recruiting some of those new key contacts, how did you identify who would be a good fit when it comes to maybe your advocates or your grass tops tier individuals? Austin O'Boyle (08:56): Yeah, so we're very fortunate to have an amazing affiliate network. You know, they do a great job, and they're really localized, right? So, you know, there are some members out there that probably don't even know that they're NAA members, right? They know of their local apartment association and then by turn are NAA members you know, so they know their members day to day, they talk to them much more often depending on who they are. You know, so we, I really partnered with them to identify some folks on the ground that, hey, do you know anybody who has a relationship? But at the same time, you know, we took the step of expanding the word key contact to mean more than just you have an existing relationship with somebody, right? Because it's a very finite universe when we're talking about who is a college roommate of a congressman, or who knows somebody from their old neighborhood or whatever it may be. So we started recruiting top-level advocates, right? People that were taking action on all of our alerts. You know, were partaking in our at-home program, which is where we set up meetings in the district during the August recess. And we're kind of going above and beyond. So they didn't, they might not have necessarily had an existing relationship, but you know, with, with our program, we took steps to help them cultivate one and get them in front of those offices. Constantine Simantiras (10:09): Love that. You've been talking a lot about, you know, that the key contact sort of program holistically, you know, what were some of those expectations for this program? You know, getting off the ground and, and, you know, as it has progressed so far? Austin O'Boyle (10:22): Yeah. Well, I mean, we wanted to set a firm benchmark, right? To start off with. So we, you know, the expectations for an individual key contact vary, right? So we kind of took it as what folks do for us, right? We have a bronze, a silver, and a gold tier, and there's a recognition system at the end of every year, as well as some, you know, swag items and thank you events and stuff like that. You know, so something that we really plugged in there was the bare minimum standard to kind of be that upper echelon advocate, which in this case obviously is a key contact, you know, take action on all of our grassroots alerts. At the very minimum, reach out to your designated congressional office at least once per quarter. And that means more than just your alert, right? Austin O'Boyle (11:04): Send an email, we'll give you the contact information. I pull it from Quorum, I give them the legislative director's contact, or whoever it may be because I want them to act as a resource. That's the biggest thing, you know, in this program, is this is a real relationship that we're trying to build. So we can't just constantly be asking, we also wanna let these members of Congress know our folks are here, right? So if you have a question on housing, we have somebody that can answer those questions and help you and guide you on where you should go. Or if you have an operations question, they can be there to help. So those quarterly outreaches are, you know, is, is very important. You know, and then at the same time meeting with your member of Congress twice per year. And we give them opportunities, right? Austin O'Boyle (11:46): This isn't something that you need somebody who's, you know, dedicating all their time. Like, we make it so that it's very easy to do, whether it's in our fly-in during advocate every year or during the at-home program in the district. Just making sure that you have that face-to-face interaction, whether it's with the congressional staff or the member themselves is very important. But those are kind of the bare minimum expectations if you will. And then, obviously, as we go up into that silver and gold tier, you know, we're talking you know, helping out their campaign you know, volunteering, making phone calls for them you know, and all, all that good stuff. So, we get a little bit more in-depth as we go up the ladder. Constantine Simantiras (12:23): Awesome. Now, I think, I think just the thought, the NAA swag itself is probably enough you know, to start enticing people off the bat. But kind of my next question is, you know, I want to talk a little bit about how you, how did you get buy-in, you know, for this approach from your individual organization's leadership? You know, I know it takes, you know, an army to take this thought process and kind of put it into motion. What did that look like for you? And then, you know, if you don't mind talking about kind of how that has morphed as well. Austin O'Boyle (12:54): Yeah. honestly, it didn't take much just because they, you know, leadership here knew that it was a necessary push, right? They knew this was something that was needed. You know, we keep up to date with you know, Congressional Management Foundation studies and kind of asking what members of Congress are looking for. And in my view, the pandemic expedited advocacy, right? So where we were going to be is, you know, it is relationships now, and it always has been, but even more so because, you know, advocates have a million different ways to get in contact with, with a member of Congress now, whether it's through social media or email, phone, virtual meetings, you know, so there are a million different things. So the way that we're really gonna stand out is not just by having the constituent volume in terms of the number of outreach that happens with a particular office, but it's the depth of that relationship and how we can build that up over time. And you know, we saw it as a, as a long-term investment to really make sure that we're, you know, building those relationships. But getting the number of people in the door to commit to this program was first and foremost on everyone's mind. But I, there really hasn't had to be any more buy-in, cuz they've seen the growth happen at a pretty fast pace this year. You know, so they're, they're very happy with where we are and hopefully, we can continue to expand. Constantine Simantiras (14:09): Fantastic. Well, let's keep on that train. Let's talk about the impacts, you know, of year one. Let's go into the successes, you know, what you've seen in, you know, since, since you have spun up this individual program. Can you talk a little bit about, you know, some metrics that you've seen, you know, in this first year, whether that's, you know, number of contacts, percentage of growth, whatever, you know, you all measure your ROI with? Austin O'Boyle (14:33): Yes. I jotted 'em all down here so I didn't forget 'em. So, we saw 86% growth in the program from this year you know, compared to last year. So we started off with 112 key contacts last year or at the end of '21, I should say. And we were able to build that up to 208 now. And they cover 210 congressional offices currently. Cuz those, those are the metrics that we gauge, right? It's the individual key contacts, but then at the same time, you have your rockstar advocates that are willing to take on more than one office. You know, especially if they already have a preexisting relationship. But those are, those are the metrics and we're very happy with where we're at. But we're hoping to end the year somewhere around 220, 225 total individual key contacts this year. Constantine Simantiras (15:17): Amazing. that's, that's incredible to hear. So, so excited to kind of see that progression occurs in such a short amount of time too. On that same note, you know, how has the growth of that key context program impacted, I would say the holistic advocacy efforts for this year? Austin O'Boyle (15:37): Yeah, I mean, we, we lean on them a lot more, right? And you know, that's always part of our campaigns, right? So whether it's we're trying to get a sponsor on our, our new notice to vacate bill that was introduced, or it's, you know, the Section eight program, you know, we're reaching out to the key contacts that have those relationships, no matter how strong they are, even if they've just started you know, we have different levels of asks, right? So, hey, I need you to send this tweet and tag your member of Congress and let them know you're a constituent. You know, we craft the content and get it out to them. Or if somebody, I'll give you an example. We have a key contact in South Carolina who was able to muster up another sponsorship today of a bill. But she herself has gotten, I think it's gonna be three co-sponsorship to this bill within the next week or so. Austin O'Boyle (16:23): And that's just from her relationship. She meets with them on her own. She goes above and beyond. So being able to kind of lean on these folks to do some of the legwork in terms of education and you know, we're all government affairs professionals, right? So, you know, they know this is our job, but it makes such a bigger impact when a constituent goes and says, Hey, this is something I'm very passionate about because this is how it impacts me and my day-to-day job and my business and everything else. So we definitely, lean on them a lot more, and they're always part of conversations in terms of how we move policy forward. Constantine Simantiras (16:56): I love that. And I, and I think what that does is that, you know, it entrusts you, you know, as a, as the national association to continue to branch out to those, you know, that can continue to grow that individual program, right? Where I want to take this is, you know, into the next steps, you know, what training and effectiveness ultimately look like. So what's your next step in building out this program? What, you know, what are your goals? What does next year look like? And, you know, tell me a little bit about, I think what the tiering system that you have, you know, already alluded to so far, looks like. Austin O'Boyle (17:26): Yeah, so I mean, now it's, you know, I, I'm very happy with the number of key contacts where we are. I think we probably have the capacity for about 300 in total over the next year and a half or so. But I truly think the word that you use that hits the nail on the head is effective, right? That's, that's what we wanna be, is we have the opportunities for folks through various programs that we've set up, and we, we have the people in, in the door. We've built up the metaphorical army, so to speak. So now it's about when they have the opportunity to have a meeting or they have an opportunity to get on a phone call with somebody and influence policy, we want them to be as impactful as possible. So how do we do that, right? We push a whole lot more education. Austin O'Boyle (18:06): I think I'm gonna be doing a lot of advocacy training this year, bopping around to a couple of different places you know, but at the same time doing a bunch of webinars, you know, we're gonna be updating them on what happened with the election as a lot of people do, right? But I'm doing it from a key contact perspective. You know, here's what this looks like for the future of housing policy, here's how your office specifically was impacted. And then at the same time, you know, taking my individual list of key contacts, and we're gonna break it down. There's gonna be a lot of you know, manual work <laugh> in store for me in December. But basically, I want to know exactly who each participant is how willing they've been to interact with me and the program over the past year. Austin O'Boyle (18:51): You know, and that goes back to how many opens of emails that I've sent out, have there been how many clicks, how many actions have they taken how many meetings, and just kind of giving them a great, right, one to five, five being the rockstar who's gonna answer the phone whenever I need them, or, you know, whenever something important pops up. And one being somebody who, you know, is in the program in theory, but is selective when they answer and everything in between. So we wanna make sure that we are, you know, encouraging our, our top rate advocates to keep going and trying to motivate the ones on the lower end of the spectrum. Here's how you can step your game up and give them tasks that aren't as daunting as I need you to go set up a meeting and influence them to jump on this bill. Right? So <laugh>, those are the next steps. It's about making 'em effective and, really just education. Constantine Simantiras (19:41): Yeah. No, that's fantastic. The ever large elephant in the room, something that's, you know, always topical, you know, it's an election year. How does a new Congress potentially impact, you know, your efforts, and what does the coming year look like because of that? Austin O'Boyle (19:57): Yeah, so, I mean that was a big question I had earlier in this year, honestly, because it was something where you know, our membership, and I think everybody's membership, for the most part, is based on this, in the fact of trying to separate the group of members from their individual political identity, right? Where we represent the industry, we represent them in their business. So we're trying to get them to, you know, understand that even though, you know, you are a member of Congress right now, let's just say is a, is a Democrat, and you have a great relationship with them, right? Let's just say they lose their seat in the midterm election, hypothetically here and now you have a Republican in office, but your home district is, you know where it is. And I need you to look beyond your personal political affiliation and understand that you're representing the rental housing industry as a whole, right? Austin O'Boyle (20:47): So that's what we've really been focusing on because there's gonna be a shift whether, you know, I'm not a, you know, an election prognosticator here or anything, but there's going to be a shift. People are gonna win and lose seats. There's gonna be new folks that come into the fold, and it's our job to educate them on these important issues as if it was the same person, right? If it's square one, you had a great relationship with this member of Congress, it's gonna take time to build it up. But at the same time, it's, it's a necessary part of the process, right? So that's really the education and the messaging that we're pushing out is, this is bigger than you, this is, this is the industry, right? So this is for you, your business, and the industry. So we're gonna need you, you know, regardless, we, we need you in front of that individual. Constantine Simantiras (21:31): Awesome. Thank you for that. I wanted to field a couple of questions, you know, that, that is, that are on the chat here. Austin, if you didn't mind me shifting gears just a little bit Stephanie had asked, with quarterly outreach, do you provide the information that your key contacts share with their individual lawmakers? Or are you focused on recruiting subject matter experts who have their own information? Austin O'Boyle (21:54): Both <laugh> in a really terrible answer for me. Both. basically, yes. And, and obviously, if there's somebody who is a top-notch advocate, who knows their stuff and fully understands the topics we want that person in the program, especially if they're willing to take these steps, right? So we try to get them in and obviously if they feel comfortable reaching out and discussing something that's on their mind, or, you know, again, just to check in an email to say, Hey, I'm here. Not sure if there's anything on the housing docket for you right now, but let me know. They have the green light, right? And basically, anybody has the green light, because, you know, how we've seen it unfold here is the folks that don't have a plethora of experience in advocating or issue knowledge they're hesitant, right? Austin O'Boyle (22:43): This is an intimidating task, getting to build a relationship with a member's office. So they're not just gonna fly by the seat of their pants, right? Because they've kind of vetted you know, we ask people individually to be a part of the program. Everybody that's in it, I have a conversation with to make sure that no one's gonna fly off the handle about a political issue or anything like that. So it's important to know that they're probably gonna reach out to you. If you have a new group of advocates, you know, I, I probably brought on probably 15 or so key contacts over the past month and a half or so. You know, I reach out to them individually and get them comfortable, and I'll give them some talking points if they want them. But mostly, you know, I'm sending curated content for them to send to those offices if they're a targeted office, right? If we need their co-sponsorship, I'm gonna make sure we're, we're crafting some messaging for these folks to really hit the, hit the nail on the head form. Constantine Simantiras (23:35): Great. Thanks for, thanks for covering that one. One more is Jessica had asked how do you train your grasstops advocates onto how to effectively engage with their individual legislators if that is something that you know you're doing at all? Austin O'Boyle (23:48): Yeah, no, we, we definitely are. And it's, it's a huge priority for me because again, we've seen it, right? I've been on these meetings with our key contacts sometimes where we don't have a group who wants to meet with the office. It's just a key contact, and that's fine, I'll go on with them. And that way they have a buffer and they feel more secure in the meeting if they forget something. But you know, we, we really try to harp on, you know, again, like, you know, touting CMF every now and then here, but you know, we use a lot of their data, right? I show them the facts and figures of, hey, this is what a, you know, senior congressional staff person says, right? It's about building the relationship with the staff. It's about, you know, taking the time to make sure you're including points ABC, whether it's how a particular policy impacts the broader district has the policy impact. Austin O'Boyle (24:39): You know, what, what's the flip side of the coin on the bill? Because that's always something that people forget in these meetings as an example. But just making sure they have those nuanced points, right? Do your, do your homework is always a huge one that I push out there, know the member you know, for example, I, I mean, party affiliation shouldn't meet as much as it does sadly in, in our society today, but it does. And you need to know, Okay, I'm gonna go meet with a Republican's office today. Here's where they likely lean on my issue, Right? Who are the stakeholders in the issue? So just those, that kind of common sense things for us as government affairs professionals need to be relayed just so they fully understand exactly what to go in there thinking. So I hope Constantine Simantiras (25:22): I think that's, that's important. One other question, you know, from Allison that had come in is, you've talked a lot about, you know, the makeup of, you know, these key contacts, how you're acquiring them, how you're educating those individuals. Can you dive a little bit more into that recruiting process and after they've routinely taken action, how do you approach them and how, how do you add that individual responsibility to those folks as time goes on? Austin O'Boyle (25:51): Yeah, so I mean, I'll give you a quick rundown of how, you know, how we kinda get the recruitment going. Cause I look at it as a marketing and sales funnel, right? That's essentially what it is. We're not selling them a pair of shoes, but we're selling them on the idea of this program and why it's important. And, you know, as I said before lean heavily on my affiliates, right? They do a great job of knowing the members, knowing who might be willing you know, to kind of take this responsibility on. And also who knows their stuff, right? Somebody that doesn't necessarily need a 101-level course, but is a little bit further down the road and, and knows their stuff a little bit better. But then at the same time,I use Quorum not to hype you guys up here or anything, but I, lean on Quorum a lot, right? Austin O'Boyle (26:34): So I go through the campaigns like if there's a specific office that I don't have a key contact for, I'll go look at my grassroots actions in a specific district and target it down and say, okay, well here's somebody that I don't even know who they are. But they've taken action on every campaign I've put out this year. I'm gonna reach out to them and see if they're interested in this. And I send them a personal email. I, I set up a call and we go through it. And then we also develop the key contact handbook. And I do set up kind of lead generation tools, right? So something I do on the action center is I set up a campaign, I plug my key contact handbook in and I say, Hey, download the key contact handbook today. And I kind of share that link innocently, right? But if you get somebody who's willing enough to take the time to go on to the action center, click the download the key contact handbook button, you know, you probably have a good enough shot if you set up a call at them afterward that they're, they're a solid lead, right? They're kind of a hot lead cuz most people aren't gonna take their time to go do that. So that's kind of been our lead generation tool. This, was three avenues. You know, they've, it's worked out really well. Constantine Simantiras (27:39): Excellent. Another question from Jenny here is, you had touched on actually on districts and where there are key contacts reside. Do you allow more than one key contact per district? Austin O'Boyle (27:50): Yeah, absolutely. I encourage it <laugh> just because, I mean, here's the thing. Everybody has a different relationship strength, right? I mean, there are people who are in the program who we have a million different programs over here, but like we, you know, we have people who are part of our influencer program which is all social media-based advocacy, but that's really their forte, right? Like, they'll reach out to the office via email, and then they're gonna tag them in tweets on important information that we put out. But then I'm gonna have somebody else in that district who loves meetings, They don't care, you know, they'll drag the chief of staff with them to get them to put on this bill sort of person. So I'm gonna use both of them for what they're good at. And that's why it's important to kind of know who your network is because I'm gonna put you out there. So yes, I'm gonna give you content so that you can tweet and tag the legislator, and then at the same time, this other key contact, I'm gonna help them set up a meeting with the lawmaker to talk about it in person. And, you know, anyway that we can surround them with that kind of 360-degree view of our issue, it's gonna be better for us. So I never, I never say no to multiple key contacts. I try to encourage it when we can. Constantine Simantiras (28:58): That's great. I, I wanted to, I'll come back to a couple of the other questions that, you know, I wanted to field here on the Q and A, but wanted to, you know, take this to more of lessons learned for others and building, you know, building out that key context type program. Awesome. You know, for you, what's the biggest lesson that you've learned in building this program? Just, just kind of from, you know, year to year and what that looks like on your end. Austin O'Boyle (29:26): Yeah, I mean, honestly, I think the biggest thing is that people are willing to do stuff if you ask them. And I think that's too often overlooked because this is a program where people are supposed to feel important, right? This is something where you're not just a typical advocate. You are taking on a responsibility to be not better, I guess is the wrong word, but you're looking to really represent the industry. And I tell them that when I talk to them, especially even on the first call this is for the entire industry, right? So you have one designated office that I need you to speak to but you represent NA's 93,000 plus members, right? When you're talking to them, that's the kind of responsibility that you have. And they usually love it. They run with it. Because again, if they've taken the steps, they've been identified in one way or another as somebody who has some background with advocacy, has a relationship or you know, has come through one of our lead generation tools. Austin O'Boyle (30:20): They're already halfway there, right? They've shown some inkling of interest somewhere down the line. So it's just about, you know, kind of fleshing out the rest of it, so to speak. That would be the biggest lesson is don't be afraid to ask. I mean, reach out to folks if you, you know, it, it stinks, right? People don't like doing the kind of manual sweat equity I can't think of any more hard, hard work elbow grease, medical, you know, whatever. But it's you know, it's tough, right? But making the time to set up, you know, sometimes I'll block off like three, four hours to make these phone calls just to get people in the door and get them set up in the program. So it's really just about that individual outreach. Constantine Simantiras (30:57): Love it. I'm gonna lump a couple of questions together here. Yeah. As, as we come down to the tail end here. But, you know, what is something that you might have done differently if you know, with what you know now and if you had additional or other resources, you know, what would those have been and what could you have done with them? Austin O'Boyle (31:15): Yeah. so something I would've done differently is done kind of the individual scoring system earlier, right? I would've, you know, kept better track of the individual key contacts and kind of gotten their information in terms of what they're willing to do, and kind of gauge that along the way that I didn't have to do it in one big <laugh> effort. But it is what it is. So relatively minor, in the grand scheme of things. But if I had more resources, I think something I'd definitely invest in is, an advocate training virtual academy of sorts, right? Like, I, I tried to make videos on my own using Zoom which turned out awful. So I won't be sharing those with anybody. <Laugh>. I tried my best, but you know, I think it's important because some people enjoy the webinars, they enjoy the live stuff, and obviously, I send out recordings once our webinars are done, or you know, share PowerPoints at live presentations, that sort of thing. But some people like to move at their own pace and, you know, if we can invest some, some capital into having some highly, you know quality videos recorded and then shared in almost something like a bootcamp where they can go through and educate themselves and come back to it for a refresher, I think that's something that's definitely worthwhile, especially in the education side. Constantine Simantiras (32:34): Awesome. Let's look at this, you know, like an alternate universe, you know, know if you had fewer resources, you know, what was something that you would've had to have done differently? Austin O'Boyle (32:45): Yeah. I mean, I, I think in a world, if I didn't have Quorum to kind of track the data and I promise they're not making me say this, I'm saying but if it, if I, honestly, if I didn't have Quorum to kind of track the data and kind of house the information it would be tougher, right? Because I have my key contact list within Quorum. But you know, we were in a transition period between you guys and another vendor prior. I, you know, I was using a spreadsheet like I was plugging in, you know, everybody who represents what office. And it's definitely doable that way. Again, it just takes a little bit more time, a little bit more, I'll keep going back to the sweat equity you know, into that process. You know, so that's something that would, would definitely be a hindrance, but doesn't make it impossible, I suppose. Constantine Simantiras (33:29): Awesome. my last scripted question here, so I don't have to sound like a robot anymore. You know, we've talked a lot about how you've measured success in year one. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative> overall, how do you plan for the future to measure success of that program holistically? Austin O'Boyle (33:44): Yeah, I mean, at the end of the day, it's about policy wins, right? And, and that's what I care about. Metric-wise, you know, growth is gonna be put on the back burner a little bit now that we've hit, you know, 200 plus people. But, you know, growth is still important, but education and effectiveness are where I'm gonna really lean into. You know, so this year, if there are any bills that are popping up, you know, what did our meetings do, right? What did our outreach do? And, we're seeing some trickle, trickle-down impact from our, our at-home program this past August where we had key contacts having meetings and we've seen co-sponsorship come in from those meetings. You know, so that's gonna be where, where my success meter is, and that's where I'm gonna gauge it. Cuz ultimately that's what we're in the business of doing. So, <laugh> Constantine Simantiras (34:29): Amazing. One final question from the field here from Robert, is how often do you undertake stakeholder analysis? So you evaluate and prioritize the most critical relationships? Austin O'Boyle (34:41): That's a good question. I'm assuming you're talking about, you know, important relationships in terms of who we're targeting congressionally. And if that is the case, which I hope I'm answering a question, but you know, we, we obviously have committees of jurisdiction, right? Where, you know, we're focused on house financial services, we're focused on you know, ways and means at times or, you know, it depends on what the bill is and where it's currently moving. But house financial services is our bread and butter and we're always looking to make sure we have the program fully stocked for those districts. You know, and, and definitely, multiple key contacts there because if we have a big push on a bill, I wanna make sure I have, if somebody for some reason can't come through, they have a family emergency or something's going on with them, I want to have at least one other person to be able to pick it up and run with it. You know, so we evaluate those on, you know, I would say a congressional basis, cuz I'm definitely gonna have to look into our priorities and kind of who our target congressional people are this new Congress. But we, we focus on committees you know, but I wanna keep contact in every district, so truly <laugh>. But yeah, we, we definitely, you know, we prioritize. [post_title] => How to Build and Grow an Effective Key Contact Advocate Program [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => how-to-build-key-contact-advocacy-program [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-10-13 12:07:12 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-10-13 12:07:12 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=7663 [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] => 7663 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2022-10-13 12:07:12 [post_date_gmt] => 2022-10-13 12:07:12 [post_content] => [embed]https://youtu.be/G0ufPkcdM3E[/embed] Constantine Simantiras (00:31): All right. Welcome to our session today. While we give you know, all the folks, a few minutes to log in. Wanna throw out a fun icebreaker? Since we are talking to the apartment association today, can folks throw in the chat where they'd buy an apartment if could go and buy a home anywhere? Constantine Simantiras (02:16): Okay, so now I think we've given everyone enough time to hop on, we'll kick things off, and I'm thrilled to be here with Austin O'Boyle, Senior Manager of Grassroots Advocacy and Stakeholder Engagement at the National Apartment Association. Prior to the National Apartment Association, Austin was the VP of Grassroots and Political outreach at AMP DC and the grassroots and PAC coordinator at the American College of Surgeons. So I've actually been lucky enough to get the work with the National Apartment Association over the past two years or so at this point, and with many of their national affiliates and state affiliates and local affiliates. So I wanted to take the time, and I'm very excited to learn what Austin going to be speaking about with us here at Wonk Week today. So right off the bat, Austin, I'm gonna kick things off. Can you tell us a little bit about your role and where it fits in with the National Apartment Association organization structure as a whole? Austin O'Boyle (03:13): Yeah, absolutely. Well, like you said, Constantine on the senior manager of grassroots advocacy and stakeholder engagement at the National Apartment Association very long, title <laugh>. But yeah, so I am in on the political affairs team housed within our bigger government affairs department. You know, so I obviously work with our policy team. I work with our, you know, external affairs team as well as the PAC team and lobbyists to you know, obviously advocate for the rental housing industry as best we can. Constantine Simantiras (03:42): Awesome. Thanks for that. Tell us a little bit about, you know, what are some of the key issues that NAA engages on, you know, on an annual and, and even a monthly basis? Austin O'Boyle (03:52): Yeah, so we have a, especially at the federal level, we have a wide array of issues that we focus on. Anything housing affordability revitalizing the Section eight HCV program. You know, reducing barriers to housing development, you name it, you know, we probably advocate for it in the housing affordability space. So you know, but then we also touch upon other issues that might just impact the operations of rental housing, whether that be, you know, carried interest or you know, the CARES Act notice, the vacate provision is a huge one for us that we're working on right now. So you know, we have a wide array of issues that we work on. Constantine Simantiras (04:29): Excellent. Now, appreciate that. When it comes to grassroots advocacy, what are some of the overall goals of the National Apartment Association? Austin O'Boyle (04:37): Yeah, I mean our, our big goals with, you know, our grassroots advocacy program is, you know, to make a direct impact on policy, right? And I think that grassroots in general is seen as a more micro game if you will. What I mean by that is, you know, people are looking for metrics, right? They're looking to check a box in a way. You know, how many emails did we send? How many phone calls did we, you know, get made? Which is, don't get me wrong, I mean, numbers are very important, especially when you're running an advocacy campaign to, you know, take back to your stakeholders or to your board and just kind of show them volume-wise what's going on. But our focus with our advocacy programs has really been to impact legislation. Cuz at the end of the day that's, that, that's the win and loss column, right? So for us, it's really about building out a program that yes, can put up metrics, but the ultimate goal is to really, you know, as cliche as it sounds, to move the the needle on policy. So, <laugh> Constantine Simantiras (05:32): Love it. I was just about to use that phrase. So when you're talking about moving the needle, when you're looking at who are your advocates, can you tell us a little bit about a, what, you know, what the makeup of those advocates looks like, and then what is the person's level of comfort, you know, when it comes to the awareness of some of those issues? Austin O'Boyle (05:51): Yeah, so I mean, we're fortunate. We have a very broad membership, right? So we have, you know, executives of property management companies you know, and within those companies, you know, all the way down to leasing consultants or maintenance techs or what have you. So not only do we have executives of these companies, some developers are in here, supplier members, some people that are vendors for folks in the rental housing space. So we have a very you know, wide assortment of members, if you will. You know, so, it really varies, right? You know, just cuz obviously you have some, you know, you might have an executive of a company who has a good personal relationship with a member of Congress and, you know, you might have a, a leasing consultant who at the same time is willing to kind of take the steps, right? Send the emails, take, you know, action on our alerts that we do, and everything like that. So it really varies. It just depends on how enthusiastic somebody is. But our messaging obviously needs to vary depending on who we're trying to talk to since it's such a wide-spanning network. Constantine Simantiras (06:51): Awesome. No, I love that. And, I definitely wanna pry in a little bit more some of those, those nuances that you kind of dove into here in a little bit. But I wanted to shift gears a little bit more to, you know, goals for the year. You know, year one we're looking at growth, you know, overall for the association and proof of concept. So, you know, we're discussing the building and the growth of this program. And, before you got started, you know, with this effort what was the status quo of, you know, your team's grass tops advocacy? Austin O'Boyle (07:23): Yeah, so I guess I should start with the program technically existed prior right, So this isn't a brand new program, but it is in a way just because, I like to coin it, you know, program and name only because what was kind of going on with it was and the first step was basically identifying who was still in the program. Cuz we did a survey every year where we would ask who has a relationship currently with a member of Congress or their staff, and they'd put their hand up, we'd put them in a spreadsheet, and if we needed them, we would reach out. But there was nothing ongoing. There was no, you know, advocacy year-round that would keep people engaged. So my first step in this was basically to kind of go through the existing spreadsheets that we had from the past several years and kind of piece it together, do individual outreach. Austin O'Boyle (08:11): There was a lot of sweat equity involved just kind of getting people to buy back into the program and let them know that we were gonna be revitalizing it. So that was the biggest first step, just to get our program off and running in the, in the right direction was taking the time to do the outreach and see a) who still has a relationship, and b) who's still willing to take the necessary steps to be a key contact. So it took some time, but it was, it was worth it in the end. Constantine Simantiras (08:37): Oh, I can only imagine. Yeah, that's, that's a heavy lift too, to kind of start you know, right off the, off the bat there. But when it comes to recruiting some of those new key contacts, how did you identify who would be a good fit when it comes to maybe your advocates or your grass tops tier individuals? Austin O'Boyle (08:56): Yeah, so we're very fortunate to have an amazing affiliate network. You know, they do a great job, and they're really localized, right? So, you know, there are some members out there that probably don't even know that they're NAA members, right? They know of their local apartment association and then by turn are NAA members you know, so they know their members day to day, they talk to them much more often depending on who they are. You know, so we, I really partnered with them to identify some folks on the ground that, hey, do you know anybody who has a relationship? But at the same time, you know, we took the step of expanding the word key contact to mean more than just you have an existing relationship with somebody, right? Because it's a very finite universe when we're talking about who is a college roommate of a congressman, or who knows somebody from their old neighborhood or whatever it may be. So we started recruiting top-level advocates, right? People that were taking action on all of our alerts. You know, were partaking in our at-home program, which is where we set up meetings in the district during the August recess. And we're kind of going above and beyond. So they didn't, they might not have necessarily had an existing relationship, but you know, with, with our program, we took steps to help them cultivate one and get them in front of those offices. Constantine Simantiras (10:09): Love that. You've been talking a lot about, you know, that the key contact sort of program holistically, you know, what were some of those expectations for this program? You know, getting off the ground and, and, you know, as it has progressed so far? Austin O'Boyle (10:22): Yeah. Well, I mean, we wanted to set a firm benchmark, right? To start off with. So we, you know, the expectations for an individual key contact vary, right? So we kind of took it as what folks do for us, right? We have a bronze, a silver, and a gold tier, and there's a recognition system at the end of every year, as well as some, you know, swag items and thank you events and stuff like that. You know, so something that we really plugged in there was the bare minimum standard to kind of be that upper echelon advocate, which in this case obviously is a key contact, you know, take action on all of our grassroots alerts. At the very minimum, reach out to your designated congressional office at least once per quarter. And that means more than just your alert, right? Austin O'Boyle (11:04): Send an email, we'll give you the contact information. I pull it from Quorum, I give them the legislative director's contact, or whoever it may be because I want them to act as a resource. That's the biggest thing, you know, in this program, is this is a real relationship that we're trying to build. So we can't just constantly be asking, we also wanna let these members of Congress know our folks are here, right? So if you have a question on housing, we have somebody that can answer those questions and help you and guide you on where you should go. Or if you have an operations question, they can be there to help. So those quarterly outreaches are, you know, is, is very important. You know, and then at the same time meeting with your member of Congress twice per year. And we give them opportunities, right? Austin O'Boyle (11:46): This isn't something that you need somebody who's, you know, dedicating all their time. Like, we make it so that it's very easy to do, whether it's in our fly-in during advocate every year or during the at-home program in the district. Just making sure that you have that face-to-face interaction, whether it's with the congressional staff or the member themselves is very important. But those are kind of the bare minimum expectations if you will. And then, obviously, as we go up into that silver and gold tier, you know, we're talking you know, helping out their campaign you know, volunteering, making phone calls for them you know, and all, all that good stuff. So, we get a little bit more in-depth as we go up the ladder. Constantine Simantiras (12:23): Awesome. Now, I think, I think just the thought, the NAA swag itself is probably enough you know, to start enticing people off the bat. But kind of my next question is, you know, I want to talk a little bit about how you, how did you get buy-in, you know, for this approach from your individual organization's leadership? You know, I know it takes, you know, an army to take this thought process and kind of put it into motion. What did that look like for you? And then, you know, if you don't mind talking about kind of how that has morphed as well. Austin O'Boyle (12:54): Yeah. honestly, it didn't take much just because they, you know, leadership here knew that it was a necessary push, right? They knew this was something that was needed. You know, we keep up to date with you know, Congressional Management Foundation studies and kind of asking what members of Congress are looking for. And in my view, the pandemic expedited advocacy, right? So where we were going to be is, you know, it is relationships now, and it always has been, but even more so because, you know, advocates have a million different ways to get in contact with, with a member of Congress now, whether it's through social media or email, phone, virtual meetings, you know, so there are a million different things. So the way that we're really gonna stand out is not just by having the constituent volume in terms of the number of outreach that happens with a particular office, but it's the depth of that relationship and how we can build that up over time. And you know, we saw it as a, as a long-term investment to really make sure that we're, you know, building those relationships. But getting the number of people in the door to commit to this program was first and foremost on everyone's mind. But I, there really hasn't had to be any more buy-in, cuz they've seen the growth happen at a pretty fast pace this year. You know, so they're, they're very happy with where we are and hopefully, we can continue to expand. Constantine Simantiras (14:09): Fantastic. Well, let's keep on that train. Let's talk about the impacts, you know, of year one. Let's go into the successes, you know, what you've seen in, you know, since, since you have spun up this individual program. Can you talk a little bit about, you know, some metrics that you've seen, you know, in this first year, whether that's, you know, number of contacts, percentage of growth, whatever, you know, you all measure your ROI with? Austin O'Boyle (14:33): Yes. I jotted 'em all down here so I didn't forget 'em. So, we saw 86% growth in the program from this year you know, compared to last year. So we started off with 112 key contacts last year or at the end of '21, I should say. And we were able to build that up to 208 now. And they cover 210 congressional offices currently. Cuz those, those are the metrics that we gauge, right? It's the individual key contacts, but then at the same time, you have your rockstar advocates that are willing to take on more than one office. You know, especially if they already have a preexisting relationship. But those are, those are the metrics and we're very happy with where we're at. But we're hoping to end the year somewhere around 220, 225 total individual key contacts this year. Constantine Simantiras (15:17): Amazing. that's, that's incredible to hear. So, so excited to kind of see that progression occurs in such a short amount of time too. On that same note, you know, how has the growth of that key context program impacted, I would say the holistic advocacy efforts for this year? Austin O'Boyle (15:37): Yeah, I mean, we, we lean on them a lot more, right? And you know, that's always part of our campaigns, right? So whether it's we're trying to get a sponsor on our, our new notice to vacate bill that was introduced, or it's, you know, the Section eight program, you know, we're reaching out to the key contacts that have those relationships, no matter how strong they are, even if they've just started you know, we have different levels of asks, right? So, hey, I need you to send this tweet and tag your member of Congress and let them know you're a constituent. You know, we craft the content and get it out to them. Or if somebody, I'll give you an example. We have a key contact in South Carolina who was able to muster up another sponsorship today of a bill. But she herself has gotten, I think it's gonna be three co-sponsorship to this bill within the next week or so. Austin O'Boyle (16:23): And that's just from her relationship. She meets with them on her own. She goes above and beyond. So being able to kind of lean on these folks to do some of the legwork in terms of education and you know, we're all government affairs professionals, right? So, you know, they know this is our job, but it makes such a bigger impact when a constituent goes and says, Hey, this is something I'm very passionate about because this is how it impacts me and my day-to-day job and my business and everything else. So we definitely, lean on them a lot more, and they're always part of conversations in terms of how we move policy forward. Constantine Simantiras (16:56): I love that. And I, and I think what that does is that, you know, it entrusts you, you know, as a, as the national association to continue to branch out to those, you know, that can continue to grow that individual program, right? Where I want to take this is, you know, into the next steps, you know, what training and effectiveness ultimately look like. So what's your next step in building out this program? What, you know, what are your goals? What does next year look like? And, you know, tell me a little bit about, I think what the tiering system that you have, you know, already alluded to so far, looks like. Austin O'Boyle (17:26): Yeah, so I mean, now it's, you know, I, I'm very happy with the number of key contacts where we are. I think we probably have the capacity for about 300 in total over the next year and a half or so. But I truly think the word that you use that hits the nail on the head is effective, right? That's, that's what we wanna be, is we have the opportunities for folks through various programs that we've set up, and we, we have the people in, in the door. We've built up the metaphorical army, so to speak. So now it's about when they have the opportunity to have a meeting or they have an opportunity to get on a phone call with somebody and influence policy, we want them to be as impactful as possible. So how do we do that, right? We push a whole lot more education. Austin O'Boyle (18:06): I think I'm gonna be doing a lot of advocacy training this year, bopping around to a couple of different places you know, but at the same time doing a bunch of webinars, you know, we're gonna be updating them on what happened with the election as a lot of people do, right? But I'm doing it from a key contact perspective. You know, here's what this looks like for the future of housing policy, here's how your office specifically was impacted. And then at the same time, you know, taking my individual list of key contacts, and we're gonna break it down. There's gonna be a lot of you know, manual work <laugh> in store for me in December. But basically, I want to know exactly who each participant is how willing they've been to interact with me and the program over the past year. Austin O'Boyle (18:51): You know, and that goes back to how many opens of emails that I've sent out, have there been how many clicks, how many actions have they taken how many meetings, and just kind of giving them a great, right, one to five, five being the rockstar who's gonna answer the phone whenever I need them, or, you know, whenever something important pops up. And one being somebody who, you know, is in the program in theory, but is selective when they answer and everything in between. So we wanna make sure that we are, you know, encouraging our, our top rate advocates to keep going and trying to motivate the ones on the lower end of the spectrum. Here's how you can step your game up and give them tasks that aren't as daunting as I need you to go set up a meeting and influence them to jump on this bill. Right? So <laugh>, those are the next steps. It's about making 'em effective and, really just education. Constantine Simantiras (19:41): Yeah. No, that's fantastic. The ever large elephant in the room, something that's, you know, always topical, you know, it's an election year. How does a new Congress potentially impact, you know, your efforts, and what does the coming year look like because of that? Austin O'Boyle (19:57): Yeah, so, I mean that was a big question I had earlier in this year, honestly, because it was something where you know, our membership, and I think everybody's membership, for the most part, is based on this, in the fact of trying to separate the group of members from their individual political identity, right? Where we represent the industry, we represent them in their business. So we're trying to get them to, you know, understand that even though, you know, you are a member of Congress right now, let's just say is a, is a Democrat, and you have a great relationship with them, right? Let's just say they lose their seat in the midterm election, hypothetically here and now you have a Republican in office, but your home district is, you know where it is. And I need you to look beyond your personal political affiliation and understand that you're representing the rental housing industry as a whole, right? Austin O'Boyle (20:47): So that's what we've really been focusing on because there's gonna be a shift whether, you know, I'm not a, you know, an election prognosticator here or anything, but there's going to be a shift. People are gonna win and lose seats. There's gonna be new folks that come into the fold, and it's our job to educate them on these important issues as if it was the same person, right? If it's square one, you had a great relationship with this member of Congress, it's gonna take time to build it up. But at the same time, it's, it's a necessary part of the process, right? So that's really the education and the messaging that we're pushing out is, this is bigger than you, this is, this is the industry, right? So this is for you, your business, and the industry. So we're gonna need you, you know, regardless, we, we need you in front of that individual. Constantine Simantiras (21:31): Awesome. Thank you for that. I wanted to field a couple of questions, you know, that, that is, that are on the chat here. Austin, if you didn't mind me shifting gears just a little bit Stephanie had asked, with quarterly outreach, do you provide the information that your key contacts share with their individual lawmakers? Or are you focused on recruiting subject matter experts who have their own information? Austin O'Boyle (21:54): Both <laugh> in a really terrible answer for me. Both. basically, yes. And, and obviously, if there's somebody who is a top-notch advocate, who knows their stuff and fully understands the topics we want that person in the program, especially if they're willing to take these steps, right? So we try to get them in and obviously if they feel comfortable reaching out and discussing something that's on their mind, or, you know, again, just to check in an email to say, Hey, I'm here. Not sure if there's anything on the housing docket for you right now, but let me know. They have the green light, right? And basically, anybody has the green light, because, you know, how we've seen it unfold here is the folks that don't have a plethora of experience in advocating or issue knowledge they're hesitant, right? Austin O'Boyle (22:43): This is an intimidating task, getting to build a relationship with a member's office. So they're not just gonna fly by the seat of their pants, right? Because they've kind of vetted you know, we ask people individually to be a part of the program. Everybody that's in it, I have a conversation with to make sure that no one's gonna fly off the handle about a political issue or anything like that. So it's important to know that they're probably gonna reach out to you. If you have a new group of advocates, you know, I, I probably brought on probably 15 or so key contacts over the past month and a half or so. You know, I reach out to them individually and get them comfortable, and I'll give them some talking points if they want them. But mostly, you know, I'm sending curated content for them to send to those offices if they're a targeted office, right? If we need their co-sponsorship, I'm gonna make sure we're, we're crafting some messaging for these folks to really hit the, hit the nail on the head form. Constantine Simantiras (23:35): Great. Thanks for, thanks for covering that one. One more is Jessica had asked how do you train your grasstops advocates onto how to effectively engage with their individual legislators if that is something that you know you're doing at all? Austin O'Boyle (23:48): Yeah, no, we, we definitely are. And it's, it's a huge priority for me because again, we've seen it, right? I've been on these meetings with our key contacts sometimes where we don't have a group who wants to meet with the office. It's just a key contact, and that's fine, I'll go on with them. And that way they have a buffer and they feel more secure in the meeting if they forget something. But you know, we, we really try to harp on, you know, again, like, you know, touting CMF every now and then here, but you know, we use a lot of their data, right? I show them the facts and figures of, hey, this is what a, you know, senior congressional staff person says, right? It's about building the relationship with the staff. It's about, you know, taking the time to make sure you're including points ABC, whether it's how a particular policy impacts the broader district has the policy impact. Austin O'Boyle (24:39): You know, what, what's the flip side of the coin on the bill? Because that's always something that people forget in these meetings as an example. But just making sure they have those nuanced points, right? Do your, do your homework is always a huge one that I push out there, know the member you know, for example, I, I mean, party affiliation shouldn't meet as much as it does sadly in, in our society today, but it does. And you need to know, Okay, I'm gonna go meet with a Republican's office today. Here's where they likely lean on my issue, Right? Who are the stakeholders in the issue? So just those, that kind of common sense things for us as government affairs professionals need to be relayed just so they fully understand exactly what to go in there thinking. So I hope Constantine Simantiras (25:22): I think that's, that's important. One other question, you know, from Allison that had come in is, you've talked a lot about, you know, the makeup of, you know, these key contacts, how you're acquiring them, how you're educating those individuals. Can you dive a little bit more into that recruiting process and after they've routinely taken action, how do you approach them and how, how do you add that individual responsibility to those folks as time goes on? Austin O'Boyle (25:51): Yeah, so I mean, I'll give you a quick rundown of how, you know, how we kinda get the recruitment going. Cause I look at it as a marketing and sales funnel, right? That's essentially what it is. We're not selling them a pair of shoes, but we're selling them on the idea of this program and why it's important. And, you know, as I said before lean heavily on my affiliates, right? They do a great job of knowing the members, knowing who might be willing you know, to kind of take this responsibility on. And also who knows their stuff, right? Somebody that doesn't necessarily need a 101-level course, but is a little bit further down the road and, and knows their stuff a little bit better. But then at the same time,I use Quorum not to hype you guys up here or anything, but I, lean on Quorum a lot, right? Austin O'Boyle (26:34): So I go through the campaigns like if there's a specific office that I don't have a key contact for, I'll go look at my grassroots actions in a specific district and target it down and say, okay, well here's somebody that I don't even know who they are. But they've taken action on every campaign I've put out this year. I'm gonna reach out to them and see if they're interested in this. And I send them a personal email. I, I set up a call and we go through it. And then we also develop the key contact handbook. And I do set up kind of lead generation tools, right? So something I do on the action center is I set up a campaign, I plug my key contact handbook in and I say, Hey, download the key contact handbook today. And I kind of share that link innocently, right? But if you get somebody who's willing enough to take the time to go on to the action center, click the download the key contact handbook button, you know, you probably have a good enough shot if you set up a call at them afterward that they're, they're a solid lead, right? They're kind of a hot lead cuz most people aren't gonna take their time to go do that. So that's kind of been our lead generation tool. This, was three avenues. You know, they've, it's worked out really well. Constantine Simantiras (27:39): Excellent. Another question from Jenny here is, you had touched on actually on districts and where there are key contacts reside. Do you allow more than one key contact per district? Austin O'Boyle (27:50): Yeah, absolutely. I encourage it <laugh> just because, I mean, here's the thing. Everybody has a different relationship strength, right? I mean, there are people who are in the program who we have a million different programs over here, but like we, you know, we have people who are part of our influencer program which is all social media-based advocacy, but that's really their forte, right? Like, they'll reach out to the office via email, and then they're gonna tag them in tweets on important information that we put out. But then I'm gonna have somebody else in that district who loves meetings, They don't care, you know, they'll drag the chief of staff with them to get them to put on this bill sort of person. So I'm gonna use both of them for what they're good at. And that's why it's important to kind of know who your network is because I'm gonna put you out there. So yes, I'm gonna give you content so that you can tweet and tag the legislator, and then at the same time, this other key contact, I'm gonna help them set up a meeting with the lawmaker to talk about it in person. And, you know, anyway that we can surround them with that kind of 360-degree view of our issue, it's gonna be better for us. So I never, I never say no to multiple key contacts. I try to encourage it when we can. Constantine Simantiras (28:58): That's great. I, I wanted to, I'll come back to a couple of the other questions that, you know, I wanted to field here on the Q and A, but wanted to, you know, take this to more of lessons learned for others and building, you know, building out that key context type program. Awesome. You know, for you, what's the biggest lesson that you've learned in building this program? Just, just kind of from, you know, year to year and what that looks like on your end. Austin O'Boyle (29:26): Yeah, I mean, honestly, I think the biggest thing is that people are willing to do stuff if you ask them. And I think that's too often overlooked because this is a program where people are supposed to feel important, right? This is something where you're not just a typical advocate. You are taking on a responsibility to be not better, I guess is the wrong word, but you're looking to really represent the industry. And I tell them that when I talk to them, especially even on the first call this is for the entire industry, right? So you have one designated office that I need you to speak to but you represent NA's 93,000 plus members, right? When you're talking to them, that's the kind of responsibility that you have. And they usually love it. They run with it. Because again, if they've taken the steps, they've been identified in one way or another as somebody who has some background with advocacy, has a relationship or you know, has come through one of our lead generation tools. Austin O'Boyle (30:20): They're already halfway there, right? They've shown some inkling of interest somewhere down the line. So it's just about, you know, kind of fleshing out the rest of it, so to speak. That would be the biggest lesson is don't be afraid to ask. I mean, reach out to folks if you, you know, it, it stinks, right? People don't like doing the kind of manual sweat equity I can't think of any more hard, hard work elbow grease, medical, you know, whatever. But it's you know, it's tough, right? But making the time to set up, you know, sometimes I'll block off like three, four hours to make these phone calls just to get people in the door and get them set up in the program. So it's really just about that individual outreach. Constantine Simantiras (30:57): Love it. I'm gonna lump a couple of questions together here. Yeah. As, as we come down to the tail end here. But, you know, what is something that you might have done differently if you know, with what you know now and if you had additional or other resources, you know, what would those have been and what could you have done with them? Austin O'Boyle (31:15): Yeah. so something I would've done differently is done kind of the individual scoring system earlier, right? I would've, you know, kept better track of the individual key contacts and kind of gotten their information in terms of what they're willing to do, and kind of gauge that along the way that I didn't have to do it in one big <laugh> effort. But it is what it is. So relatively minor, in the grand scheme of things. But if I had more resources, I think something I'd definitely invest in is, an advocate training virtual academy of sorts, right? Like, I, I tried to make videos on my own using Zoom which turned out awful. So I won't be sharing those with anybody. <Laugh>. I tried my best, but you know, I think it's important because some people enjoy the webinars, they enjoy the live stuff, and obviously, I send out recordings once our webinars are done, or you know, share PowerPoints at live presentations, that sort of thing. But some people like to move at their own pace and, you know, if we can invest some, some capital into having some highly, you know quality videos recorded and then shared in almost something like a bootcamp where they can go through and educate themselves and come back to it for a refresher, I think that's something that's definitely worthwhile, especially in the education side. Constantine Simantiras (32:34): Awesome. Let's look at this, you know, like an alternate universe, you know, know if you had fewer resources, you know, what was something that you would've had to have done differently? Austin O'Boyle (32:45): Yeah. I mean, I, I think in a world, if I didn't have Quorum to kind of track the data and I promise they're not making me say this, I'm saying but if it, if I, honestly, if I didn't have Quorum to kind of track the data and kind of house the information it would be tougher, right? Because I have my key contact list within Quorum. But you know, we were in a transition period between you guys and another vendor prior. I, you know, I was using a spreadsheet like I was plugging in, you know, everybody who represents what office. And it's definitely doable that way. Again, it just takes a little bit more time, a little bit more, I'll keep going back to the sweat equity you know, into that process. You know, so that's something that would, would definitely be a hindrance, but doesn't make it impossible, I suppose. Constantine Simantiras (33:29): Awesome. my last scripted question here, so I don't have to sound like a robot anymore. You know, we've talked a lot about how you've measured success in year one. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative> overall, how do you plan for the future to measure success of that program holistically? Austin O'Boyle (33:44): Yeah, I mean, at the end of the day, it's about policy wins, right? And, and that's what I care about. Metric-wise, you know, growth is gonna be put on the back burner a little bit now that we've hit, you know, 200 plus people. But, you know, growth is still important, but education and effectiveness are where I'm gonna really lean into. You know, so this year, if there are any bills that are popping up, you know, what did our meetings do, right? What did our outreach do? And, we're seeing some trickle, trickle-down impact from our, our at-home program this past August where we had key contacts having meetings and we've seen co-sponsorship come in from those meetings. You know, so that's gonna be where, where my success meter is, and that's where I'm gonna gauge it. Cuz ultimately that's what we're in the business of doing. So, <laugh> Constantine Simantiras (34:29): Amazing. One final question from the field here from Robert, is how often do you undertake stakeholder analysis? So you evaluate and prioritize the most critical relationships? Austin O'Boyle (34:41): That's a good question. I'm assuming you're talking about, you know, important relationships in terms of who we're targeting congressionally. And if that is the case, which I hope I'm answering a question, but you know, we, we obviously have committees of jurisdiction, right? Where, you know, we're focused on house financial services, we're focused on you know, ways and means at times or, you know, it depends on what the bill is and where it's currently moving. But house financial services is our bread and butter and we're always looking to make sure we have the program fully stocked for those districts. You know, and, and definitely, multiple key contacts there because if we have a big push on a bill, I wanna make sure I have, if somebody for some reason can't come through, they have a family emergency or something's going on with them, I want to have at least one other person to be able to pick it up and run with it. You know, so we evaluate those on, you know, I would say a congressional basis, cuz I'm definitely gonna have to look into our priorities and kind of who our target congressional people are this new Congress. But we, we focus on committees you know, but I wanna keep contact in every district, so truly <laugh>. But yeah, we, we definitely, you know, we prioritize. 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How to Build and Grow an Effective Key Contact Advocate Program

How to Build and Grow an Effective Key Contact Advocate Program

Constantine Simantiras (00:31):

All right. Welcome to our session today. While we give you know, all the folks, a few minutes to log in. Wanna throw out a fun icebreaker? Since we are talking to the apartment association today, can folks throw in the chat where they’d buy an apartment if could go and buy a home anywhere?

Constantine Simantiras (02:16):

Okay, so now I think we’ve given everyone enough time to hop on, we’ll kick things off, and I’m thrilled to be here with Austin O’Boyle, Senior Manager of Grassroots Advocacy and Stakeholder Engagement at the National Apartment Association. Prior to the National Apartment Association, Austin was the VP of Grassroots and Political outreach at AMP DC and the grassroots and PAC coordinator at the American College of Surgeons. So I’ve actually been lucky enough to get the work with the National Apartment Association over the past two years or so at this point, and with many of their national affiliates and state affiliates and local affiliates. So I wanted to take the time, and I’m very excited to learn what Austin going to be speaking about with us here at Wonk Week today. So right off the bat, Austin, I’m gonna kick things off. Can you tell us a little bit about your role and where it fits in with the National Apartment Association organization structure as a whole?

Austin O’Boyle (03:13):

Yeah, absolutely. Well, like you said, Constantine on the senior manager of grassroots advocacy and stakeholder engagement at the National Apartment Association very long, title <laugh>. But yeah, so I am in on the political affairs team housed within our bigger government affairs department. You know, so I obviously work with our policy team. I work with our, you know, external affairs team as well as the PAC team and lobbyists to you know, obviously advocate for the rental housing industry as best we can.

Constantine Simantiras (03:42):

Awesome. Thanks for that. Tell us a little bit about, you know, what are some of the key issues that NAA engages on, you know, on an annual and, and even a monthly basis?

Austin O’Boyle (03:52):

Yeah, so we have a, especially at the federal level, we have a wide array of issues that we focus on. Anything housing affordability revitalizing the Section eight HCV program. You know, reducing barriers to housing development, you name it, you know, we probably advocate for it in the housing affordability space. So you know, but then we also touch upon other issues that might just impact the operations of rental housing, whether that be, you know, carried interest or you know, the CARES Act notice, the vacate provision is a huge one for us that we’re working on right now. So you know, we have a wide array of issues that we work on.

Constantine Simantiras (04:29):

Excellent. Now, appreciate that. When it comes to grassroots advocacy, what are some of the overall goals of the National Apartment Association?

Austin O’Boyle (04:37):

Yeah, I mean our, our big goals with, you know, our grassroots advocacy program is, you know, to make a direct impact on policy, right? And I think that grassroots in general is seen as a more micro game if you will. What I mean by that is, you know, people are looking for metrics, right? They’re looking to check a box in a way. You know, how many emails did we send? How many phone calls did we, you know, get made? Which is, don’t get me wrong, I mean, numbers are very important, especially when you’re running an advocacy campaign to, you know, take back to your stakeholders or to your board and just kind of show them volume-wise what’s going on. But our focus with our advocacy programs has really been to impact legislation. Cuz at the end of the day that’s, that, that’s the win and loss column, right? So for us, it’s really about building out a program that yes, can put up metrics, but the ultimate goal is to really, you know, as cliche as it sounds, to move the the needle on policy. So, <laugh>

Constantine Simantiras (05:32):

Love it. I was just about to use that phrase. So when you’re talking about moving the needle, when you’re looking at who are your advocates, can you tell us a little bit about a, what, you know, what the makeup of those advocates looks like, and then what is the person’s level of comfort, you know, when it comes to the awareness of some of those issues?

Austin O’Boyle (05:51):

Yeah, so I mean, we’re fortunate. We have a very broad membership, right? So we have, you know, executives of property management companies you know, and within those companies, you know, all the way down to leasing consultants or maintenance techs or what have you. So not only do we have executives of these companies, some developers are in here, supplier members, some people that are vendors for folks in the rental housing space. So we have a very you know, wide assortment of members, if you will. You know, so, it really varies, right? You know, just cuz obviously you have some, you know, you might have an executive of a company who has a good personal relationship with a member of Congress and, you know, you might have a, a leasing consultant who at the same time is willing to kind of take the steps, right? Send the emails, take, you know, action on our alerts that we do, and everything like that. So it really varies. It just depends on how enthusiastic somebody is. But our messaging obviously needs to vary depending on who we’re trying to talk to since it’s such a wide-spanning network.

Constantine Simantiras (06:51):

Awesome. No, I love that. And, I definitely wanna pry in a little bit more some of those, those nuances that you kind of dove into here in a little bit. But I wanted to shift gears a little bit more to, you know, goals for the year. You know, year one we’re looking at growth, you know, overall for the association and proof of concept. So, you know, we’re discussing the building and the growth of this program. And, before you got started, you know, with this effort what was the status quo of, you know, your team’s grass tops advocacy?

Austin O’Boyle (07:23):

Yeah, so I guess I should start with the program technically existed prior right, So this isn’t a brand new program, but it is in a way just because, I like to coin it, you know, program and name only because what was kind of going on with it was and the first step was basically identifying who was still in the program. Cuz we did a survey every year where we would ask who has a relationship currently with a member of Congress or their staff, and they’d put their hand up, we’d put them in a spreadsheet, and if we needed them, we would reach out. But there was nothing ongoing. There was no, you know, advocacy year-round that would keep people engaged. So my first step in this was basically to kind of go through the existing spreadsheets that we had from the past several years and kind of piece it together, do individual outreach.

Austin O’Boyle (08:11):

There was a lot of sweat equity involved just kind of getting people to buy back into the program and let them know that we were gonna be revitalizing it. So that was the biggest first step, just to get our program off and running in the, in the right direction was taking the time to do the outreach and see a) who still has a relationship, and b) who’s still willing to take the necessary steps to be a key contact. So it took some time, but it was, it was worth it in the end.

Constantine Simantiras (08:37):

Oh, I can only imagine. Yeah, that’s, that’s a heavy lift too, to kind of start you know, right off the, off the bat there. But when it comes to recruiting some of those new key contacts, how did you identify who would be a good fit when it comes to maybe your advocates or your grass tops tier individuals?

Austin O’Boyle (08:56):

Yeah, so we’re very fortunate to have an amazing affiliate network. You know, they do a great job, and they’re really localized, right? So, you know, there are some members out there that probably don’t even know that they’re NAA members, right? They know of their local apartment association and then by turn are NAA members you know, so they know their members day to day, they talk to them much more often depending on who they are. You know, so we, I really partnered with them to identify some folks on the ground that, hey, do you know anybody who has a relationship? But at the same time, you know, we took the step of expanding the word key contact to mean more than just you have an existing relationship with somebody, right? Because it’s a very finite universe when we’re talking about who is a college roommate of a congressman, or who knows somebody from their old neighborhood or whatever it may be. So we started recruiting top-level advocates, right? People that were taking action on all of our alerts. You know, were partaking in our at-home program, which is where we set up meetings in the district during the August recess. And we’re kind of going above and beyond. So they didn’t, they might not have necessarily had an existing relationship, but you know, with, with our program, we took steps to help them cultivate one and get them in front of those offices.

Constantine Simantiras (10:09):

Love that. You’ve been talking a lot about, you know, that the key contact sort of program holistically, you know, what were some of those expectations for this program? You know, getting off the ground and, and, you know, as it has progressed so far?

Austin O’Boyle (10:22):

Yeah. Well, I mean, we wanted to set a firm benchmark, right? To start off with. So we, you know, the expectations for an individual key contact vary, right? So we kind of took it as what folks do for us, right? We have a bronze, a silver, and a gold tier, and there’s a recognition system at the end of every year, as well as some, you know, swag items and thank you events and stuff like that. You know, so something that we really plugged in there was the bare minimum standard to kind of be that upper echelon advocate, which in this case obviously is a key contact, you know, take action on all of our grassroots alerts. At the very minimum, reach out to your designated congressional office at least once per quarter. And that means more than just your alert, right?

Austin O’Boyle (11:04):

Send an email, we’ll give you the contact information. I pull it from Quorum, I give them the legislative director’s contact, or whoever it may be because I want them to act as a resource. That’s the biggest thing, you know, in this program, is this is a real relationship that we’re trying to build. So we can’t just constantly be asking, we also wanna let these members of Congress know our folks are here, right? So if you have a question on housing, we have somebody that can answer those questions and help you and guide you on where you should go. Or if you have an operations question, they can be there to help. So those quarterly outreaches are, you know, is, is very important. You know, and then at the same time meeting with your member of Congress twice per year. And we give them opportunities, right?

Austin O’Boyle (11:46):

This isn’t something that you need somebody who’s, you know, dedicating all their time. Like, we make it so that it’s very easy to do, whether it’s in our fly-in during advocate every year or during the at-home program in the district. Just making sure that you have that face-to-face interaction, whether it’s with the congressional staff or the member themselves is very important. But those are kind of the bare minimum expectations if you will. And then, obviously, as we go up into that silver and gold tier, you know, we’re talking you know, helping out their campaign you know, volunteering, making phone calls for them you know, and all, all that good stuff. So, we get a little bit more in-depth as we go up the ladder.

Constantine Simantiras (12:23):

Awesome. Now, I think, I think just the thought, the NAA swag itself is probably enough you know, to start enticing people off the bat. But kind of my next question is, you know, I want to talk a little bit about how you, how did you get buy-in, you know, for this approach from your individual organization’s leadership? You know, I know it takes, you know, an army to take this thought process and kind of put it into motion. What did that look like for you? And then, you know, if you don’t mind talking about kind of how that has morphed as well.

Austin O’Boyle (12:54):

Yeah. honestly, it didn’t take much just because they, you know, leadership here knew that it was a necessary push, right? They knew this was something that was needed. You know, we keep up to date with you know, Congressional Management Foundation studies and kind of asking what members of Congress are looking for. And in my view, the pandemic expedited advocacy, right? So where we were going to be is, you know, it is relationships now, and it always has been, but even more so because, you know, advocates have a million different ways to get in contact with, with a member of Congress now, whether it’s through social media or email, phone, virtual meetings, you know, so there are a million different things. So the way that we’re really gonna stand out is not just by having the constituent volume in terms of the number of outreach that happens with a particular office, but it’s the depth of that relationship and how we can build that up over time. And you know, we saw it as a, as a long-term investment to really make sure that we’re, you know, building those relationships. But getting the number of people in the door to commit to this program was first and foremost on everyone’s mind. But I, there really hasn’t had to be any more buy-in, cuz they’ve seen the growth happen at a pretty fast pace this year. You know, so they’re, they’re very happy with where we are and hopefully, we can continue to expand.

Constantine Simantiras (14:09):

Fantastic. Well, let’s keep on that train. Let’s talk about the impacts, you know, of year one. Let’s go into the successes, you know, what you’ve seen in, you know, since, since you have spun up this individual program. Can you talk a little bit about, you know, some metrics that you’ve seen, you know, in this first year, whether that’s, you know, number of contacts, percentage of growth, whatever, you know, you all measure your ROI with?

Austin O’Boyle (14:33):

Yes. I jotted ’em all down here so I didn’t forget ’em. So, we saw 86% growth in the program from this year you know, compared to last year. So we started off with 112 key contacts last year or at the end of ’21, I should say. And we were able to build that up to 208 now. And they cover 210 congressional offices currently. Cuz those, those are the metrics that we gauge, right? It’s the individual key contacts, but then at the same time, you have your rockstar advocates that are willing to take on more than one office. You know, especially if they already have a preexisting relationship. But those are, those are the metrics and we’re very happy with where we’re at. But we’re hoping to end the year somewhere around 220, 225 total individual key contacts this year.

Constantine Simantiras (15:17):

Amazing. that’s, that’s incredible to hear. So, so excited to kind of see that progression occurs in such a short amount of time too. On that same note, you know, how has the growth of that key context program impacted, I would say the holistic advocacy efforts for this year?

Austin O’Boyle (15:37):

Yeah, I mean, we, we lean on them a lot more, right? And you know, that’s always part of our campaigns, right? So whether it’s we’re trying to get a sponsor on our, our new notice to vacate bill that was introduced, or it’s, you know, the Section eight program, you know, we’re reaching out to the key contacts that have those relationships, no matter how strong they are, even if they’ve just started you know, we have different levels of asks, right? So, hey, I need you to send this tweet and tag your member of Congress and let them know you’re a constituent. You know, we craft the content and get it out to them. Or if somebody, I’ll give you an example. We have a key contact in South Carolina who was able to muster up another sponsorship today of a bill. But she herself has gotten, I think it’s gonna be three co-sponsorship to this bill within the next week or so.

Austin O’Boyle (16:23):

And that’s just from her relationship. She meets with them on her own. She goes above and beyond. So being able to kind of lean on these folks to do some of the legwork in terms of education and you know, we’re all government affairs professionals, right? So, you know, they know this is our job, but it makes such a bigger impact when a constituent goes and says, Hey, this is something I’m very passionate about because this is how it impacts me and my day-to-day job and my business and everything else. So we definitely, lean on them a lot more, and they’re always part of conversations in terms of how we move policy forward.

Constantine Simantiras (16:56):

I love that. And I, and I think what that does is that, you know, it entrusts you, you know, as a, as the national association to continue to branch out to those, you know, that can continue to grow that individual program, right? Where I want to take this is, you know, into the next steps, you know, what training and effectiveness ultimately look like. So what’s your next step in building out this program? What, you know, what are your goals? What does next year look like? And, you know, tell me a little bit about, I think what the tiering system that you have, you know, already alluded to so far, looks like.

Austin O’Boyle (17:26):

Yeah, so I mean, now it’s, you know, I, I’m very happy with the number of key contacts where we are. I think we probably have the capacity for about 300 in total over the next year and a half or so. But I truly think the word that you use that hits the nail on the head is effective, right? That’s, that’s what we wanna be, is we have the opportunities for folks through various programs that we’ve set up, and we, we have the people in, in the door. We’ve built up the metaphorical army, so to speak. So now it’s about when they have the opportunity to have a meeting or they have an opportunity to get on a phone call with somebody and influence policy, we want them to be as impactful as possible. So how do we do that, right? We push a whole lot more education.

Austin O’Boyle (18:06):

I think I’m gonna be doing a lot of advocacy training this year, bopping around to a couple of different places you know, but at the same time doing a bunch of webinars, you know, we’re gonna be updating them on what happened with the election as a lot of people do, right? But I’m doing it from a key contact perspective. You know, here’s what this looks like for the future of housing policy, here’s how your office specifically was impacted. And then at the same time, you know, taking my individual list of key contacts, and we’re gonna break it down. There’s gonna be a lot of you know, manual work <laugh> in store for me in December. But basically, I want to know exactly who each participant is how willing they’ve been to interact with me and the program over the past year.

Austin O’Boyle (18:51):

You know, and that goes back to how many opens of emails that I’ve sent out, have there been how many clicks, how many actions have they taken how many meetings, and just kind of giving them a great, right, one to five, five being the rockstar who’s gonna answer the phone whenever I need them, or, you know, whenever something important pops up. And one being somebody who, you know, is in the program in theory, but is selective when they answer and everything in between. So we wanna make sure that we are, you know, encouraging our, our top rate advocates to keep going and trying to motivate the ones on the lower end of the spectrum. Here’s how you can step your game up and give them tasks that aren’t as daunting as I need you to go set up a meeting and influence them to jump on this bill. Right? So <laugh>, those are the next steps. It’s about making ’em effective and, really just education.

Constantine Simantiras (19:41):

Yeah. No, that’s fantastic. The ever large elephant in the room, something that’s, you know, always topical, you know, it’s an election year. How does a new Congress potentially impact, you know, your efforts, and what does the coming year look like because of that?

Austin O’Boyle (19:57):

Yeah, so, I mean that was a big question I had earlier in this year, honestly, because it was something where you know, our membership, and I think everybody’s membership, for the most part, is based on this, in the fact of trying to separate the group of members from their individual political identity, right? Where we represent the industry, we represent them in their business. So we’re trying to get them to, you know, understand that even though, you know, you are a member of Congress right now, let’s just say is a, is a Democrat, and you have a great relationship with them, right? Let’s just say they lose their seat in the midterm election, hypothetically here and now you have a Republican in office, but your home district is, you know where it is. And I need you to look beyond your personal political affiliation and understand that you’re representing the rental housing industry as a whole, right?

Austin O’Boyle (20:47):

So that’s what we’ve really been focusing on because there’s gonna be a shift whether, you know, I’m not a, you know, an election prognosticator here or anything, but there’s going to be a shift. People are gonna win and lose seats. There’s gonna be new folks that come into the fold, and it’s our job to educate them on these important issues as if it was the same person, right? If it’s square one, you had a great relationship with this member of Congress, it’s gonna take time to build it up. But at the same time, it’s, it’s a necessary part of the process, right? So that’s really the education and the messaging that we’re pushing out is, this is bigger than you, this is, this is the industry, right? So this is for you, your business, and the industry. So we’re gonna need you, you know, regardless, we, we need you in front of that individual.

Constantine Simantiras (21:31):

Awesome. Thank you for that. I wanted to field a couple of questions, you know, that, that is, that are on the chat here. Austin, if you didn’t mind me shifting gears just a little bit Stephanie had asked, with quarterly outreach, do you provide the information that your key contacts share with their individual lawmakers? Or are you focused on recruiting subject matter experts who have their own information?

Austin O’Boyle (21:54):

Both <laugh> in a really terrible answer for me. Both. basically, yes. And, and obviously, if there’s somebody who is a top-notch advocate, who knows their stuff and fully understands the topics we want that person in the program, especially if they’re willing to take these steps, right? So we try to get them in and obviously if they feel comfortable reaching out and discussing something that’s on their mind, or, you know, again, just to check in an email to say, Hey, I’m here. Not sure if there’s anything on the housing docket for you right now, but let me know. They have the green light, right? And basically, anybody has the green light, because, you know, how we’ve seen it unfold here is the folks that don’t have a plethora of experience in advocating or issue knowledge they’re hesitant, right?

Austin O’Boyle (22:43):

This is an intimidating task, getting to build a relationship with a member’s office. So they’re not just gonna fly by the seat of their pants, right? Because they’ve kind of vetted you know, we ask people individually to be a part of the program. Everybody that’s in it, I have a conversation with to make sure that no one’s gonna fly off the handle about a political issue or anything like that. So it’s important to know that they’re probably gonna reach out to you. If you have a new group of advocates, you know, I, I probably brought on probably 15 or so key contacts over the past month and a half or so. You know, I reach out to them individually and get them comfortable, and I’ll give them some talking points if they want them. But mostly, you know, I’m sending curated content for them to send to those offices if they’re a targeted office, right? If we need their co-sponsorship, I’m gonna make sure we’re, we’re crafting some messaging for these folks to really hit the, hit the nail on the head form.

Constantine Simantiras (23:35):

Great. Thanks for, thanks for covering that one. One more is Jessica had asked how do you train your grasstops advocates onto how to effectively engage with their individual legislators if that is something that you know you’re doing at all?

Austin O’Boyle (23:48):

Yeah, no, we, we definitely are. And it’s, it’s a huge priority for me because again, we’ve seen it, right? I’ve been on these meetings with our key contacts sometimes where we don’t have a group who wants to meet with the office. It’s just a key contact, and that’s fine, I’ll go on with them. And that way they have a buffer and they feel more secure in the meeting if they forget something. But you know, we, we really try to harp on, you know, again, like, you know, touting CMF every now and then here, but you know, we use a lot of their data, right? I show them the facts and figures of, hey, this is what a, you know, senior congressional staff person says, right? It’s about building the relationship with the staff. It’s about, you know, taking the time to make sure you’re including points ABC, whether it’s how a particular policy impacts the broader district has the policy impact.

Austin O’Boyle (24:39):

You know, what, what’s the flip side of the coin on the bill? Because that’s always something that people forget in these meetings as an example. But just making sure they have those nuanced points, right? Do your, do your homework is always a huge one that I push out there, know the member you know, for example, I, I mean, party affiliation shouldn’t meet as much as it does sadly in, in our society today, but it does. And you need to know, Okay, I’m gonna go meet with a Republican’s office today. Here’s where they likely lean on my issue, Right? Who are the stakeholders in the issue? So just those, that kind of common sense things for us as government affairs professionals need to be relayed just so they fully understand exactly what to go in there thinking. So I hope

Constantine Simantiras (25:22):

I think that’s, that’s important. One other question, you know, from Allison that had come in is, you’ve talked a lot about, you know, the makeup of, you know, these key contacts, how you’re acquiring them, how you’re educating those individuals. Can you dive a little bit more into that recruiting process and after they’ve routinely taken action, how do you approach them and how, how do you add that individual responsibility to those folks as time goes on?

Austin O’Boyle (25:51):

Yeah, so I mean, I’ll give you a quick rundown of how, you know, how we kinda get the recruitment going. Cause I look at it as a marketing and sales funnel, right? That’s essentially what it is. We’re not selling them a pair of shoes, but we’re selling them on the idea of this program and why it’s important. And, you know, as I said before lean heavily on my affiliates, right? They do a great job of knowing the members, knowing who might be willing you know, to kind of take this responsibility on. And also who knows their stuff, right? Somebody that doesn’t necessarily need a 101-level course, but is a little bit further down the road and, and knows their stuff a little bit better. But then at the same time,I use Quorum not to hype you guys up here or anything, but I, lean on Quorum a lot, right?

Austin O’Boyle (26:34):

So I go through the campaigns like if there’s a specific office that I don’t have a key contact for, I’ll go look at my grassroots actions in a specific district and target it down and say, okay, well here’s somebody that I don’t even know who they are. But they’ve taken action on every campaign I’ve put out this year. I’m gonna reach out to them and see if they’re interested in this. And I send them a personal email. I, I set up a call and we go through it. And then we also develop the key contact handbook. And I do set up kind of lead generation tools, right? So something I do on the action center is I set up a campaign, I plug my key contact handbook in and I say, Hey, download the key contact handbook today. And I kind of share that link innocently, right? But if you get somebody who’s willing enough to take the time to go on to the action center, click the download the key contact handbook button, you know, you probably have a good enough shot if you set up a call at them afterward that they’re, they’re a solid lead, right? They’re kind of a hot lead cuz most people aren’t gonna take their time to go do that. So that’s kind of been our lead generation tool. This, was three avenues. You know, they’ve, it’s worked out really well.

Constantine Simantiras (27:39):

Excellent. Another question from Jenny here is, you had touched on actually on districts and where there are key contacts reside. Do you allow more than one key contact per district?

Austin O’Boyle (27:50):

Yeah, absolutely. I encourage it <laugh> just because, I mean, here’s the thing. Everybody has a different relationship strength, right? I mean, there are people who are in the program who we have a million different programs over here, but like we, you know, we have people who are part of our influencer program which is all social media-based advocacy, but that’s really their forte, right? Like, they’ll reach out to the office via email, and then they’re gonna tag them in tweets on important information that we put out. But then I’m gonna have somebody else in that district who loves meetings, They don’t care, you know, they’ll drag the chief of staff with them to get them to put on this bill sort of person. So I’m gonna use both of them for what they’re good at. And that’s why it’s important to kind of know who your network is because I’m gonna put you out there. So yes, I’m gonna give you content so that you can tweet and tag the legislator, and then at the same time, this other key contact, I’m gonna help them set up a meeting with the lawmaker to talk about it in person. And, you know, anyway that we can surround them with that kind of 360-degree view of our issue, it’s gonna be better for us. So I never, I never say no to multiple key contacts. I try to encourage it when we can.

Constantine Simantiras (28:58):

That’s great. I, I wanted to, I’ll come back to a couple of the other questions that, you know, I wanted to field here on the Q and A, but wanted to, you know, take this to more of lessons learned for others and building, you know, building out that key context type program. Awesome. You know, for you, what’s the biggest lesson that you’ve learned in building this program? Just, just kind of from, you know, year to year and what that looks like on your end.

Austin O’Boyle (29:26):

Yeah, I mean, honestly, I think the biggest thing is that people are willing to do stuff if you ask them. And I think that’s too often overlooked because this is a program where people are supposed to feel important, right? This is something where you’re not just a typical advocate. You are taking on a responsibility to be not better, I guess is the wrong word, but you’re looking to really represent the industry. And I tell them that when I talk to them, especially even on the first call this is for the entire industry, right? So you have one designated office that I need you to speak to but you represent NA’s 93,000 plus members, right? When you’re talking to them, that’s the kind of responsibility that you have. And they usually love it. They run with it. Because again, if they’ve taken the steps, they’ve been identified in one way or another as somebody who has some background with advocacy, has a relationship or you know, has come through one of our lead generation tools.

Austin O’Boyle (30:20):

They’re already halfway there, right? They’ve shown some inkling of interest somewhere down the line. So it’s just about, you know, kind of fleshing out the rest of it, so to speak. That would be the biggest lesson is don’t be afraid to ask. I mean, reach out to folks if you, you know, it, it stinks, right? People don’t like doing the kind of manual sweat equity I can’t think of any more hard, hard work elbow grease, medical, you know, whatever. But it’s you know, it’s tough, right? But making the time to set up, you know, sometimes I’ll block off like three, four hours to make these phone calls just to get people in the door and get them set up in the program. So it’s really just about that individual outreach.

Constantine Simantiras (30:57):

Love it. I’m gonna lump a couple of questions together here. Yeah. As, as we come down to the tail end here. But, you know, what is something that you might have done differently if you know, with what you know now and if you had additional or other resources, you know, what would those have been and what could you have done with them?

Austin O’Boyle (31:15):

Yeah. so something I would’ve done differently is done kind of the individual scoring system earlier, right? I would’ve, you know, kept better track of the individual key contacts and kind of gotten their information in terms of what they’re willing to do, and kind of gauge that along the way that I didn’t have to do it in one big <laugh> effort. But it is what it is. So relatively minor, in the grand scheme of things. But if I had more resources, I think something I’d definitely invest in is, an advocate training virtual academy of sorts, right? Like, I, I tried to make videos on my own using Zoom which turned out awful. So I won’t be sharing those with anybody. <Laugh>. I tried my best, but you know, I think it’s important because some people enjoy the webinars, they enjoy the live stuff, and obviously, I send out recordings once our webinars are done, or you know, share PowerPoints at live presentations, that sort of thing. But some people like to move at their own pace and, you know, if we can invest some, some capital into having some highly, you know quality videos recorded and then shared in almost something like a bootcamp where they can go through and educate themselves and come back to it for a refresher, I think that’s something that’s definitely worthwhile, especially in the education side.

Constantine Simantiras (32:34):

Awesome. Let’s look at this, you know, like an alternate universe, you know, know if you had fewer resources, you know, what was something that you would’ve had to have done differently?

Austin O’Boyle (32:45):

Yeah. I mean, I, I think in a world, if I didn’t have Quorum to kind of track the data and I promise they’re not making me say this, I’m saying but if it, if I, honestly, if I didn’t have Quorum to kind of track the data and kind of house the information it would be tougher, right? Because I have my key contact list within Quorum. But you know, we were in a transition period between you guys and another vendor prior. I, you know, I was using a spreadsheet like I was plugging in, you know, everybody who represents what office. And it’s definitely doable that way. Again, it just takes a little bit more time, a little bit more, I’ll keep going back to the sweat equity you know, into that process. You know, so that’s something that would, would definitely be a hindrance, but doesn’t make it impossible, I suppose.

Constantine Simantiras (33:29):

Awesome. my last scripted question here, so I don’t have to sound like a robot anymore. You know, we’ve talked a lot about how you’ve measured success in year one. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative> overall, how do you plan for the future to measure success of that program holistically?

Austin O’Boyle (33:44):

Yeah, I mean, at the end of the day, it’s about policy wins, right? And, and that’s what I care about. Metric-wise, you know, growth is gonna be put on the back burner a little bit now that we’ve hit, you know, 200 plus people. But, you know, growth is still important, but education and effectiveness are where I’m gonna really lean into. You know, so this year, if there are any bills that are popping up, you know, what did our meetings do, right? What did our outreach do? And, we’re seeing some trickle, trickle-down impact from our, our at-home program this past August where we had key contacts having meetings and we’ve seen co-sponsorship come in from those meetings. You know, so that’s gonna be where, where my success meter is, and that’s where I’m gonna gauge it. Cuz ultimately that’s what we’re in the business of doing. So, <laugh>

Constantine Simantiras (34:29):

Amazing. One final question from the field here from Robert, is how often do you undertake stakeholder analysis? So you evaluate and prioritize the most critical relationships?

Austin O’Boyle (34:41):

That’s a good question. I’m assuming you’re talking about, you know, important relationships in terms of who we’re targeting congressionally. And if that is the case, which I hope I’m answering a question, but you know, we, we obviously have committees of jurisdiction, right? Where, you know, we’re focused on house financial services, we’re focused on you know, ways and means at times or, you know, it depends on what the bill is and where it’s currently moving. But house financial services is our bread and butter and we’re always looking to make sure we have the program fully stocked for those districts. You know, and, and definitely, multiple key contacts there because if we have a big push on a bill, I wanna make sure I have, if somebody for some reason can’t come through, they have a family emergency or something’s going on with them, I want to have at least one other person to be able to pick it up and run with it. You know, so we evaluate those on, you know, I would say a congressional basis, cuz I’m definitely gonna have to look into our priorities and kind of who our target congressional people are this new Congress. But we, we focus on committees you know, but I wanna keep contact in every district, so truly <laugh>. But yeah, we, we definitely, you know, we prioritize.