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Connection + Engagement = Influence

From the most junior advocates to Fortune 100 CEOs, there is often a misunderstanding around how to be influential across the policy ecosystem (and what being “influential” actually means). Many mistake job titles (i.e. corporate CEO, non-profit president, etc.) with the ability to be influential. The simple formula regardless of who is advocating is that creating connections and engaging on issues ultimately builds influence.

Know Your Policymakers: In a room of 100 people, only 60 might know who their policymaker is. Even fewer would have any avenue to connect with them. Getting to know your policymaker is the most critical step in helping to impact policy. There are many opportunities to get to know them, but most relevant are to invite them to your facilities in the state or congressional district, meet regularly with their staff, and keep the congressional office (locally and in DC) updated on the issues that are relevant to you. If you do not know your policymaker, you are swimming in a much more crowded pool. 


Engage on Policy: One becomes an effective lawyer by practicing law….one becomes an effective advocate by actually advocating. Engaging on relevant policy issues helps to build influence, especially when you are bringing a unique perspective that connects to a policymaker’s constituents. Someone who drops in for one issue is generally not influential and does not gain the credibility or relationships needed for long-term impact.

But what does this mean from a tactical standpoint? Quite simply, you are failing the influence game if you cannot name your own Member of Congress; you are winning if you have the ability to text your member of Congress – most people fall somewhere in between. Similarly, you are failing if you remain on the sidelines; you are winning if you have a regular presence around an issue space that helps build your credibility – most people fall somewhere in between. 

Having influence in any venue – including the Capitol Hill and the White House – is based on a healthy mix of creating connections and engaging in the policy space relevant to you. So, if you want to impact policy, do not focus on your title - focus on getting to know well-positioned policymakers and maintain some level of consistent engagement.      


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