Building a good, working relationship takes time. You have to get to know each another — become familiar with how someone spends their time, what’s important to them and how they think about things. It’s no different when building relationships with public officials.
Some relationships are good from the very start. You sense you have a lot in common or share the same viewpoint. Other relationships are forged across different viewpoints and lived experiences. Those can often be the most transformational and rewarding. Sometimes, you have to have a relationship with someone, whether or not you want to, and not being in communication doesn’t mean the relationship doesn’t exist.
No matter what, no one likes a relationship that only gets attention when there is a problem, or an ask. The best relationships are on-going, through good times and bad. They are built on mutual respect, listening to understand, and the willingness to see an issue from another’s point of view.
Public officials are chosen to speak on behalf of the constituents they represent. It’s hard to do that without a real sense of issues, challenges and opportunities facing those they serve. They rely on constituents to help them understand the factors that should and do impact their work as lawmakers.
The best way to tell them is to show them.
That’s why we’ve created the “Day in the Life” toolkit exclusively for members. The toolkit, available through the Member Portal, provides guidance on hosting public officials at your business. It offers tips and examples for tailoring your own meeting or event.
Spending time in your business helps personalize the issues to them, which will likely mean they’ll act more favorably toward your issues when you need it. And, they are likely to come to see you as a resource they can turn to when they have questions about an issue. You’ll become one of the people they listen to as they are considering decisions. Think of it as a hospitality plan for advocacy. A warm and positive experience will be remembered when it counts.
The best time to host public officials at your place of business is when they are not in session. While that may fall during your busiest times, carving out 30 minutes to an hour to give them an inside look will go a long way toward helping them understand what it’s like to run your business. If you’re a seasonal business, bringing them back again when things are quiet will help them understand the cyclical nature of your business. It’ll also give you more time for conversation and sharing ideas.
Building community connections is good for your business.
Businesses with strong relationships across their community do better. People know them and want them to be successful. They are seen as welcoming places that hold space for conversations that can lead to understanding, agreement and cooperation of all kinds. People, including public officials, come to see them as places they feel connected to and proud of in their community. Reaching out, in hospitality, to invite public officials to experience ‘a day in the life’ of your business is a great way to build and strengthen those connections.
We’re here to help.
Beyond the toolkit, we are here as a resource to help you plan and execute your “Day in the Life” meeting or event. We can help you think about other actions you can take to continue building a good, working relationship with your representatives at the local, state and federal levels.
For more information, contact Ben Wogsland
Access the Toolkit on the Member Portal
Photo credit: Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash