What's the great idea? Host a reception—with an unusual attraction—for congressional staffers to acquaint them with your association's work.
Who's doing it? Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI)
What's involved? After its inaugural lobby day in early August, AHRI hosted a congressional reception in the Rayburn House Office Building lobby where AHRI members and staff educated congressional aides about the impact of the heating and cooling industry on jobs in America. A map of the United States showcased the thousands of jobs within the industry broken down by state. But the main attraction was a one-of-a-kind cake made by Carlo's Bake Shop, featured on the TLC TV show Cake Boss, highlighting products that AHRI members' companies manufacture.
"The lobby day was a way for us to show the industry's broad reach as far as our footprint in almost every state and certainly in over 180 congressional districts," says Guido Zucconi, AHRI's director of congressional affairs. "People don't really think about their air conditioner or water heater until it breaks."
Zucconi says staff brainstormed several ways to attract attendees to the reception, from a Washington Redskins player to a miniature ice rink onsite. Ultimately they chose cake, which Zucconi says was the craziest idea they had come up with. "A lot of people were really skeptical. Who thinks of a cake as an attraction?" he says. "But the more we watched the show and looked at their website, the more we said, 'You know what, this could be really cool, and we could really push the envelope of what a cake looks like."
The cake scene featured residential and industrial buildings with items made of Rice Krispies Treats such as a pool heater, outside condensers, water heaters, and even a deli counter in the cafe of the industrial building. From design to delivery, the 250-pound, yellow-cake-with-chocolate-icing creation took two months to make.
What are people saying? Zucconi says the cake was a big draw to the reception and that attendees were surprised to learn about the job opportunities within the industry. And though AHRI members initially had doubts about the cake, "once they saw it implemented they were really impressed with the turnout," he says. "Certainly our association, and even our industry, had never done a reception of this kind. Everybody got a chance to shake hands and meet staff they otherwise wouldn't have had a chance to meet."