Following is an event timeline to help you plan, promote and execute a successful congressional visit to your community. This guide will help you make the most of this opportunity for your organization and the people you serve.
Here are some important tips to keep in mind throughout the planning process:
Plan Ahead: Submit your invitation as far in advance as possible. Use email or the member of Congress’ website, not “snail mail.” Be ready to follow up by phone in order to get in direct touch with the scheduler or staff member who handles the lawmaker’s schedule.
If you are asking an elected official to be a part of your program, be prepared that you might not get an immediate commitment. Decide early whether you will accept a surrogate in place of the elected official and how long you can wait to get a commitment. Having a staff member represent the legislator gives you the opportunity to educate a key policy adviser who, in turn, can influence his or her boss.
Before the Visit
Send an Invitation Letter
We recommend sending the letter by email to the legislator’s district scheduler, who handles events in the legislator’s home district, rather than their Washington scheduler, who handles Washington events. Many members of Congress have a form on their website to request meetings. We recommend filling that out and following up with a phone call to the scheduler. You can get the name of the scheduler by calling the legislator’s district office.
Prepare Your Stakeholders
Hold informational meetings with stakeholders to explain the general intent of the visit. Work with them to prepare them to ask the elected official(s) about issues of interest and to share a few remarks during the visit.
Develop a Business/Organizational/Community Fact Sheet
Your organization’s/community’s fact sheet should give an overview of its commitment to the local economy, community development and well-being of constituents.
Coordinate Media Relations
Ask the legislator’s staff if it is OK to include press coverage. It is up to the legislator’s office whether the press should be involved. If media coverage is agreeable with the legislator, prepare a press release that should be shared with the news media prior to the event. Sending the release out ahead of the event is essential – most reporters want to be at the event to see what happens firsthand rather than trying to find out later.
Distribute Schedules to Everyone Involved in the Visit
Once the schedule is finalized, distribute it to all participants and send a copy to the legislator’s scheduler.
During the Visit
Greet the Legislator and Staff Members
Leadership of your business, organization or community should be on hand to greet the legislator and his/her staff when they arrive on site. If the visit includes a tour of your business or community, be sure to include a member of your staff to accompany the legislator and organization leaders.
Tour Your Organization/Community
Your CEO or someone in leadership should lead the tour. This is the best time to show your work in action.
Meet with stakeholders (30-35 minutes)
At the end of the tour, invite the legislator to make a few remarks and answer any questions your stakeholders may have. A conference room is an ideal location.
After the Visit
Send a thank you letter to the lawmaker thanking him for his visit. Use this opportunity to address any follow-up questions or inquiries he/she had during the visit.