A virtual fly-in (sometimes also called a Lobby or Hill-Day) is a great way to move your issues forward. While organizations have long relied on face-to-face meetings, a digital fly-in or lobby day has advantages. It can lowercosts, increase your reach and dramatically expand participation among your advocates.
The fly-in has always been a great tool to communicate on policy. But it has never been easy. Convincing dozens—sometimes hundreds—of supporters to journey to Washington or a state capital, often at their own expense, is an extreme logistical challenge.
A virtual fly-in can smooth that process. Attending meetings and taking action online is far easier and cheaper than traveling to talk to lawmakers. Many organizations find that their virtual lobby day draws far more participation from supporters than a traditional fly-in. And why not? There’s far less friction.
While there is organization required for any fly-in, traditional or virtual, a digital experience can attract more people and eliminate the variables associated with travel. The result is an event that can be easier to coordinate.
“The organizations we work with are doing great things in the virtual arena,” said Jeb Ory. “Some are getting meetings with hundreds of lawmakers and having their supporters take action on a digital campaign—all in the same day. While nothing can replace a face-to-face meeting, virtual fly-ins are extremely effective.”
Why You Should Host a Virtual Fly-In
There are several good reasons to host a fly-in or lobby day, all of which relate directly to your mission.
It Builds Community. A fly-in allows your organization to create a sense of community around your issues. It shows your audience that they are not alone, gives them an outlet to raise their voice and a way to take action that can make a difference.
It Highlights Legislative Priorities. A fly-in gives you the opportunity to highlight your organization’s legislative priorities to both your supporters and key lawmakers.
It Generates Personal Stories. Few communications resonate more than authentic personal stories. A fly-in or lobby day is a great opportunity to harness these, allowing your audience to speak for themselves. Whether delivered on a call or via email, these stories provide lawmakers with the anecdotes they need to support policy positions-and they come directly from constituents.
It Demonstrates Value. A fly-in shows your program is strong and active, representing your supporters and directly addressing lawmakers. A solid fly-in helps grow your relationship with both.
How to Host a Virtual Fly-In
The key to a successful fly-in or lobby day is to create a sense of community among your supporters, get that community excited and then direct that excitement toward certain actions. Here are some steps you can take:
Educate Your Audience. Host video calls or webinars with your advocates to explain your policy positions. These training sessions can unite people and emphasize the importance of taking action. It’s also a nice way to get people excited in the weeks before your event and to kick things off on the Big Day.
Establish Meetings With Lawmakers. Setup meetings between your supporters and the lawmakers who represent them. It is common for organizations to send a small team to meet with a lawmaker or staffer, but that team must be made up of constituents who are well-trained on your policy priorities and have clear talking points to deliver. Wasting a lawmaker’s time is a major mistake.
Follow Up Consistently. Motivate advocates with reminders via text, email and social media—especially those who agreed to meet with lawmakers. If they signed up, they must show up. Automate reminders to make it easy. Make sure your supporters also have digital materials to “leave behind” after their virtual meetings.
Enable Different Ways to Participate. Not everyone who supports you will be ready or willing to meet with a lawmaker. Give your audience different ways to participate, such as sending an email, making phone calls, signing a petition, contributing a personal story or posting on Twitter and other social platforms. A high-priority call to action on your lobby day can ensure that everyone who participates also takes action to deliver a message on your top issue.
Create Buzz Across Channels. Your fly-in is about more than meetings. Build momentum via a pledge campaign and send out registration links in advance of the event. Publicize the event on your website and social media channels. Share your lobby day over SMS or on messaging apps such as Whatsapp, which has 1.5 Billion monthly users. For those who are meeting with lawmakers, you can easily create a group to share your information and keep people organized.
Collect Personal Stories. Use Quorum to collect written personal stories from your advocates, the type of stories that resonate with lawmakers. After these stories are collected , you can use them as part of your messaging by asking the advocate to record a brief audio or video message, posting them on social media and your website or highlighting these stories in upcoming communications.
Host a Social Media Takeover. Shift all focus on your social channels to the fly-in or lobby day. Share personal stories contributed by advocates and pictures of advocacy-from-home. Post a keyword people can text to join the action. And, of course, don’t forget hashtags.
Share Your Success. Report back to your audience on the success of the event when it is finished (or even as it is underway). Share numbers, pictures and show your appreciation. It’s important to celebrate your success.