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Getting To Know Your Member of Congress

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Description
This training goes over how to research and get to know your member of Congress, as well as what influences their decision-making and public policy support.
Breadcrumb
/topics/working-with-congress
TOC and Guide Section
 
Using “Fresh Eyes” to Learn About New and Returning Members

Using “Fresh Eyes” suggests taking a step back to look for what you may have missed before. As we seek to be aware of our own biases, we try to see what we missed. 

After an election with a new Congress and different party majorities, a returning member may have different priorities and policy objectives. Do not assume you can pick up where you left off last year. Congress will recalibrate depending on final election outcomes.

Freshmen members of Congress are on a huge learning curve and may not have decided where they stand on climate policies (and staff may not know either). They may have limited experience, or have no legislative experience at all. They also may be cautious and undecided on policy objectives. 

Our first priority with a new member is the relationship, a good first impression. Introduce them to CCL and our nonpartisanship and allow that to sink in. Let them talk by encouraging them to articulate their beliefs and listen. Acknowledge and affirm areas where you agree. Try to get a sense of their values and how they make decisions so you can get them to see common ground. Let them ask you about our policy or ask permission to share more details about CCL and details of the policy we support. Open-ended questions and listening will be particularly important. 

Power Mapping to Identify Key Influencers

Build a biography with reliable sources: 

(This is not the bio on CCL Community but your own chapter research on your member.)

Member details: 

  • Personal background/interests
  • Voting record
  • Committee assignments
  • Member donors and endorsers
  • House.gov or Senate.gov sites 
  • Campaign sites and social media
  • District and DC staffers
  • MOC staffers @ LinkedIn
  • Past CCL meeting history

Demographics:

  • Census and Labor Data
  • Racial breakdown
  • Urban/rural split
  • Employment, worker, industry stats
  • Socio-economic, housing, education data
  • Past election margins, base voters, swing voters stats

Helpful Tips: 

  • Committee work is a big part of MOC life - Watch for videos of hearings to get a sense of their thinking and passions (go to Committee site)
  • Sign up for your MOC e- newsletter
  • Become a follower on Facebook or Twitter
  • Media Resources link is on the Liaison Group home page.

Who does your member listen to? 

  • Local or national supporters, community leaders, endorsers, industry leaders, donors.

What does your member care about?

  • Constituent concerns that get attention?
  • What are they proud of?
  • Who do they spend time with?
  • Personal interests?

Power Mapping ...And the power of observation

  • What media do they pay attention to?
  • What topics do they post on social media?
  • What donors and business leaders influence them? 
  • What party leaders do they listen to?
  • Management and social style? 
  • How do they spend their time? 

Be open to “signals” from MOC and staff. Watch, Listen, Learn, Cultivate.

  • Understand your member anew
  • Assess your relationship
  • What steps are needed?
    • Assess  with “SWOT” - Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats
    • Be open to a reboot 
Knowing the Most Useful Information to Share

Initial information for your member

  • Introduction to CCL, Liaison and CCL lobby events
  • CCL is nonpartisan
  • Energy Innovation Act
    • Overview 
    • Details to address concerns
  • Climate Solutions Caucuses, who is on it, who do they know?

Reports and studies  

How and When to Share Information

What are their gaps in knowledge? What is relevant to them?

  • How can you be a valued resource?
  • Bring in trusted messengers and influencers 
  • Share endorsements

Time and Place?  

  • Do they feel heard? Are they ready to hear you?
  • Share ahead of meeting, during meeting or with follow-up? 
  • Offer another meeting to cover unanswered questions
  • Know the limits of what they can hear so they listen when you do share!

What not to share is as important as what to share: 

  • Relevant, succinct information will raise your standing with the office. (irrelevant or lengthy emails may lower it)
  • Stay in the sweet spot. Look for signals that you are bringing them useful information.
Building a Foundation of Trust

The more you connect your case to your MOC’s values, the easier it is for your MOC to commit to action.

Length
Press play to start the video (13m 37s)
Video Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Introduction & Agenda
(0:00)

Using “Fresh Eyes” to Learn About New and Returning Members
(0:54)

Power Mapping to Identify Key Influencers
(4:53)

Knowing the Most Useful Information to Share
(10:01)

How and When to Share Information
(11:48)

Building a Foundation of Trust
(13:08)

Instructor(s)
  • Amy Bennett
Downloads
View or Download the Google Slides.
Category
Training
Topics
Lobbying Congress
Format
Audio / Video
File Type
Google Slides