Day on the Hill

This past week at the Hatcher Group, I had the chance to attend and help out with my first congressional briefing on Capitol Hill. Like I mentioned in earlier posts, most of the Hatcher Group’s clients are non-profits that are dedicated to social change by putting pressure on lawmakers to create social policy.

Over the past two months, my co-worker has been putting together this briefing for the Doorways to Dreams Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to expanding financial services for low-income families. They have recently been promoting a new campaign called “Tax Time Savings Bond: Saving is Hard. Bonds Make it Easy.” Basically, they are trying to encourage low-income families to take some of their tax refunds this tax season and put them into a savings bond to help them in the future. Many low-income families do not have the resources to cover a what most of us see as a simple financial setback—like the car needing to be repaired. At the briefing, the speakers shared that a financial setback as little as $2,000 can create a downward spiral for low-income families. Sometimes this can be so detrimental that these families might not be able to get out of this financial hole.

To prepare for the briefing, I had to help do pitch calls to congressional staffers, in particular, the members of the Ways and Means Committee. I had to call these offices and tell them about the idea and hope that they would come to the briefing. Our office also prepared a toolkit for lawmakers so that they can get the message out to their constituents without having to prepare anything. That’s basically what we do—try to make it easier for all of our clients’ messages to get out. If we had to rely on congressional offices to prepare similar materials, it would never happen and the message would be piled under mounds of paperwork on the Hill.

Overall, the briefing was very interesting. We had a successful turnout with over 70 staffers at the meeting.

Although the briefing was a great experience, I think that I discovered my least favorite part of the PR profession—pitching. As a generation in general, I think that we hate picking up the phone and actually speaking to people—especially people that we don’t know. This is exactly what I had to do with these congressional staffers. Most staffers did not answer their phones and I had to leave a message, but some did answer their phones. Sometimes I sensed that they were annoyed to have to talk to me. Because, in a way, what I was doing and what I felt like was a telemarketer. And as we all know, nobody likes telemarketers. Despite the fact that I don’t like pitching, it is a very important part of PR work, and if you are going into the PR field, be prepared to have to do so!

Until next time…