Just look at the numbers: During the first three months of 2021, more than 5,200 bills were introduced at the federal level and more than 99,000 at the state level in the United States alone. In comparison, during the first three months of 2020, only about 2,100 bills were introduced at the federal level and 75,000 at the state level.
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This means your job as government affairs and advocacy professionals is only getting busier while you still can’t educate lawmakers or stakeholders in person. Fortunately, digital tools remain the staple of successful government relations teams as they have for the past year. Here are eight ways technology can help you cut through the noise, save time, and lead on the public policy issues that matter most to your industry.
1. Stay on top of the legislation and regulations that matter most to your organization
With a new administration at federal level and new lawmakers in statehouses pushing priorities and governmental change through quickly, it is essential to be able to monitor threats and seek opportunities to move policies that could benefit or hurt your company, membership, advocates, or organization.
Find, track, and report on your policy issues in minutes
Staying on top of your greatest policy issues has never been more important. But with issues increasingly complicated, you need the latest and greatest strategies for saving time and maximizing resources.
Pro tip: Using a legislative tracking tool will allow you to process information swiftly and develop a rapid-response campaign that reaches from state capitols to Congress. Global, federal, state, and local monitoring services can help you quickly respond to legislative or regulatory challenges, identify funding opportunities, seek accommodations to restrictive policies, and work to improve legislative text that is quickly adopted. Tracking and monitoring capabilities also allow you to quickly inform your membership or audience of the process and potential developments around key legislation and regulations.
2. Cash in on Your Relationships
Now's the time when those endless Zoom calls and networking events, and all your hard but painstaking stakeholder management work pays off. As we emerge from this pandemic, these relationships will help elevate your organization’s issues and voice. But if you haven’t already established relationships with the new, incoming lawmakers, fret not! With thousands of new staffers at the state and federal levels, you can use the opportunity to introduce yourself and your organization’s issues.
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Pro tip: Use a stakeholder management tool to keep track of all your interactions with key lawmakers across your team. Collaborate internally so everyone on your team knows who is having meetings and communications with whom, which lawmakers or stakeholders are sympathetic or key to driving your issues, and where to leverage resources or build closer ties.
3. Communicate Your Priorities to Policymakers
Your organization needs to provide a set of priorities to policymakers as these far-reaching changes are considered and negotiated. What are the essential needs of your organization? What are your nonnegotiables? Sending a priorities list or recommendations on legislative and regulatory proposals is a resource to legislators and staff alike.
Developing a communication plan on behalf of your organization to policymakers will help keep you top of mind and also work to advance your initiatives.
“I think good lawmakers are very mindful and receptive to conversations with people who have a genuine, well-thought solution to their issues,” says Chris Spence, managing director of federal government relations at TIAA, a Fortune 100 financial services organization. “Really seeking to understand, listen, and identify those points of alignment, and then building on them is pretty crucial.”
Pro tip: Being able to quickly connect with key legislators during this time is vital. Using a directory tool at the federal and state level can help you with scheduling virtual meetings, briefings, and roundtable discussions, as outlined below.
4. Mobilize Your Grassroots/Grasstops Advocates
As we start to emerge from this pandemic, it’s more important than ever for legislators to listen to their constituents to help bring focus on the top issues beyond COVID-19. Grassroots/grasstops advocacy campaigns are a good strategy to target the legislatures in session. Digital advocacy strategies have proven to be quite successful over the past year since most people are still working from home and are spending more time on their phones and computers.
“Deciding on the advocacy tactics that you will utilize is rarely an either-or decision. It is about using the right tactic at the right time,” says Ashley Smith, associate director of grassroots advocacy at the ALS Association.
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Pro tip: Combining state and local tracking with grassroots advocacy can help you communicate policy information to your stakeholders and engage them to deliver targeted, personalized messages to legislators. This can go a long way in getting attention for your issues, as well as receiving essential government aid or making accommodations to help the response efforts.
5. Continue Hosting Virtual Events
A year into this socially distanced life, most everyone is comfortable with the technology to make remote work… work. We’ve proven that you can still have meaningful conversations in a virtual setting. In fact, these forums can elicit more engagement than in-person events by removing geographical, budgetary, logistical restrictions.
6. Making Lawmakers Listen Through Constituent Impact
Constituents and their votes matter more than anything when it comes to building relationships and showing lawmakers the importance of your legislative and regulatory agenda. By being able to demonstrate and educate lawmakers on the financial impacts of your public policy issues, you’ll be able to have a more direct line of communication and influence with state, local, and federal legislators.
“The staffers may not be interested in talking to us lobbyists if they don’t already know us, but they’ll always talk to their constituents,” Russell Harrison, Director of government relations at IEEE USA.
Pro tip: Using a district mapping solution allows your team to visually understand where your assets and lines of business are located and what your organizational footprint is in congressional and state districts. By providing elected officials with an “at-a-glance” visual with metrics such as the number of jobs your organization provides, locations of offices or factories, property tax paid, sales tax collected, and payroll generated, you’ll be able to show your financial value to their constituencies making it easier to educate them on your issues. Read how the Education Commission of the States successfully leverages policy maps.
7. Leverage Social Media
While you might think of social media as more noise, it can actually be a good way to amplify your reach, stay on top of what legislators and the public are saying, and create a sense of community around your issues. It can also be a way to tap into a new audience like the National Down Syndrome Society did with TikTok.
“There's a whole new audience to be tapped into that is going to be affected by or is affected by these issues,” says Nicole Patton, manager of grassroots advocacy at NDSS.
Pro tip: FiscalNote has the most current contact information for all state representatives, Congress, and their staff — including social media profiles. Additionally, social media integration allows you to monitor and keep track of which lawmakers are posting about your issues.
8. Be Creative and Use Technology to Press On
All these tactics and tools can be powerful vehicles to continue pushing your agenda through to lawmakers as we prepare to return to more normal conditions. FiscalNote’s tools are at your disposal for strategically and swiftly positioning your messages in front of your key target audience. From defining and organizing your issues and identifying the key lawmakers you need to influence, to mobilizing your advocates and reporting on your success, FiscalNote is with you every step of the way.
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