70 Experts Share Their Best Advocacy Planning, Strategy, Skills and Training Tips

by Ann Dermody // Jun 07, 2017 Communications In-person

How would you like to have your own personal government relations or advocacy mentor on speed dial?

Even, if you’d been in the business for years?

Well, we’re about to give you the next best thing.

We conducted 70, (yes, 70!) interviews with some of the leading minds in the worlds of government relations, nonprofit, advocacy, public policy, and fundraising, and asked them four pertinent questions:

  • What advocacy skill have I learned over time, or do I wish I had my first day on the job?
  • Having tried a bunch, the best advocacy strategy I rely on is …?
  • When I’m planning an advocacy campaign, the first thing I always do is … 
  •  What would be the most useful advocacy training?

Just FYI, we asked them a bunch of other questions too, and we’ll give you the full picture of what they had to say soon (including epic campaign fails and successes) – but more of that good stuff later.

For now, here’s a taster of some of the best advocacy strategies, tips and tricks they’ve learned from many collective years toiling in the world of legislation and advocacy.

And when you’ve finished reading, don’t forget to download our great free eBook: The Advocacy Planning, Strategy and Skills Guide.

Finally, to everyone who took part, a big thank you!

And to everyone reading, this is one you’ll want to bookmark!

What’s the greatest advocacy skill I’ve learned over time, or what advocacy skill do I wish I had had the first day on the job?

“A better understanding of how advocates use social media. In my job, I’m constantly checking Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds for the latest news and updates on client campaigns, but most advocates don’t have the time to stay this connected. Many advocates favor one channel over the other, and are often not checking their social media feed until later in the evening or on the weekends. So, learning how to communicate more effectively to my audience has been critical to ensuring a successful campaign.” – Carolyn Weems, VP, The Herald Group

frank harris“Knowing when to be persistent and realizing that if your efforts for change do not succeed this year, there is always next year.” – Frank Harris, Director of State Government Affairs, MADD

“I didn’t have an appreciation for the value of relationships. When you work on issues, you think ‘policy’ — which is important — but I didn’t realize or appreciate how important it is to not only have the right message, but to have the right messenger. You can be more acutely effective with the right messenger.” – Chip Felkel, CEO of Rap Index

pamela“Enthusiasm. If you are passionate about what you do, they will listen. People want to be around people who love what they do. Most people these days want to find a driving purpose for their life. So even if your topic isn’t their immediate interest, your enthusiasm might just persuade them to get involved!” – Pamela Hawley, CEO, Universal Giving

“I wish I could have had the public speaking presence I have had to develop over many years in my advocacy work.” – Meredith Nethercutt, Senior Associate Member Advocacy, SHRM

david rosen“Networking: specifically, knowing how to strike up a conversation with a stranger or butt in to the middle of a conversation between three or four people.” – David L. Rosen, Press Officer, Regulatory Affairs, Public Citizen and Founder of First Person Politics

“… social media experience. Members of Congress love to use social media and it can be an incredibly powerful and engaging tool. We now recommend social media strategies to all of our clients as part of their overall advocacy initiative.” – Lincoln Clapper, Director Sales & Marketing, Prime Advocacy

“Live social video streaming didn’t exist when I started at Greenpeace, but I wish it did!” – Ryan Schleeter, Online Editor, Greenpeace USA blog

“Database and email management skills. Communication to our supporters is key. Once we’ve captured their emails then it’s up to us to engage, educate and inspire. It cannot replace face-to-face interactions but it allows us to control the message, and hopefully turn the mildly interested supporter into a fully engaged advocate.” – Jason Amaro, Southwest Chapter Coordinator, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers 

“There are a few great advocacy skills I’ve learned from my mentors over the years that I now carry with me everyday.”

  • christine hill“Develop a solid team.”
  • “Be persistent, but patient”
  • “Issue campaigns are like marathons not sprints”
  • “Define the win upfront.” – Christine Hill, Deputy Legislative Director, Sierra Club

“I wish I had a better handle on logistics when I first started. Time management when juggling multiple campaigns and issues can be tough.” – Mark J. Walsh, Campaign Director, Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence

“Listening. When you get your hands on an issue you believe in, it’s easy forget the other voices in the room. The false consensus effect can derail even the strongest campaign. People assume that one point of view is the same as everyone else’s, and too often, people build their campaign from that false consensus. I found that it is best to anchor your advocacy campaign in facts.” – Gerry Gunster, CEO, Goddard Gunster

andy polk“….when I was a staffer on Capitol Hill I always wanted to do more to help those who came asking for help and were humble. Those who came in thinking they knew everything, and I knew nothing, got less assistance from me in the long run. Now I don’t wear suits outside D.C. anymore, and I make a point to always say how important voices are across the country at regional events – more important than a lobbyist in D.C. – and it resonates.” –Andy Polk, SVP, Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA)

“With a background in political science and public policy, I never knew the extent to which grassroots advocacy is facilitated by technologically advanced apps and platforms … With regards to my first day on the job- it would have certainly been helpful to have had a more extensive digital/IT background.” – Brian Kaissi, Government Affairs Manager, Asian American Hotel Owners Association

“Institutional knowledge” – Matthew10056 Wright, Advocacy and Outreach Director, Children’s Hospital Association

Jessa Barba“Managing client expectations … never oversell the outcome of a campaign if you will only under-deliver on its successes. Likewise, always be cognizant of opportunities that may not be as readily apparent, such as working with unusual partners or joining previously untapped coalitions.” – Jesse Barba, Associate, Cassidy & Associates

“The greatest advocacy skill I’ve learned over time is to listen to people and learn how to connect them.” –Molly Checksfield, Grassroots Program Manager, National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association

“The importance of remaining calm, no matter the circumstances. In any situation, there is often more time and more chances to succeed than may appear.” – Dan Colegrove, President, ACME Public Affairs

“Patience. When I first left Capitol Hill, I had a good grasp of all of the policy issues from my legislative work, and I wanted to hit the ground running in my new job. The first lesson I learned? You can always learn more. In my first week, I walked straight into the buzzsaw of a committee staffer who had an ax to grind with my employer, and was looking to take it out on the new guy. It took me about 30 seconds to realize I was way out of my depth on the policy arguments that were coming at me in that meeting. There are plenty of good advocates who thrive in their work based on “access.” I think the best advocates know their policy issues, understand their industry, and know what they’re advocating for. When you’re new, take the time to learn your substance and know your history.” – JC Scott, Chief Advocacy Officer, Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed)

“I wish I had a better understanding of the realities of organizing. I started his own advocacy group when I was in college with nothing but a blank Excel document. I got names, phone numbers, but that was about it. I now know that there are programs there to keep your data organized.” – Mason Tvert, Director of Communications, Marijuana Policy Project

“I wish I had known that the best advocates listen as much or more than they talk.” –Bernadette Downey, Senior Manager, Advocacy, No Kid Hungry/Share Our Strength

“I wish I had more html training, especially for email production and for simple website development. So much of grassroots moves so fast and having these skills would have allowed me to not have to wait on a graphic design expert or a website developer to create campaign tools and launch tactics.” – Joe Franco, Vice President, Grassroots and Internal Advocacy, American Diabetes Association

“Better knowledge of database management or Microsoft Excel. Tracking action alerts from multiple sources is not easy and can easily overwhelm you.” – Kristen Prather, Grassroots Manager, Credit Union National Association (CUNA)

advocacy skills expert“Thick skin. It took me a while to develop thick skin … The sooner I was able to stay focused on the supporters, and less on the detractors, the better my time was managed, and the more fruitful the outcome.” – Emily Convers, Chairwoman, United Monroe

advocacy skills tips“Great advocacy is like a great golf swing– a deliberate action paired with good timing. Having a clear, concise and effective message combined with the right timing creates optimal opportunity to affect the political process. This is the sweet spot that makes things happen.” – Lauren Culbertson, Founder, Millennial Bridge Consulting

advocacy-tips-3“Learning to connect the dots. Many times, I’ve looked at the time I spent on the Hill and realize that the person who was an intern behind the desk for Senator X is now the legislative director for Senator Y. Being able to connect the dots and stay abreast of the relationships that exist on the Hill between staffers, between committees is important — it’s really a family tree that is always evolving, and you need to stay up-to-date on that evolution.” – Terry Dale, President & CEO, United States Tour Operators Association

“On my first day, I wish I knew how to effectively pare down a 30-minute conversation to 5 minutes, while still getting my point across.” – Maria Perrin, Principal, Gide Public Affairs

“Listening. To listen with understanding requires knowing not just the other person’s language but something of their background, perspective, and history. Working across differences in race, religion, culture, class, and gender requires some homework.” – Rick Rosendall, Immediate Past President at GLAA

dan“Some people take naturally to planning and organizational skills. I was not one of those people when I was younger. In my case, I simply outworked everyone else so that I succeeded without any problems. But I probably could have saved myself some of that work if you had been a little more methodical.” – Dan Colegrove, President, ACME Public Affairs

“A 30-second elevator pitch for my key issues!” – Michelle Sara King, President & CEO, King Consults

“Figuring out the resources available to me such as financial, technology, and human capital. Understanding what tools I have to help save time, and maximizing which partnerships, affiliates and internal relationships I have.” – Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, Lawyer & Founder, Women in Leadership publication

“That elected officials are people, too. I think sometimes we tend to forget that all of us, no matter the roles that we play in life, have dreams and aspirations for our families, our communities and our world. It’s the skill of simply turning off the loop of ‘all politicians are evil’ that constantly plays in our society. Actions by some elected officials aren’t the actions of all. The more we own that, the more we can collectively own the process of governing.” – Kevin Borden, Executive Director, MHAction

Having tried a bunch, the best advocacy strategy I rely on is …

“Establish a content expert regarding any advocacy engagement. I handle several digital advocacy campaigns, and I can’t know everything about every policy or project.” Stephanie Armstrong Helton, Communications & Grassroots Advocacy, Trinity Health

“Coalition building … While building your own advocacy base, and the various contacts and email addresses that come with it, is very important, leveraging your partners’ preexisting contacts might be even more important.  It can take years to build up a list of advocates on your own, but by partnering with other organizations, you can quickly increase your own credibility, name recognition, and message reach.”  – Austin Roebuck, Communications, Government Relations & Dealer Education Manager, Yamaha Marine Group

gail perry

  • “Know your elected officials. … Introduce yourself to your local official – city council, county commissioner, and key staffers. Attend your local officials’ fundraising events and/or town halls. I started in politics simply attending a small home [town] reception for a man who was running for city council. You can get to know so many important local officials simply by showing up…”
  • “Enlist a retired elected official for your board. He/she will know when the budgets are prepared, when the vote happens, who the influential decision makers are, and who the elected officials listen to. Retired politicians often take on a “community leader” role – and have a lot of influence.”
  • “Treat your elected officials and their staff like major donor prospects. They need to be informed, communicated with, thanked and publicly acknowledged – always – over and over….”

– Gail Perry, Philanthropy Expert, Nonprofit Evangelist, Fundraising Maven, Keynote Speaker, Author: Founder, Fired Up Fundraising

“Make every issue local … You’re far more likely to get stakeholders to engage and legislators to listen if you can take a broader issue and connect it back home to their district and clearly explain how it affects them.” – Michael Blake Bezruki, Director of Grassroots Programs, National Association of Home Builders 

“Integrity. If Members of Congress or their staffs ever get the impression you’re using their time to tell only one side of the story or skew data in your favor, your credibility takes a hit. Capitol Hill is a small community, and that can turn into a shockwave that transfers to other offices.” – Matt Duckworth, VP Government Relations, Hart Health Strategies Inc

“Learning how to avoid issue fatigue but having the ability to determine what issues deem [necessary for] grassroots outreach versus what issues are better suited for outreach by our internal lobbyists. It’s important to realize that not every issue or Congressional action requires activating our entire membership on.” – Michael Jacobson, Director Industry Relations and Political Engagement, U.S. Travel Association

“It’s easy to get lost speaking to other “activists”, or folks who have self-selected into caring about your issue. Good community organizing requires intentionally breaking out of that habit … it means going to other people’s meetings … it means engaging on your issues from perspectives that might not necessarily match your own experience or the experience of your most active volunteers. It’s uncomfortable and it’s challenging, and it’s also vitally important. Also: if you’re not annoying at least a few people in power with your campaign, you’re not pushing hard enough.” – Thomas DeVito, Director of Organizing for Transportation Alternatives

“Constant follow-up and maintained touch points. Congressional staffers typically have five-to-six meetings per day, and are constantly strategizing their boss’ priorities. One-off meetings are more likely to be forgotten or dismissed as priorities without follow-up and updates.” – Jesse Barba, Associate, Cassidy & Associates

Joe Franco ADA Headshot closeup“Face to face meetings. While digital advocacy is growing leaps and bounds and it’s allowing millions to participate in a system that otherwise was closed off … the [face to face] personal narrative and closing ask of a passionate advocate is still the most powerful advocacy tool available.” – Joe Franco, VP, Grassroots and Internal Advocacy, American Diabetes Association

“Be as open, candid and frank as prudence allows.  One of my mentors in advocacy taught me early on that the three toughest words for any lobbyist to say is, “I don’t know.”  He said practice that attitude – but be sure to know who you can call who does know, and then follow up asap.” – Dale Moore, Executive Director of Public Policy, American Farm Bureau Federation

“Persistence. If you chase what I call “bright shiny objects”, which is to say whatever problem or story in the news that day, you won’t achieve much. Instead, you have to commit to your issues and keep working on them. When an opportunity comes like a good news cycle, or a friendly lawmaker, you’ll be ready and able to take advantage.” – Chris Calabrese, VP of Policy, Center for Democracy & Technology 

“… a broad based, multi-pronged approach.  Someone once told me Congress is NOT about passing legislation, it’s about stopping the passage of BAD legislation. With that in mind, passing a bill is complicated. The complexities necessitate a broad based, multi pronged, flexible approach to include direct lobbying, alignment with strategic partners, thought leadership and media coverage.” – Kristen Ballantine, VP Government Relations, Health Management Systems

“Integration. An advocacy campaign that doesn’t use earned media as well as digital and social engagement has a significantly smaller chance of breaking through the crowded agenda. Advocacy has shifted and anyone who doesn’t plan to include media will be swamped by those who do.” – Patrick Brady, Senior VP, JPA Health Communications

NoelleBWHeadshot“When in doubt, keep sharing. We have worked on some efforts that have taken much longer and been much more of a rollercoaster ride than interested parties initially anticipated. People who are not used to DC or are not used to the ups and downs of campaigns need to be told more times than you think that progress is being made. Keeping your advocates engaged throughout, especially when things are tough, is key.” – Noelle Clemente, VP, S-3 Public Affairs

“Simplicity. Someone in Hollywood said, ”If you can’t fit your idea on the back of a business card, you don’t have a clear idea.” That advice stuck with me, and it has been a filter I use with advocacy pitches. Plans are important, but execution is paramount.” – Tom Sadler, Deputy Director, Marine Fish Conservation Network

“Framing issues in the media, and making legislative outcomes appealing and obvious to lawmakers or voters” – Wayne Pacelle, President & CEO, The Humane Society of the United States

When I’m planning an advocacy campaign, I always/the first thing I do is … 

“Talk about how policy or law impacts people, families, and especially children. Data points and infographics don’t matter unless you have a real story of real people to tell.  If you are not telling a person’s story, then you don’t have a real strategy or message. Period.“ Andy Polk, SVP, Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA)

trista“Talk to the community and see what issues are at the top of their list, if the topic of my campaign isn’t on their list, it is time to start over.” – Trista Harris, President, Minnesota Council on Foundations

The very first thing I do is talk to two very different people: my lobbyist and my target-audience expert. My lobbyist is an inside-the-beltway policy genius … with a finger on the pulse of the Hill. My target-audience expert is a diehard outdoorsman with a southern draw, a love for the water, and a finger on the pulse of American fishermen. While the two of them would never normally cross paths, they each hold a key to successful advocacy communication. One can tell me how to effectively communicate with legislators, while the other can show me how to communicate with my grassroots base. They’re both equally invaluable, and any successful advocacy campaign I’m a part of will always start with their advice.” – Austin Roebuck, Communications, Government Relations & Dealer Education Manager, Yamaha Marine Group

delia coleman“I try to figure out my ‘real’ audience. Segmentation is super important. Then I try to identify what that target’s values are. What motivates them? What moves them? How do they see themselves? Then I stack my campaign’s goals against my target’s worldview and self-presentation. If my campaign beats them up, I’m never going to get them to listen to me. So I go back and reframe my issue in light of their worldview. Sure, I am bummed I don’t get to use my best ‘gotcha’ material but the point isn’t to ‘gotcha’, the point is to get them to move in my direction by any means necessary.” – Delia Coleman, Director of Strategic Communications, Equal Rights Advocates

“The first thing I do is think about our supporters. It can be very easy to get lost in objectives and policy outcomes, and forget that that our main goal as organizers — and the only real way to win our campaigns — is to engage people in ways that are meaningful to them.” – Ryan Schleeter, Online Editor, Greenpeace USA blog , Greenpeace USA

“The first thing I do is to evaluate the seven “Who’s”. My list of “Who’s” captures all of the actors you should consider when planning your advocacy campaign.”

  1. “Who knows about this problem/issue?”
  2. “Who can identify smart solution(s)?”
  3. “Who will oppose taking on the problem/issue and/or the solution(s)?”
  4. “Who has the power to make the solution(s) a reality?”
  5. “Who must be involved to make the solution(s) a reality?”
  6. “Who has the influence to make those with that power adopt the solution(s)?”
  7. “Who already cares?” – Piper Hendricks, Advocacy Communications Consultant

“When starting a new campaign, the first thing we do is determine a clear objective and make sure that it fits with our overall mission: building bridges across traditional divides by emphasizing shared views on public land. This is important because if we only think about a campaign in isolation, we can make false steps” – Gregory Blascovich, President, Keep It Public

“I define what a “win” would look like. A win could mean getting an initiative to qualify for a ballot, but a win could also mean getting a senator to stop saying negative things about your campaign, or to win a Primary. Once you know what exactly what your “win” is, you can start to develop the goals, timelines, budgets, and strategies to make it happen.” – Rebecca Maxie, Manager, National Grassroots Strategy, United Nations Foundation Shot@Life Campaign 

“Identify your audience. Every aspect of your message needs to be tailored to whom you’re trying to reach and the action you’re asking them to take. Without a clear audience in mind, your campaign won’t be as focused or effective.” – Michael Blake Bezruki, Director of Grassroots Programs, National Association of Home Builders

“I come up with a theme and send over a mockup of the graphic that I want to serve as the cornerstone of the campaign. I am told that a picture is worth a thousand words and I actually believe it. After that, I will send some basic copy and the image around to a) an industry peer that is millennial b) an industry peer that has 20+ years of experience c) my mom or grandma d) my sister e) a member or advocate. The diversity of the demographics in the group serves as excellent quality control. If the concept passes the test it can proceed to approvals and actual implementation.” – Joshua Habursky, Director of Advocacy, Independent Community Bankers of America

advocacy-tips-2“Evaluate the assets – who is already working in this space on the ground, what coalitions exist, what legislators have supported/opposed this issue or similar issues, what are my timing limitations, what are the other political hurdles that are currently being addressed by the legislative body that will impact my campaign?” – Bernadette Downey, Senior Manager, Advocacy, No Kid Hungry/Share Our Strength

“Research. I can’t learn enough about a topic, the main players, the inflection points, it’s all important data and education to use towards building a campaign.” – Sloane Davidson. Founder/CEO, Hello Neighbor

Kristen Prather“Get a timeframe and a level of urgency. These two things are the greatest determinants in figuring out which grassroots tactics and advocacy strategies should be deployed.” – Kristen Prather, Grassroots Manager, Credit Union National Association (CUNA)

“I get grounded. I get in touch with my “Why?” I think about what made me switch gears from building a small business, to working in political campaigns, and now the nonprofit/philanthropic sector. As a person of faith, that connects me to a higher calling. In my role at NCRP, I’m one or two steps removed from working directly with the people we ultimately serve. So, I make a conscious effort to keep them top-of-mind. For me, that often looks like watching or listening to reports on Chicago, which is where I’m from. Thinking of the history of the city and how the neighborhoods dearest to me arrived at their current conditions. I might think of other people and places that I’ve been to, and the real experiences the people there have shared with me – just something to help keep me centered in a connected place as I work on their behalf.” Janay Richmond, Manager of Nonprofit Membership and Engagement, National Committee For Responsive Philanthropy

  1. “Focus on the one or two Issues that matter most and prepare talking points”
  2. “Engage effectively”
  3. “Model civic engagement for the first-time advocates to the Hill”
  4. “Be thoughtful about social media advocacy: When it comes to debate and conversation, it’s important and often most effective to get outside your social bubble and discuss issues face to face as much as possible — and to also listen to all political perspectives.”
  5. “Rather than cutting ties with those who disagree with you, seek safe spaces for open discussion and look for opportunities to engage with women from other backgrounds; the outcomes can be extraordinary.” Edda Collins Coleman, Co-Founder & Chief Public Affairs Officer, The All In Together Campaign

“The first thing I do is to describe the goal of the campaign in a catchy way that is very short.” – Robyn Grant, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care

What’s the most important thing I could learn if I was looking for advocacy training? Or, what would be the most useful advocacy training?

“Look for ways to engage your members and other constituents who feel strongly about the cause you are advocating for.  Legislators, administrators and other policy makers do take the concerns and comments of their constituents very seriously –more than the folks who are ‘paid’ to advocate on an organization’s behalf.” – Lane Velayo, Executive Director, Indiana Music Education Association

advocacy training expert“To help lobbyists understand that they need to listen, not just try to come up with countering the argument against their position. Being a good listener helps you to become a better advocate for the organization you represent. The other main point would be knowing how to communicate with your members or those who you need to carry your water.” – Richard Yep, CEO, American Counseling Association

“The best way to learn is through in-person and on the job experiences.” – Frank Harris, Director of State Government Affairs, MADD

Attending the Professional Women in Advocacy Conference!  That aside, I think modern advocates should focus on communications training with an emphasis on understanding social media and the use of technology to manage campaigns and amplify messaging. Technology is the equalizer and can even the playing field for non-profits and causes who have modest funding. Toastmasters or other public speaking training is also helpful.” – LeeAnn Petersen, CEO, PWIA (Professional Women in Advocacy)

“It may not be the “greatest” skill I’ve learned, but it certainly has come in handy. Learning how to put together, manage and add new functionality to a WordPress website has turned out to be one of the more useful things I’ve learned how to do. I’ve built three public affairs websites so far – and I’m about to develop a fourth.” – David L. Rosen, Press Officer, Regulatory Affairs & Founder of First Person Politics

“… educating your members how to communicate with their legislators back home in their state/district. This personal time at district meetings, town halls, and fundraisers with their Members of Congress makes a huge difference compared to seeing them in Washington, DC.” – Michael Matlack, Director of Congressional Affairs, American Physical Therapy Association

“Early in your career, spend some time with a person who knows what they are doing. There are a lot of great programs out there – including some that I’ve run myself – but nothing beats working with or following around a good advocacy professional. You’ll learn much more from casual conversations with them than any classroom lecture. The lectures and classes are good supplements though.” – Robert Hay Jr.,

Deputy Executive Director, American College of RadiationOncology

“Learn how to communicate. Know your audience and what activates them. Chances are you’ll be interacting with Members of Congress and their staffs, the press, business leaders, local activists, and everyday citizens. Each group is essential to your success, but they all speak different languages, have different metrics for success, and are responsive to different methods of communication. Learn what tools you have at your disposal and how to judge when to use each one.”Zach Schafer, CEO of Infrastructure Week 

advocacy training expert Maddie Grant“That every advocacy message starts with a communication between human beings, and that change happens one person at a time. You can multiply that effect using technology, but the human piece of it cannot be lost.” – Maddie Grant, Editor, SocialFish, & Founding Partner WorkXO

“How to respectfully push back against and influence an elected official who disagrees with you on an issue” – Michael Jacobson, Director, Industry Relations and Political Engagement, U.S. Travel Association

“Project Management Skills – As a former corporate warrior I honestly believe that those in advocacy could learn from a basic project management class. Every campaign should have clear goals and objectives with a beginning, middle and end.” – Jason Amaro, Southwest Chapter Coordinator, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

“Technology in effectively communicating and advocating is advancing faster than we can keep up with it, so I am fascinated with new and better ways to reach decision-makers or the media.” – Mike Fulton, Director of Public Affairs, Asher Agency

“How to better connect education, public relations, advocacy and lobbying in a more complementary way.” – Matthew Wright, Advocacy and Outreach Director, Children’s Hospital Association

“The first thing is — and experience has taught me this — don’t hang onto old assumptions. You have to be in constant learning mode, constant experimental mode. What is cool today may not be cool tomorrow. I’m always surprised by what floats and what sinks. We might have six or seven ideas and the one I liked the least is the one that ends up with the most audience traction.” – Brian Turmail, Senior Executive Director Public Affairs, Associated General Contractors of America

“I would advise people to get a hold of a dictionary and learn how to spell properly. I guess I’m just an old newspaper guy, but when you’re misspelling people’s names, it makes you look like you lack intelligence, and you lose credibility. If you don’t know how to spell something correctly, what else don’t you know? It’s the little things that get you. I have seen it my entire career — something insignificant, something stupid, is something you trip over. You’ve got to pay attention to that stuff.” – Dave Workman, Communications Director, Citizens Committee For The Right To Keep And Bear Arms and the Second Amendment Foundation, Senior Editor for thegunmag.com

“For advocating in front of Congress, working on the Hill and experiencing it first hand is an irreplaceable training ground. Not to mention, working on the Hill gives you an opportunity to serve. The best advocates are often those who feel like they are still in public service with the work that they do on behalf of their clients/customers/stakeholders.” – JC Scott, Chief Advocacy Officer, Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed)

“Data capture and how to use data for both qualitative and quantitative program evaluation. Advocacy is the first step, but knowing how to report on your work is critical.” – Sloane Davidson, Founder & CEO, Hello Neighbor

meghan

“I’m a big believer in translating our work into tangible metrics that drive results. The most valuable training I’ve received builds on that skill and teaches you how to talk about advocacy successes in concrete ways that impact an organization’s mission and bottom line.” – Meghan DiMuzio, VP, Forbes Tate Partners

“Engaging grassroots and developing local strategies is one of the most important elements of advocacy efforts, and often one of the hardest skills to come by. People in and around DC are well-versed in talking to Beltway reporters and sending a message up to the Hill, but too many people fail to take a step back and get a real pulse of what is happening in the communities you are ultimately influencing.”  – Noelle Clemente, VP, S-3 Public Affairs

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Davon Gray (1)“… the ability to influence…it is critical. Second, I would say learning how to take advantage of meeting opportunities. All of us in the advocacy world only get to meet our members at fly-ins, annual meetings, committee meetings, etc. This means when we get together, maximizing a meeting is always critical. Last, I would say learning social media and how best to use it as an advocacy communications tool.” – Davon Gray, Manager of Political Programs, College of American Pathologists

“Create the most impactful advocacy training ever by designing one for the apathetic … if you want impact, design your training as if you were addressing a room of individuals who either believe they do not have a voice with their government, or do not understand why you would even contact an elected official…” – Heidi Ann Ecker, Director of Government Affairs and Grassroots Programs, National Association of Chain Drug Stores

“How to demonstrate and communicate the value of government relations work.” – Amy Showalter, Owner, The Showalter Group, Inc.

“Trained advocates present comprehensive stories in brevity complete with data, personal anecdotes and action items.  Further, they are trained to answer questions and know when to respond with, ‘I will follow-up with the answer.” – Michelle Sara King, President & CEO of King Consults

“I think right now grassroots work is more important than ever. We’ve seen a vast mobilization since the election. People are speaking up more at town halls, writing letters to the editor of their local paper and even organizing protests.  It’s important to train advocates how to lobby, and train lobbyists here in DC on how to utilize that energy.” – Lisa Gilbert, VP of Legislative Affairs, Public Citizen

“As a lawyer, I’ve missed out on training as an organizer. I’m always looking out for opportunities to better understand social change theory and organizing strategy to better understand how I can more effectively be an advocate. With apologies for the sports metaphor, advocacy is a team sport – so the more effective I am at bringing people onto my team, the more successful I will be.” – Neil Thapar, Food and Farm Attorney, Sustainable Economies Law Center

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