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Thursday, September 22, 2016

 11:44 AM 

Wendy Riemann column: Advantageous Advocacy: Getting your goat: Meeting pet peeves

Nails on the chalkboard. Cracking knuckles. Constant pen clicking. Each of these noises can highly annoy someone – even on a good day.

Advocates can also give their meeting hosts that same highly annoyed feeling – not through noises – but by making some common meeting mistakes – mistakes advocates often don’t know they are making. Staff may not directly indicate their pet peeves, however, they may be rolling their eyes on the inside, subtly looking at their watch, or making a mental note to not take an advocate’s next meeting request – or certainly not schedule it with the boss.

Based on my own experiences, and an informal survey of staff, some common meeting pet peeves include:

Calling the official by his first name. It is great that an advocate donated money, campaigned for the official, went to grade school with him, attends the same church, or has known his buddy for a decade, however, if an advocate is meeting in the official’s office where the official holds a title that he worked hard to earn – an advocate should be respectful and use that title, whether the official is present or not.

Speaking of names, incessant name dropping. Staff get it, advocates want them to think they are important and know everyone, etc., however if name dropping is the method of choice to make that known, no staff person is being wowed. Focus on being prepared, organized and having a worthwhile ask. 

Being on the phone. A staff person or official cannot tell if a person is taking notes, reading the meeting agenda, or watching a video stream of his dog at home. Worse, sometimes they can directly see someone scrolling through Facebook. Avoid this by going old school and using pen and paper to demonstrate the meeting is important, time is valued, and the advocate is actively engaged and listening.

Not leading the meeting. Organize an agenda and have a plan of who speaks on what, and when. Additionally, resolve any conflicting issues or group disagreements before the meeting, not during it. There are few things worse for a staff person than needing to “lead” a meeting on a random topic someone else requested. It does not better help an advocate try to see where the staff person takes the issue, or what he knows, it just annoys staff, uses up valuable time an advocate could be addressing the crux of the matter, and limits the staff in actually asking relevant questions.

Saying “It’s always been done that way.” Treat these words like the plaque. Government is often viewed as slow, archaic, and filled with red tape. Leaders want to be innovative, fresh, and impactful where they can be. As a result, think about how programs can be enhanced and how the ask of a leader could improve something, not just check a standard box.


There are certainly more pet peeves out there. Feel free to email me at Wendy@1492communications.com with other examples for a future column. The good news is that if an advocate is guilty of any of these, it is never too late to become more aware and make positive changes. Staff and officials will be grateful, and it may even help improve an advocate’s meeting outcomes. 

-- Riemann is president of 1492 Communications, a consulting firm. She can be reached at: wendy@1492communications.com.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

 4:44 PM 

White House picks Johnson for United Nations General Assembly spot


The White House announced today U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson has been nominated to represent the U.S. at the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Johnson, who also served as a representative to the 69th General Assembly in 2014, said he appreciated the nomination.

“As chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation, I look forward to the opportunity to discuss global issues with our partners overseas,” the Oshkosh Republican said. “The threats to our national security are real and growing. That is why I will continue to focus my efforts on finding areas of agreement -- for a safer, more secure and prosperous America.”



Monday, September 12, 2016

 10:33 AM 

Pollsters: Feingold has edge in U.S. Senate bid, but presidential race unclear


Wisconsin may not be a top presidential swing state this year, but the race between Ron Johnson and Russ Feingold likely will boost Dems' effort to regain control of the U.S. Senate, two top pollsters told a WisPolitics.com D.C. breakfast. 

Dem pollster Paul Maslin and Republican pollster Gene Ulm agreed while the presidential race is far from decided at a national level, Wisconsin's importance is diminished from past years. 

The Senate race, however, has a favorite. 

"If you were going to Vegas and bet, you would bet on Russ Feingold because of past results" in Wisconsin Senate races during presidential years, Ulm told the audience at the Monocle on Capitol Hill, adding: "He's also the only guy Johnson could beat.''


"Last time, Johnson controlled that race; this time, it's the reverse,'' said Maslin, noting most poll results have been in a consistent range, leading him to expect a final margin similar to Tammy Baldwin's 5 percentage-point victory over Tommy Thompson in 2012. 

But a Feingold victory in Wisconsin wouldn't necessarily hand the Senate to Dems because of a tighter presidential race, the two pollsters said. 

Ulm, who is with Public Opinion Strategies, and Maslin, who is with FM3 Research, rated the chance of Democrats controlling the Senate at 50-50. 

They also expressed a lot of caution about the outcome of the presidential race. 

Maslin called the race "very volatile,'' speculating Donald Trump was attempting to drag down Hillary Clinton so it becomes a race where the winner's share of the popular vote may be in the the low 40s. 

Ulm called the outcome "completely unpredictable,'' saying as much as 20 percent of the electorate was up for grabs. "This race really starts on the 26th of this month,'' he said, alluding to the first debate between Trump and Clinton. 

Ulm said the influence of the Libertarian and Green party candidates would fade quickly to some 3 percent because Gary Johnson and Jill Stein won't be part of the debates. 

Maslin speculated the minor parties could garner as much as 8 percent of the vote because Trump and Clinton are turning off so many people, particularly younger voters. "The average person dislikes both right now,'' he said. "That's a truly unique situation.'' 



Thursday, September 8, 2016

 7:47 AM 

Wendy Riemann column: Advantageous Advocacy: Oh, September!

Congress does two things well, nothing and overreact … or so it has been said.  Between summer recess and the need to fund the government before the start of the new fiscal year on October 1, August and September are prime examples of this half-joking statement.

Earlier this week, Congress returned to session after its seven-week summer recess.  The main tasks before it are to keep the government open (i.e. funded), and pass some type of Zika funding.  The next few September weeks will likely entail some drama and plenty of ever-changing predictions as to when and how these tasks will be completed – and at what cost in financial and political capital.  The sooner all that concludes, the sooner members can return home to campaign. 

Needless to say, officials in Washington are polarized, unpopular and nervous about the November election.

Their minds are on the tasks right before them, possibly doing some posturing for a media hit, and little else.  They want to get home as quickly as possible to protect their jobs.  Now, before we are too quick to judge, how laser-focused would our minds be if our jobs were on the line – especially if we still had personal goals we wanted to achieve in those jobs!?

Since their minds are more preoccupied than usual, advocates using these weeks of session to make their case should be as message-focused, time-efficient and district-specific as ever. 

Advocates should also understand that they may not receive a response before November or be told to check-in after the election, or even in the new Congress.  Some issues a member may want to get off his plate as quickly as possible, while others will not be triaged to the top of the pile.

Furthermore, as tempting as it may be to bring up the election, remember that in an official meeting, the political side of matters should not be discussed.  This cycle, with everything even more topsy-turvy than usual, that may even be for the best!


If confronted with a political discussion, it may be wise to play it safe and go with “it sure is an interesting election,” or one of my favorite topic changes, “at least we can all back the Pack, right!?”

-- Riemann is president of 1492 Communications, a consulting firm. She can be reached at: wendy@1492communications.com.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

 11:29 AM 

Wendy Riemann column: Advantageous Advocacy: How do you August?

Some staff in Washington, D.C. live for August recess (or the “August work period” as others call it).  No joke.  Members return to their states and districts for the month, votes are put off until September, and the entire city slows down – partially from the extreme heat, but mostly from a break in the action.

Staff often find themselves taking a much-needed and well-earned vacation. However, although the voting comes to a halt, the work does not.  Ergo, advocacy efforts should not halt either.

Is a group using the August recess to advance its cause?  How can a group make good use of the downtime?

Visit with staff.  Even though some people are traveling some of the time, the offices are still open. Take the time to catch-up with staff members and introduce yourself to new staff.  August is far more casual and laid back in Washington, which means staff may be able to have a more natural conversation, instead of rushing through the issues.  Plus, since it is a more casual work period, the dress attire can be a little more casual too, i.e. men can likely forgo the ties.  If a group will not physically be in D.C. in August, leave a voicemail or send an email with an update the staff member may be interested in.

Catch-up on legislation.  There is a break in the flow right now when legislation is not moving.  It is a perfect time to review important pieces of legislation to see where they stand, what is needed, and potential outcomes for later in the year.

Check-in with industry colleagues and association partners.  These folks are also enjoying the August recess and catching-up on items that might have fallen by the wayside during session.  Ask what they are working on.  Start a conversation.  If an advocacy group is not a part of a relevant trade association, now might be a good time to investigate those associations, reach out, and even see if the group might benefit from a membership or partnership.

Pay attention to the district.  The member is often back in the district for the August work period.  If she is holding an event or town hall, attend it and greet the official and her staff either before or after.  The relevant D.C. staff person may also return to the district during August for a few days – find out and offer to meet with him there or offer to take him on a company tour.

Congress returns to session after Labor Day, which means there is still some time to take advantage of the slower pace to enhance relationships and catch-up.  If this August flies by, make a note in the calendar for next June to start thinking about the August plan.  Or, create an actual August folder on your desk and computer to store interesting articles or ideas throughout the year.  This way, when time permits in August, those materials worth exploring more in-depth are easily accessible.

In the end, every month is a good month to advocate.

-- Riemann is president of 1492 Communications, a consulting firm. She can be reached at: wendy@1492communications.com.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

 10:50 AM 

Wendy Riemann column: Advantageous Advocacy: He’s just not that into you

I will call you!

Sure he will.  Sometimes advocacy is just like dating.  Sometimes a person needs to tune into when she is being politely rejected.

It is not you, it is me.

Much like a guy who fears intimacy, this is also often true in advocacy.  It really is not personal; it is perhaps just a poor connection or bad timing.

The last Advantageous Advocacy column discussed the importance of listening and using two ears and one mouth in proportion.  There is even more credence to really listening to what is NOT being said.

How often do people like giving “bad” news?  Based on the statistics of people who no longer properly RSVP to an event, some people do not like to say no, offer rejection, or take a pass – ever – for fear of being the bad guy or disappointing someone (writer note: many hosts just want the courtesy of a reply for a proper food headcount).

Logic would then tell us that if a person’s job is dependent on our vote, he may not always provide an outright no.  He may play hard to get or string us along… give us hope when he has little or no intention of committing.  It is the reality of the beast.  If we are listening to what he is saying and paying attention to how he says it, advocates can gain the best comprehension (or in party terms, he did not RSVP, so he is probably not coming).

Perhaps there is not money in the budget.  Perhaps an opponent has taken up the cause more passionately.  Perhaps the official is just not interested in the topic.  Or, perhaps the office needs more education on the cause over time.  There are a plethora of reasons why an office may not jump on an issue, regardless of an advocate’s credentials, passion, finances, or anything else.

In many cases, staff will likely leave the door cracked.  They do this by saying they will keep it in mind, or suggesting now is not a good time, but perhaps in the future.  This is a necessary step because first, the advocate is a voter, and second, in politics, we just do not know, so we never say never (until we say never).

BUT, the congressman/governor/official said that they were really interested in this cause and said to speak to his staff about it...

This happens.  How else was he supposed to politely end the brief conversation?  They are interested to some extent.  Keep in mind, the elected official almost always plays the good cop in expressing support, interest, or enthusiasm.  Staff become the bad cop in dealing with realities, logistics, and other details.

There simply may not be a reason why the official is not taking up the cause at the moment.  However, pestering the staff, sneaking into other meetings to bring up the issue, or not giving up after a few fruitless tries – while tenacious – is not helping the cause in the long run.  Sometimes a person just needs to tune into the writing on the wall and realize, he’s just not that into you.

An advocate may need to wait until a different opening presents itself, the budget is over, a new official is elected, or some other game-changing happening that offers better timing and circumstances.

I have written it often: advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint.  While it can be frustrating when a person is excited and ready to go, sometimes patiently waiting it out is the only option to not damage staff relationships or harm the cause.  It may even turn out to be for the best in the grand scheme of life.

It does not always make sense.  In fact, politics, like dating, often does not make sense. Ultimately, it is the story of the great blue whale.  He is the biggest creature on earth, but has a throat smaller than a foot in diameter.  Why?  Because that is just the way it is.

-- Riemann is president of 1492 Communications, a consulting firm. She can be reached at: wendy@1492communications.com.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

 3:39 PM 

Ryan Rundown: In break from Trump, Pence endorses Ryan

In today's Ryan Rundown: In a break from GOP nominee Donald Trump, GOP veep candidate Mike Pence endorses U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan for re-election, and Ryan calls for an explanation over the Obama administration making a $400 million payment to Iran.

News/Features

- Mike Pence 'strongly' endorses Paul Ryan, as Trump refuses to do the same
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/08/03/mike-pence-strongly-endorses-paul-ryan-as-trump-refuses-to-do-the-same/

- Pence, Trump diverge on Ryan support
http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/03/politics/paul-ryan-paul-nehlen-donald-trump/

- Mike Pence Splits With Donald Trump on Paul Ryan Endorsement
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/04/us/politics/donald-trump-gop.html?_r=0

- Ryan demands explanation for $400 million payment to Iran
http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/ryan-demands-explanation-for-400-million-payment-to-iran/article/2598503?custom_click=rss

- GOP leaders blast Obama over Iran payment
http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/290260-gop-leaders-blast-obama-administration-over-iran-payment

Opinion/Analysis

- Ross Douthat: Paul Ryan's Long Hot Summer
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/03/opinion/campaign-stops/paul-ryans-long-hot-summer.html

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