High-Impact Advocacy: Fly-ins

July 28, 2015
Brian Rose, Senior Associate

Most of our clients instinctively know that in today’s rapid-response world, having a powerful online presence is critical to meeting their advocacy objectives. While that is indeed true, the old axiom “all politics is local” remains more important than ever precisely because electronic media has so inundated policy discussions. We touched on this last month in our discussion of grassroots and local engagement.

By leveraging our clients’ most valuable assets—advocates, employees, consumers, and any broader constituent groups with a common interest—to deliver their message directly to Members of Congress, DDC takes that principle and turns it on its head with fly-ins. These high-impact, large-scale events engage Members of Congress through personal meetings with constituent advocates.

As more companies and trade associations are investing more in advocacy-based efforts for their public policy and legislative solutions, very few approaches are as effective as organizing these high-profile events.  Of all of the ways to communicate with a Member of Congress, studies show that in-person meetings are the most impactful.

Our Approach

Each fly-in is different and tailored to a specific client and issue, but overall, we follow a similar approach to ensure they have the maximum impact.

  • Recruitment. We start by examining our clients’ supporters in specific, targeted Member districts and recruiting their best advocates to travel to Washington, D.C., to meet their legislators face-to-face.
  • Education and training. In D.C., we facilitate a discussion with a high-profile guest speaker; train advocates on the issue as well as best practices for meeting with Members of Congress; and provide them additional collateral, such as fact sheets and leave-behinds, to inform their meetings with legislators.
  • Meetings on the Hill. Advocates then take to Capitol Hill to participate in one-on-one meetings, which DDC schedules prior to their arrival, inundating Members of Congress or high-level staffers with our real stories on how these issues impact their districts and constituents.
  • Post-Meeting Updates. Afterwards, advocates report back to fly-in coordinators to assess where the Member is on a given issue. Such information is invaluable and dictates much of our campaign strategy going forward.

Finding Your Champions through Champion Development

Most recently, we organized a fly-in event for a coalition of 11,000 small-business owners. For this particular event, we facilitated meetings between 50 advocates and nearly 80 Congressional offices. While 80 out of 535 offices seems small, these efforts are highly targeted to specific members based on our clients’ issues, and political and legislative needs.

Contrary to what you may think, getting advocates to drop what they are doing and join these efforts in Washington, D.C. for a few days is no easy task. Typically, fly-in attendees come from our most engaged advocates; folks who have taken action, written their members, or called their Congressional offices on issues before. This process is called champion development: turning a small group of advocates into high-impact champions for your issue. These champions are not only your best advocates and most likely to join you for a fly-in, but can be relied upon for nearly any activation.

Fly-ins are often our biggest asks for advocates, but time and time again, we find that these events not only serve as an incredibly impactful tactic for our clients, but also an incredible opportunity to spotlight your greatest assets.


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