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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.


- Mike Pence 'strongly' endorses Paul Ryan, as Trump refuses to do the same

- Pence, Trump diverge on Ryan support

- Mike Pence Splits With Donald Trump on Paul Ryan Endorsement

- Ryan demands explanation for $400 million payment to Iran

- GOP leaders blast Obama over Iran payment


- Ross Douthat: Paul Ryan's Long Hot Summer


Thursday, July 28, 2016

 3:07 PM 

Ryan Rundown: Ryan visits Packers training camp

In today's Ryan Rundown: House Speaker Paul Ryan visits the Green Bay Packers training camp, and a pair of UW-Madison professors opine about Ryan and internships.


- Ryan takes in Green Bay Packers practice

- Ryan visits Packers camp, meets 'favorite player' Rodgers http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/17165053/speaker-house-paul-ryan-visits-green-bay-packers-camp

- Paul Ryan visits Packers training camp


- Russ Castronovo and Lisa Cooper: Paul Ryan, internships, and the need for expanded opportunity http://host.madison.com/ct/opinion/column/russ-castronovo-and-lisa-cooper-paul-ryan-internships-and-the/article_1192d937-ce61-54d5-b211-ea3c128329d9.html

- Philip N. Diehl: Ryan rewrites 50 years of poverty history


 10:17 AM 

Wendy Riemann column: Advantageous Advocacy: Listen up!

It has been said that a person has two ears and one mouth, and should use them in proportion. True in relationships. True at work. True in advocacy.

On occasion, a lobbyist would enter my office and be distracted by her phone throughout the meeting.

My impression was not, “WOW, this woman is an amazing multi-tasker.” I did not find her to be extremely important because of her “busy-ness.” I also did not reason my comments were not welcomed, since she requested the meeting. I DID, however, think that while she may hold good intentions, if she is not fully listening, she is not worth much of my time.

Other days, groups would come into my office and I would ask how a meeting on the Hill went with the member of Congress. They would tell me, “It was great! He is totally on board. He said, ‘I’m so glad you brought this to my attention.’”

I would smile and ask, “Wait, what else did he say? What you just told me is not actually agreement. That’s a polite response to acknowledge your presence.”

Then I would receive dumbfounded stares.

Advocacy must include listening for what is being said, not what a person seeks to hear.

“I’m so glad you brought this to my attention.”

“Thank you so much, I will look into this.”

“This is really helpful information, I’m glad you came in.”

None of these statements convey support, a yes, or agreement to a cause.

It is easy to misinterpret words if we are not completely listening to what is actually being said.

Listening requires being humble enough to focus 100 percent on someone else. It means placing everything else out of mind. It means letting go of preconceived ideas and putting oneself in the speaker’s shoes to best understand that perspective.

Listening entails complete concentration – not just hearing the sounds – but comprehending the words, and noticing the body language and other non-verbal cues. Without listening, it can be difficult to offer a meaningful response or ask thoughtful follow-up questions.

If a person is hearing, but not listening, he is not learning anything new – which means he is not helping his cause. If he already knows everything and does not feel the need to listen, why the meeting? For face time?

Advocates always seek a better rapport and more face time with elected officials and their staffs.

Instead of more meetings, hold more meaningful meetings. Pay attention and make the person feel important by actually listening and engaging in real conversation, and then conducting the follow-up.

For example, if a staff person is asking questions, an advocate can better develop a relationship by listening to what he is looking for and emailing additional information. It could be a courtesy meeting, but an advocate could also be making a great ally by demonstrating he is a team player and will put some skin in the game.

If an elected official responds with, “This is the first I have heard of it,” that may indicate more background information is needed.

If a member of Congress asks, “Who else is on board,” he is likely still on the fence and may need more convincing. All sorts of clues are provided to individuals who are really listening in a meeting to best guide their next advocacy decisions.

Finally, never discount what someone says because of the way it is presented. Some people speak faster, some slower, some have a stutter – listen to their words and notice their body language – it offers more insight.

In conclusion, remember, a person’s mouth is far more likely to get him in trouble than his ears – so listen more.

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

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

 2:49 PM 

Ryan Rundown: Ryan's office says 'devious thug' Putin 'should stay out of this election'

In today's Ryan Rundown: House Speaker Paul Ryan's office issues a sharply worded call for Russian President Vladimir Putin to stay out of the U.S. presidential election after suspicions Russia was behind the DNC email leak, Ryan breaks from Trump on trade during a WisPolitics.com interview, and Ryan and his primary opponent release new TV ads.


- Speaker Ryan to Russia: Stay out of election

- Paul Ryan Spokesman: "Putin Should Stay Out Of This Election"

- In break from Trump, Paul Ryan defends NATO, trade deals

- Ryan downplays Trump in discussion of trade policy

- Kaine's Olive Branch to Ryan Leaves Fellow Democrats Unsettled

- House Speaker Paul Ryan won't be joining Mike Pence at Wisconsin rally

- Ryan releases new ad ahead of August primary

- Paul Ryan challenger rips speaker on immigration in TV ad


Friday, July 22, 2016

 2:46 PM 

Ryan Rundown: After Trump's NATO comments, spokeswoman says Ryan believes U.S. should defend allies

In today's Ryan Rundown: House Speaker Paul Ryan's spokeswoman says the Janesville Republican believes U.S. should defend its NATO allies after GOP nominee Donald Trump suggested military aid would be dependent on NATO members meeting their obligations.


- Paul Ryan Offers Terse Response To Trump's Startling NATO Comments

- Could Paul Ryan Go The Way Of Eric Cantor?


- Greg Sargent: Trump's new NATO comments should put Republicans in an untenable spot

- Liesl Hickey: Paul Ryan's Efforts to Frame an Agenda Amid Republican Discord


Thursday, July 21, 2016

 3:26 PM 

Ryan Rundown: Democrats respond to Ryan's intern selfie

In today's Ryan Rundown: Democrats respond to House Speaker Paul Ryan selfie with a mostly white group of interns, and Ryan discusses the House GOP's welfare reform proposal.


- Democrats to Paul Ryan: Our summer interns are more diverse than yours

- GOP and Dem Intern Class Photos Show Diversity Differences

- House Speaker Paul Ryan On Why He Wants To Customize Welfare Benefits

- Paul Ryan's first 2016 campaign ad focuses on national security

- NRA endorses Paul Ryan for re-election


- Max Ehrenfreund: The truth behind Paul Ryan's claim that poverty is worse under Obama


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