Archive for September, 2015

The Dos and Don’ts for Advocacy Meetings on Capitol Hill

September 30, 2015


capitol hill

I just finished an exhausting, but incredibly productive, day on Capitol Hill this week with a novice but passionate group of professionals affiliated with a leading nonprofit health care organization.

They were executing their inaugural “Day on Capitol Hill,” and they hired me to set up meetings, plan a bipartisan briefing over lunch with a senator an
d prepare their “constituent advocates” to be comfortable with the messages and logistics of House and Senate protocol.

The client asked me to put together a list of the best practices in advocacy and to present it to the 62 staff and volunteers who agreed to spend the day lobbying for a worthy cause. I had given this same presentation many times over the years, and the timeless dos and don’ts are essential for both advocacy veterans and beginners.


  • Bring business cards — they are the currency of Capitol Hill.
  • Be on time. We all love to talk and you need to observe the five-minute rule of being early or late.
  • Accept that there can be changes in who we meet with; surprises are a given!
  • Be prepared for the member of Congress to walk by and join the meeting. I cannot tell you how many times clients have been on their phone or reading, and the representative or senator has scooted by them (a missed opportunity).
  • Have a chief spokesman who leads and guides each meeting.
  • Have three key messages in your presentation. Let experts or those who know the most tell each story.
  • Tell the most important things first, and emphasize the call to action or “ask.”
  • Offer short, impactful stories and anecdotes to make your points that back up each key message.
  • Gently ask if the senator or representative is likely to help with the “ask.”
  • Know the answer is usually “yes,” but it matters greatly what level of “yes” you are able to secure in each meeting.
  • Take pictures in a respectful way. It is appropriate to ask permission first — most offices like tweets or Facebook posts about their responsiveness.
  • Complete an evaluation after every meeting so your organization can gauge the effectiveness of our visits and follow up appropriately.
  • Last, but not least, wear comfortable shoes (and your FitBit) as there is a great deal of walking between meetings.


  • Make assumptions about who does what in a congressional office. I have seen clients brush off the chief of staff and spend far too much time with the staff assistant.
  • Leave the sound on your iPhone on, or use it during a meeting.
  • Let the noise and hustle bustle in the smaller congressional offices distract you.
  • Interrupt a member of Congress or staff person, let alone someone in your group.
  • Rustle your papers and read from your notes verbatim.
  • Answer questions that you do not know the answer to. It is OK to say, “I will research that and get back to you.”
  • Look at the clock on the wall or your wristwatch, as if you are bored.

My group exceeded all expectations, and I appreciated that they listened and learned from a former Capitol Hill aide who still remembers how I liked to be treated when constituents or advocates visited.

While most of my work is at the federal level in Congress, these tips are applicable in state capitals as well.

Those of us who represent clients seeking government action know “constituents come first,” and their active engagement during in-person meetings and other communications is the most effective way to convey our point of view. That is why we need to help them understand the proper rules of engagement.


mikeGuest blogger Michael Fulton is director of public affairs and advocacy for the Asher Agency in Washington, D.C. He teaches public affairs in the WVU Reed College of Media’s Integrated Marketing Communications program. Email:

Brand Equity

September 24, 2015


I’m excited to say that I’ve just finished my third class in the IMC program—IMC 613 Brand Equity Management. Time is flying quickly, and I have learned a lot so far!


The final project for IMC 613 was a brand audit.  A brand audit examines a specific brand’s strengths and weakness and its position within the marketplace. To conduct a brand audit, you need to study how the business manages and positions the brand portfolio and how consumers’ view that brand. Additionally, you need to examine the competition. By conducting this research and analysis, you can uncover what opportunities exist for the brand and what improvements need to be made.

Through the final project, I learned what a brand audit can help you discover about a brand. These are a few examples of the type of information I uncovered when I conducted a brand audit on a challenger brand:

  1. The disconnects between the company’s view of its brand versus the actual customer perceptions of the brand
  2. Unnecessary product/line extensions
  3. Inconsistencies amongst the brand’s marketing and positioning efforts/programs
  4. A lack of a strong, unifying brand mantra
  5. Sources of the brand’s strengths
  6. The target audience’s actual feelings and thoughts about the brand’s products and the competitor’s products

As you can see, the information gained from conducting a brand audit proves to be extremely useful for a business. If you took the class, do you have any experiences with conducting your brand audit project that you wish to share?

Flex that Creative Muscle—Work out your Imagination!

September 15, 2015


I’m a runner. More often than not, you’ll find me running countless laps around my neighborhood right after work. But, I didn’t always enjoy running. In fact, I used to be very bad at it. Back in high school, I would struggle to complete a mile in less than 15 minutes. However, after many years of conditioning and long runs, I have no problem running 5+ miles! Years of daily, hard aerobic workouts paid off, and now my mile time is around 8 minutes.

I believe it is also equally important to actively “work out” your mind. Depending on the type of mind exercises you do, you can improve your creativity and/or analytical thinking. As members of the marketing field, we need both creative and analytical thinking skill sets. So, why not set aside time to work out our minds so that we can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our creative and analytical thinking?


Specifically, since I am currently in IMC 615 Creative Strategy, I want to focus on how to improve creativity. I wanted to share a few things that I personally do to exercise my mind. These “mind exercises” have helped me to become more creative and imaginative:

  1. Change your mindset. Switch from a “I can’t” way of thinking to a “what if?” mindset. This allows you to see a problem or a certain aspect of life from new and different angles.
  2. Daydream. There is no set way to daydream, but you should practice doing it. Personally when I daydream, I like to think of “what if’s” and turn them into detailed story plots. Therefore, daydreaming allows my mind to get better at creating stories and characters. In fact, storytelling has become very easy for me, because I daydream so much.
  3. Try something new. Break away from your routine. I like to take a Saturday trip once a month to visit a new place or State Park. Doing this opens my mind up to new experiences and new scenery.
  4. Immerse yourself in art—movies, paintings, music, sculptures, dances, theater, and novels. This allows you to see and experience other people’s perspectives and ways of thinking.
  5. Learn about other cultures and try to interact with people from those cultures. Many of us have narrow scopes and perceptions about the world; I know I did before I began traveling the U.S. and the world with the military. In fact, I once traveled to Africa for a month, and that experience opened my eyes to new ways of thinking and creativity. They had completely different lifestyles and artistic styles!

What about you? Do you have any specific “mind exercises” you do to improve your imagination and creativity? Please share!

On the Road Again

September 10, 2015


Traveling for work or pleasure is a great way to get out of the office and explore different areas, but it can also cause some issues when looking to further your education. When I was considering applying to the IMC program, I had several concerns about how the program would mesh with my work schedule. Finding a program that allows you to work, travel, raise a family if you choose to, and have a social life (also optional, haha) can really make a huge difference in your decision. One of the great things about the IMC program is the flexibility offered!

In my current position as an Admissions Counselor, I travel often to recruit students. During the fall, I travel for two weeks straight and attend college recruitment fairs.

As you can see, my travel season starts very soon and is jam packed!


I started the IMC program when I held another position and there were no issues, but once I started my new job I worried about how travel would effect my classes. My experience with traveling while in the IMC program has actually been fairly stress free. I have taken a few trips with friends and a few trips for work and haven’t had any issues with my classes. In my opinion, the best thing is that students are given the syllabus which lays out the entire course, assignments, discussion posts, etc. from day one and allows you to work ahead if need be.

Some tips I have for those of you who travel are:

  • Add your assignment due dates to your work calendar so you have reminders
  • Read and work on posts during your down time (lunch break, waiting at the airport, etc.)
  • Start your work early (procrastination definitely makes things difficult)
  • Be sure to email your professors and let them know you will be traveling
  • Start your day earlier! (I have found that getting up earlier and doing homework or reading before I start my work day has really helped me)

These tips not only help with managing homework, but they can be very beneficial when working on a major project at work too!

What are some tips you all have for getting things done when you have to travel?

(Featured Photo courtesy of Instagram)

Just Ask!

September 2, 2015


We’ve all heard the saying that the only dumb question is the one not asked. While I agree with this in principle, it’s easier said than done at times. You might be afraid of looking silly or unintelligent in front of your peers or professors. If you’re like me, I often feel like if I can’t understand something, then how is someone going to understand me asking about it; especially when I have to relay my question through an email or discussion board post.

When I first started the IMC program, I didn’t feel comfortable asking questions either on the main discussion board or via a private email to the professor. I thought I was supposed to be smart enough to figure things out and I didn’t want to bother anyone. What I have found, however, is that if I’m struggling with something it’s likely that someone else is as well. After a couple classes, I started asking questions and found the information/feedback I received from teachers and my classmates helped me in more ways than just getting the answer I was looking for. It helped because it opened up a different type of discussion with the professor or a fellow classmate. It made me feel more a part of the group and gave me confidence that I wasn’t alone in not always being sure.

Be sure to ask questions in your discussion question responses when you’d really like to know what others in the class are thinking. Not everyone will respond, but the only way to create the opportunity is to ask the question in the first place.

Whether your questions are about the lesson or about something in general that you’d like to know about the program or the business we are all studying, don’t hesitate. That’s what this course of study is all about – learning from each other and the only way to do that is to “just ask!”


“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” ― Voltaire