By Dorothy York, President and CEO of North American Precis Syndicate (NAPS)
Government of the people, by the people and for the people is influencing Congress by reaching three groups of people through thousands of community news outlets:
1. People who send letters to legislators.
2. Hometown political leaders, movers and shakers, to whom Congressmen turn for guidance, support and contributions.
3. Press aides who keep legislators informed about the information gathered about public opinion, from monitoring the media in each election district. There are an average of 23 newspapers per district (10,000+ newspapers divided by 435 seats).
Some of the world’s most highly skilled PR executives are employed by Washington PR offices, and often they speak not just to the public but for the public. If you have the mass media show major groups a possible reward and report that whether it comes through depends on what Congress does, you will generate support at a grassroots level that will help you influence the decision makers.
The objective of issue-oriented PR by the private sector is generally either to a) avert unduly restrictive and burdensome regulation or b) encourage government action in the public interest.
The basic story is like a sandwich. On top, the lead holds out a possible reward such as jobs, prices, safety or economy, or a bundle of rewards. The filling is made up of ways to get the reward, or what Congress or the public must do to make something happen. The bottom of the story is a repeat of the reward, a conclusion that supports an action that will possibly enable the public to get the reward.
If an undecided legislator is inundated with mail or calls from political mentors, or word from the press aide that several of the media outlets in his community have all taken a position in your favor, there is strong motivation to give you the nod, by voting for fairness to the public.
What might at first look like a wonderful idea could be revealed as a menace to the public once you show the peril of the alternative, the dangerous consequences for all concerned. The side that presents the peril of greater magnitude and the more immediate peril tends to win. Create an awareness of how millions of people will benefit if you get what you want. You can state the positive opposite by telling how the public will be protected by the alternative when others are asserting that the risk of the harm is unacceptable.
Affluent, educated people of suburbia, who get their community newspapers delivered to their homes, will rally around your cause, cater special events where Congressmen could meet constituents before elections, and those folks often write to legislators, addressing them by first name! These demand letters get through and are especially persuasive.
Media coverage back in the election districts will help determine how the Congressmen vote. The masters of Washington are servants of the people, and are inclined to do what is wanted to get re-elected. In a close contest, the side that creates more media coverage tends to win. Repurpose your speech, expert testimony, statistical analysis or recent press releases, which can be transformed into a series of feature articles to make the most of what you have, by covering additional media and bringing in additional results on the crucially important story.