Barring erratic weather, it’s around this time of the year when the D.C. area thaws and blossoms and bustles again. Included in this resurgence are the droves of advocates who partake in the annual pilgrimage known as the fly-in.
Yet unlike a pilgrimage, conscripts are expected to do more than mere ritual. There’s a craft to advocacy for which even once-a-year novices are not exempt. That means fly-in organizers must ensure their advocates are properly prepared, lest their collective efforts amount to no more than a field trip.
Stephanie Vance of Advocacy Associates has made it part of her job to instruct fly-in organizers. In a sense, she trains the trainers. Earlier this month, Vance conducted a webinar for Lobbyists.info titled “Preparing Advocates for Fly-ins,” in which she detailed, among other things, how to educate advocates on congressional procedure.
Without spoiling the program (available for purchase here), Vance promotes a balanced approach to fly-in prep in which advocates are taught the essentials without being bogged down by procedural minutiae. Remind advocates of how bills are passed, Vance argues, but don’t exceed the basic tenets of Schoolhouse Rock. This approach helps avoid the sort of confusion that would only serve to confound and frustrate an already anxious group. It also frees advocates to direct their attention where it’s most needed, which is not in general procedure but rather in specific policy issues.
Vance covers much more ground than this, but it all links to the same general message: if you’re hoping for a successful fly-in, learn how to train your advocates.
Associations are among the most organized for fly-ins, and in recent weeks we've seen advocates fly in from the National Fuel Funds Network, the International Council of Shopping Centers, Professional Compounding Centers of America, American Hotel & Lodging Association, Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America, Alzheimer's Association, Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, Financial Services Roundtable, and Retail Industry Leaders Association, to name a few.