Did you know that people increasingly use the Internet, even more so than radio? Or that e-mail is an effective communication tool but recipients don’t like flooded in-boxes?
Yes! It’s true and I learned it all at a $225-a-ticket briefing called “Innovative Advocacy: New Strategies for Effective Advocacy” sponsored by the United States Chamber of Commerce and the Adfero Group, a D.C. public affairs firm. I was hoping to get an inside look at the secret handshakes of the Washington rainmakers and influencers but it was not to be. Mostly the hill staffers and lobbyists who spoke debated things like whether or not e-mail is the “only way to communicate.” It turns out no, it is not.
There were a few interesting nuggets: One powerpoint slide showed results from a poll in which Congressional staffers ranked the information sources they use for research. The Congressional Research Service, which is only starting to become open to the general public, finished first followed by Capitol Hill rags (like The Hill and Roll Call). “Political blogs,” meanwhile, finished 15 out of 15 behind “Unsolicited policy materials from advocacy organizations” and “Other types of blogs.”
“Everybody says we ought to start using the blogosphere” said Eric Hultman, chief of staff for Nebraska GOP Representative Lee Terry. “Eh, I’m not so sure.”
Staffers and lobbyists also shared their concerns, or lack thereof, about new lobbying and ethics reform. A concerned member of the powerful D.C. law firm, Hogan & Hartson, asked about inviting staffers to a reception, with new rules preventing staffers from accepting meals from lobbyists.
“I had a staff member confused by the new ethics rules,” recalled Hultman. “He said there was Makers Mark, Grey Goose, shrimp and filet mignon. I asked, ‘Did you use a fork?’ He said no and so I said, ‘Enjoy!'”
The most valuable part of the briefing, however, for this marginalized politcal blogger was an inspiring look at Capitol Hill movers-and-shakers. A slide entitled a “World of Info and Media” gave sage tips like when eating dinner with friends to “check Blackberry twice” and “Multitask on morning commute: listen to podcast of Washington Week while flipping through Washington Post, watch 5-minute video podcast of ABC News Top Headlines, check Blackberry 6 times.”
So maybe the secret to Washington advocacy is to never have time to consider life outside of Washington.