One of the most effective ways to educate elected officials and successfully advocate on behalf of the industry is by having elected officials visit your business locations. Through the help of NAMA members, this has already become a successful part of the industry’s grassroots advocacy program.
Visits to NAMA member businesses is important because it allows elected officials to meet constituents and job-creators while obtaining a hands-on view of the industry by briefly immersing themselves into the day-to-day operations. Elected officials vote and educate themselves on many issues, making it difficult for them to become an expert in areas outside of their educational and employment backgrounds. These visits assist them in filling this educational need as it relates to the vending and refreshment services industry.
Before the visit
To ensure a successful elected official visit the details must be carefully planned from beginning to end. Industry leaders should begin this process by visiting their elected officials in the official’s office. This provides the opportunity for everyone to become acquainted and the invitation to be made. Before or during these meetings, it is recommended that position papers on important industry issues be provided to the elected officials to allow them to focus and educate themselves on industry priorities.
Many other details are important to ensure a successful visit, including confirming directions and creating an agenda. To protect everyone involved, ethics rules and laws should always be checked prior to the visit. For example, the federal ethics rules are very restrictive on anything of value being given to elected officials. This could include the banning of simple gifts such as coffee mugs or pens with your company logo. Lastly, contact information should be exchanged and a professional photographer should be secured to help produce great photos that can be used in media following the visit.
During the event
On the day of the visit, it is important that the person who invited the elected official greet them. The photographer should be waiting outside to obtain photos of the greeting and should refrain from taking photos in hair nets or other potentially awkward visuals.
The structure of the visit should begin with a short meeting, less than thirty minutes, where the elected official is briefed on the business overview, its history, the number of employees and community involvement. Also, special effort should be made to introduce the elected officials to employees. This is important to employee morale and allows the elected official to meet constituents.
After the event
Immediately following the visit, work should begin with NAMA to write and distribute a press release and social media on the visit. The professional photos will be used for these media opportunities. It is also important to send hand-written and email thank you notes as soon as possible. This will help them to remember you and the industry. The final follow-up item is to consider attending other events hosted by the elected official. This continues to build the personal relationship. The events may include town halls, business roundtables and other elected official events.
NAMA is appreciative of the industry’s adoption of this advocacy tool and looks forward to helping to expand the number of elected officials visits.