Roots of Success Newsletter
Top Tips

Amy’s New Blog on “Politicking the Bottom Line”

Just when you thought it was safe, has engaged me to blog on my insights on business engagement in politics and the legislative process, influence tactics and public policy, money and politics, and anything else in that space that strikes me as interesting. My first post focused on why being “small” works in Washington: (

My second post discusses Scotts Miracle-Gro's Super PAC Donation: (


Research Review

Communicating with Congressional Staff – What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why

Part Two

I was happy to see some solid research conducted via a partnership between Original U.S. Congress Handbook, David Rehr of The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, and ORI. The research sought to find out how Congressional staff prefer to receive information.

In our last Roots of Success, I promised to comment further on how we can apply the report’s findings to our influence opportunities.

Staff Trusts the Experts and Each Other

What are the top four places Hill staff look to learn about public policy? Top responses included the Congressional Research Service, academic experts, the Congressional Budget Office, and other Capitol Hill staffers. Least used are social media, Wikipedia, blogs, and polls and surveys. I’ve taught my clients that academics are highly trustworthy, and that they need to get them on board to support their message, so it was gratifying to see this result.

The big take away here is that they are going to trusted sources, trust that is engendered through expertise (CBO and the CRS) or through similarity and relationship factors (other Capitol Hill staffers). They know that your social media sites and blogs are biased. Ditto for your internally-generated surveys and polls.

Think about that. . . .they are more comfortable with someone similar to them, someone they ostensibly trust, than the sacred social media sites. Again, where are you putting your time and energy emphasis?

I read recently in USA Today that of the Inc. 500’s fastest growing companies, only 37% blog on a regular basis. Remember when blogs were all the rage?

Abundant Tactics Are Diluted Tactics

When asked “What is least effective when trying to educate/influence Congress?” The responses were, in order:

  1. Ads in Capitol Hill publications
  2. Sending daily issue e-mails/newsletters
  3. Organizing e-mail/postcard/call campaigns
  4. Conducting opinion surveys or polls
  5. Bringing in a former Member of Congress

I found the “Bringing in a former Member of Congress” response intriguing. I suspect that many organizations believe that having a former Member of Congress on their team obviates the need to win over and motivate the grassroots to carry their message.

Further, former Members of Congress are not as compelling as the “regular” constituent, the “ordinary” person telling their story. They are not a compelling underdog. ( Further, I am certain that many former members “talk down” to a staffer. That isn’t a way to create peer-to-peer communications, is it?

I’ve repeatedly said that when it comes to grassroots tactics, “abundance dilutes impact.” The ubiquitous Capitol Hill ads are an example of Sisyphean tactics that should be jettisoned in favor of what works, but I guess organizations still enjoy seeing their message in print (and it never hurts to let your opponents know you care enough to spend the money).

Are You a Strategist or a Planner?

The bottom line: Are you trying to strategically improve your communications or are you planning your communications? Strategy is looking at where you want to be and making sure all tactics lead you to that strategic goal. Planning is simply taking what you’ve got and using those tactics, hoping you’ll see an improvement in your results. Planning embodies the “If all you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail” methodology. Which approach would you rather be known for?

What's New


Mark your Calendar for the I2M Institute, Dec 4-6, 2012

The Innovate to Motivate Institute will be held December 4 -6 , 2012 at the beautiful Charleston Place Hotel in the heart of Charleston, South Carolina's Historic District.

The agenda and online registration will be available September 25 at

The I2M Institute is led this year by a trio of veteran government relations professionals:

Jenny Boese, VP of External Relations & Member Advocacy, Wisconsin Hospital Association

Leann Fox, Director of Washington Advocacy and Communications, American Association of Osteopaths

Kari Lantos, Manager of Grassroots Outreach, NAFSA: Association of International Educators

Attendance at the Institute is invitation only – If you are reading this, you are invited, and as one of our readers, if you invite anyone or forward the I2M Institute announcements to them, consider them invited. Our goal is to keep the majority of the I2M audience comprised of senior level government relations professionals and their friends.

The I2M Advisory Committee met in June and these are just a few of the topics we'll be covering out of our 27 workstorms!

I2M Innovation Salon – Our opening reception will include roundtables (with beverages and refreshments for a fun learning atmosphere) organized by topic. You’ll have the opportunity to participate in several roundtables and met your colleagues before the formal start of the conference.

Persuasive Presentation Skills – We're ratcheting this up from last year's workstorm! Participants will be videotaped and will receive real-time video critique from peers and yours truly.

PAC Disbursement Strategy – PAC board members are increasingly expressing concern and even outright disdain for PAC disbursement decisions. How do you keep everyone happy? Should you even try?

Social Media Metrics – Just because you're doing it, doesn't mean it's working. How to know what to measure and why.

Grassroots By the Numbers – The numbers don't lie. . . what kind of data should you be analyzing and what can you learn from it to improve your political involvement programs?

Generational Persuasion Strategies – Are there differences in how the generations are persuaded, or just differences in the outreach medium? Dr. Brad Sagarin will share the latest research on this vital topic.

Raising Your Relationship Intelligence Quotient – Researchers know that the most successful people in any profession have an extremely high ability to develop winning relationships. Find out how to authentically engage others for mutual benefit.

Internal Social Media Policies – How to create a social media engagement policy that provides autonomy and originality from staff and volunteers, yet protects you from embarrassing online moments.

Innovate to Motivate Town Hall - PAC Cynicism and Issue Fatigue Are Top Concerns

In June, we held our annual Washington, DC, Innovate to Motivate Grassroots and PAC Town Halls.

Because of my obsessive focus on results, I wanted to get a sense of how many new ideas people received from the Town Halls. The average? Seven, although one person did say that he got 27, that's right, 27 new ideas!

On a scale of 1 = poor, 7 = excellent, the Town Halls received a 6.5 rating thanks to the rigorous discussion and participant input. We also thank Brett Kappel at Arent Fox ( for hosting us, and his up to the minute update on the FEC's guidelines on PAC contributions via text messaging.

What was the most common concern? On the PAC side, there was much discussion on how to overcome even more cynicism about PAC's and politics, as well as how to engage new employees in the PAC. On the grassroots influence side, we hashed over the subject of issue fatigue. Read my take on the topic here in "Training for the Legislative Marathon."



Amy in the News asks Amy to Blog on
    Business and Politics
Research Review
   -Communicating with
    Congressional Staff
News From Innovate to Motivate
   -I2M Institute
Recent Blog & Twitter Posts


Recent Underdog Edge Tweets:

The influence principle of similarity never ends: How CEOs Make Friends, Get Influenced - Overheard - WSJ  via @WSJ

Check out my Forbes post: Big Business Does Best In Washington When It Plays The Underdog - 

Big Business Does Best In Washington When It Plays The Underdog -