Policy Reputation Calendar: Why You Need One, and How to Do It

November 15, 2018

The midterms have passed and teams across Washington are engaging the 116th Congress on issues they care about. There will be at least dozens of new House members, several new Senators, and several hundred new staffers supporting those members.

The important question: what are you doing 2019 to introduce your organization and your issues to new and returning members and staff? How are you going to make sure that they remember you when your issue comes to the table?

As a best practice, several of our clients create policy reputation calendars to plan how they are going to proactively communicate about the work they are doing. We recommend choosing one topic per month to highlight the work your organization is doing on the topic. You should make the topic relevant to what is happening in Congress or what is happening across the country.

The goal of the policy reputation calendar is that elected officials and their staff hear from your organization proactively throughout the entire year on positive things, rather than just when you need to make a legislative ask. The impact is two-fold:

1) If the member or staffer needs something, they know you as an expert source to contact on your issue. They know your organization, your team, and the work you do and will be more likely to reach out should they need something.

2) They have a positive impression of your organization. So if you need something from them or your organization receives bad press, you have built up goodwill.

So how do you do you implement your policy reputation calendar? Click here for an editable template, and read on for potential themes and communication channels.

Potential Themes and Messages

First, you have to decide on your themes for each month, and what message you want to share. Here are some samples of themes your organization could use to get started:

January: Introduce Your Members—Share the stories of the people who you advocate for to give a local face to your issue.

February: Infrastructure— Focus on a key issue by highlighting how infrastructure improvements have improved the lives of one of your members, advocates, employees.

March: Key Report Launch—Your organization is launching a major report on education metrics, or sustainability, or the state of an industry. Make sure that report gets to Capitol Hill and pull key highlights.

April: Fly-In Time—Share with members how many advocates you have across the country, set up meetings, invite members and staff toy our event on the hill, and recap how it went.

May: Mother's Day—Share stories of mothers amongst your employees, advocates, or organization members and how your organization is supporting gender equality.

June: School is Out—Share about your organization's internship and career development programs that are engaging students over the summer.

July: Fourth Of July: Highlight your organizations grant to a civic education institution and share how you are helping improve our democracy.

August: Volunteering: Share details of your organization's volunteer program and how your team members took some time in August to go out and help the community.

September: New Product or Initiative Launches: Make sure officials and their staff know about the news and what it means for your organization.

October: World Series— Baseball season comes to a fever pitch in October with the World Series! Share your organization’s advertising efforts or impact on the regions of the AL and NL teams.

November: Veterans Day—Send a short note thanking our veterans for their service and mentioning your organizations

December: Happy Holidays—Share what your team is thankful for and how you are giving back to the community.

Selected Stakeholders

After selecting your theme, determine the stakeholders you want to share your message with:

All Members of Congress: If your organization touches all regions of the country and a variety of policy issues, share your policy reputation communications with all members of Congress.

Members of a Specific Committee: For example, if you're doing a themed month on the initiatives your organization is taking on to promote sustainability and the environment, focus your communications on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Members of a Particular Region: Maybe you're January theme is focused on the new facilities you're opening in the next year. Narrow your communications to members who represent the regions where your footprint is growing.

Schedulers: Is your theme focused heavily on advertising events you'll be hosting? Get in the scheduler's inbox to make sure the member attends your event.

Legislative Assistants for Your Issue: If a month's theme is focused on a more narrow policy issue, like veterans, find the legislative assistants who have veterans' affairs in their portfolios and target your communications to those staffers.

Press Secretaries: Want a member to tweet about the work your organization is doing? Share your message with press secretaries and share potential social media posts for them to use.

Chiefs of Staff and Legislative Directors: These are the most critical policymakers in a member's office. Make sure they receive your most important policy messages.

Communication Channels

Then, figure out what channels it will take to reach those stakeholders. Some examples of effective channels include:

E-mail: First write a short e-mail about your topic for the month and send it to the Hill. This is one of the most simple and easiest ways you can stay in touch. Quorum can help if you need a database of staff contact information and a tool to send hundreds of personalized e-mails.

Social Media: Many organizations have a policy twitter account and share their news on social media. Think about how many congressional staff members your team is friends with on their personal social media accounts. If the people you want to engage on Capitol Hill are already communicating on social media, bring your message to the platforms they are using.

Events: Host an event for a member. Some of the most opened e-mails sent through Quorum to Capitol Hill are event invitations. People like to feel engaged and invited to the events you are holding, and they will share it with others.

Advertising: Of course you can runs digital and print ads highlighting your topic for the month. However, advertising is most effective in tandem with other means of communication. While ads are easy to skim quickly on Facebook or Twitter, stakeholders may be more likely to engage with them if you have built brand recognition in other ways.

In-Person Meetings: Take the time to go to Capitol Hill and share what you are doing and ask how you can help them. Don’t just go when you have an ask, but be a helpful resource. While not necessarily making an ask, keep on message with your policy goals so when you do need to make an ask, it breaks through the high volume of messages going to a member’s office.

Combining different engagement techniques and the right message aligned with a themed calendar can have a powerful impact on your relationships on Capitol Hill and how people understand your issues.

Click here for templates to help build your policy reputation calendar—including a year long outline, message brainstorm template, and one-month calendar to outline the specific communications of a particular month. If you want a brainstorming partner or an external set of eyes for your policy reputation calendar don’t hesitate to reach out.

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