Prepare Your Members for Fly-In Success

Fly-In April 1, 2019 By: Liz Novak, CAE

Help your members make the most of your association’s advocacy day with individualized information sheets, webinar prep, and meeting support.

Fly-ins can be intimidating for first-time attendees. By agreeing to participate, they’ve shown their commitment to helping your association achieve its advocacy goals, but as first-timers they will need help to prepare well and feel confident in their meetings with lawmakers.

Through trial and error, the International Association of Plastics Distribution has developed an approach that helps our members have productive meetings with legislators and equips them with the right information to leave behind.

Before our first fly-in, the public policy team at IAPD worked with our government relations consultant to develop a one-page information sheet for participants to leave with legislators and their staff. This collateral serves several purposes: It shows the economic impact our association member is making in the lawmaker’s district. It provides contact information for the association member. Finally, it includes our association’s branding, so when multiple members from the same district meet with their congressperson, it shows our strength in numbers.

A Closer Look

The IAPD collateral piece is customized for the member who will be presenting it. The piece includes a map showing the location of the member’s business, an image of the member’s state, and the member’s company logo and address. The location information is prominent at the top of the page to reinforce the message that this company is in the lawmaker’s district, creating jobs and contributing to the economy. The rest of the information on the page ensures that the legislator can, at a glance, learn about the company’s history, employment base, business scope, contact information for management, and any additional information the member would like to include.

Our members often have an excellent recycling and sustainability story to tell, so we encourage them to include descriptions of their green initiatives in the “Additional Information” section. Some of our members are second- or third-generation owners of a family business. We encourage them to provide a brief history of their company, from its origins to how it has expanded.

Finally, contact information for the member company, IAPD, and our government relations consultant appears at the bottom of the page.

Creating the Collateral

Before each fly-in, IAPD staff creates this one-page piece for any company that hasn’t yet participated in a fly-in. Staff pull some information from the membership database, such as how long the participant has been a member, the number of locations they have, and key people in management. Additional information, such as the business scope, is usually available on the company’s website.

Our staff team creates this page in Adobe InDesign and sends a PDF proof to the fly-in participant for review. If a company previously participated in a fly-in and we have an existing information sheet, staff updates it and sends it to the participant to ensure the information is current.

Additional Prep

This collateral is just one component of our fly-in prep. Staff prepares packets ahead of time with information about the industry our association represents, the most common vertical markets our members serve, and the customized member information sheet. Members are encouraged to include their own company collateral in these packets as well.

IAPD offers a webinar the week before the fly-in to help participants prepare. The webinar includes practical information about the day: a map of Capitol Hill, the numbering system for the various office buildings, the best way to get from the House side to the Senate side (and vice versa), the security system at the buildings, and who to call if meetings go long.

The webinar also explains what members can expect during their meetings with lawmakers. For example, congressional staffers tend to be very young and very bright, and they are the subject matter experts that their legislators rely on.

Finally, the webinar covers the association’s legislative priorities and talking points for the day, including “the ask” (what we want our members to ask their congressperson to do). Our members are encouraged to invite their legislator to visit their facilities when back in the district. We also remind them to take a photo at each meeting, post it to Twitter, tag their lawmaker, and send thank-you messages after the meetings.

Fly-in day begins with a breakfast briefing for members, in which we distribute the collateral packets, review the webinar content, and the discuss the talking points. We allow plenty of time for questions and answers. First-time fly-in attendees are paired with staff or more experienced members to ensure that they have extra support during their meetings.

Fly-ins are exciting but can be intimidating for first-time attendees. This preparation helps our members have the best possible experience during their first fly-in and, hopefully, sparks additional interest in our government relations program.

Liz Novak, CAE

Liz Novak, MBA, CAE, is deputy executive director and director of advocacy and publications at International Association of Plastics Distribution in Overland Park, Kansas, and a member of ASAE’s Government Relations and Advocacy Professionals Advisory Council.