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How to Coordinate a Successful Advocacy Day

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Whether advocacy communications is a routine part of your organization’s outreach strategy or a new addition, it’s important to put the same care and attention into your legislative messaging that you would for any other audience. Working in the public affairs space, Martin Waymire often supports and helps coordinate advocacy outreach – including highly effective advocacy days at the Capitol.

Just as we do with all strategies, we apply our proven RACE process to plan an advocacy, capitol, legislative or lobby day. Below are some tips for your future event so you can maximize your chances for a successful day.

Research

True success after an advocacy day is almost always the result of thoughtful research in the beginning. As you plan your event, use the questions below to help prepare for success:

  • What is the legislation, policy, or awareness effort that you are advocating for?
  • Who are the bill sponsors, committee members, or potential legislative allies? Who are the opponents? Who are those in the middle or without a position that can be influenced by your advocates?
  • What messages resonate most with elected officials? Think:
    • Why is this legislation, policy or issue important?
    • How does your organization’s position align with their platforms or legislative goals?
    • Can you provide any data, statewide and local to their district, that would help frame the topic?

Action Plan

Once you have a solid understanding of who you need to reach and what you need to say to them, simply picking a date and time for gathering your advocates is not enough. Planning all event logistics requires time and resources.

Below is a checklist similar to what our team follows when supporting organizations’ advocacy outreach days:

  • Identify a date, time and gathering location for hosting your advocates.
  • Develop an agenda that includes both opportunities to connect with your advocates and train them before they meet with lawmakers, as well as schedules for individual or group meetings with legislators.
    • Include a walk through about the messaging you want to deliver, training on how to run the meetings, and if your advocates are not frequently at the Capitol, logistics about exactly when and where to be around downtown Lansing and how to get there.
    • Make sure to provide food and beverages for your advocates. Advocacy days can be long and busy so in addition to meals, consider refreshments that are easy to take on the go.
  • Coordinate visuals – signage or posters, handouts, and one we often see forgotten: your attire. T-shirts, pins or other swag are incredibly important for creating an easily recognizable group.
    • Your objective is to stand out by being both easily recognizable and demonstrating power in numbers.

Communication

Even the best laid plans can go awry, so be prepared to pivot and have enough support the day of to quickly address any issues that pop up. Here’s a list of possible issues that you may run into and how to pivot:

  • Bad weather.
    • If you’re planning to gather your group outside on the Capitol lawn, be sure to rent a tent large enough to accommodate your group and monitor the weather.
  • Delays, cancellations.
    • When planning individual or group meetings with legislators and visits to session, make sure to collect cell phone numbers for schedulers and advocates the day of.
    • Also plan to confirm all meetings in the days before the event and actively monitor committee and session notices.
  • Construction or road closures.
    • Identify multiple routes for your gathering location, multiple parking locations, and monitor City of Lansing updates about navigating downtown Lansing.

Evaluation

You’ve successfully gathered your advocates and met with legislators – but your work isn’t over yet! Just as every good strategy begins with research, you must also measure your efficacy at the end. Below is a checklist to guide your evaluation of your day:

  • Survey your advocates after the event.
    • At minimum, ask about their legislative meetings, any needed follow up, and feedback they received.
    • If you plan to host an advocacy day in the future, gather feedback about logistics: food, location, timing, and future improvements.
  • Have your advocacy team follow up with key legislative targets: supporters, allies, and those on the fence to gauge any feedback they have or next steps for your issue.
  • Facilitate letters of appreciation from your advocates to their elected officials and those they met with.

Ultimately, your objective with an advocacy day is to build relationships and connect constituent perspectives directly to their elected officials. These types of events are likely tied to a longer-term goal involving legislation passage or defeat, policy change or greater awareness of an issue. Planning an event with these big picture items in mind can be hard enough, but with a keen attention to the details above, you can ensure your time and effort are well spent. And if you need help along the way, the team at Martin Waymire is an experienced partner you can call upon.

Angela Minicuci, APR

Angela Minicuci brings a wealth of strategic communication, earned media, and crisis management experience to the Martin Waymire team. With a background leading communications for the largest state government agency in Michigan, Angela possesses a solid understanding of how public policy is made and implemented using sound and effective research, stakeholder engagement, and strategic public relations.