Capitol Hill Briefings - Cutting through the Noise!

As many readers of this blog know, CRD Associates has a long history of organizing and executing successful briefings on Capitol Hill on behalf of our clients.  But like many, we have noticed over the years that it has gotten increasingly difficult to break through the clutter of information overload and draw the attention of Members of Congress and key congressional staff to the issues our clients care about.

What helps is to have a “hook” that will draw the staffer’s attention and make them want to take an hour or more out of their day to learn something new or learn more about something they only know a little about.  It used to be that food was the hook.  Lunch or a reception was enough to get someone up from their desk.  While this is still allowable under ethics rules in certain circumstances, there are some House and Senate offices that shun events with food out of concern they will unintentionally violate a rule. (This is why invitations with food involved always say on them “This is a widely attended event.” This is key language from the ethics rules.)

Two recent events that CRD assisted clients with demonstrate the value of offering something a little out of the ordinary.

On September 25, the Society for Neuroscience sponsored a briefing from 5-7 pm in the Science Committee room in the Rayburn Building.  There was wine and cheese from 5 to 5:30 and from 6:30 to 7 pm.  In between was a lecture by two renowned neuroscientists on the topic of Nature AND Nurture, explaining how both are influential on the development and functioning of the brain.  Was the wine and cheese the hook?  No, it was the opportunity to hold a human brain and several animal brains in your hands (with gloves, of course!).  Most of the persons who attended asked “Where are the brains?” when they entered.

Just five days later the Congressional Neuroscience Caucus had an event, also focused on the brain.  That caucus, co-chaired by Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, turns to our client the American Brain Coalition to organize and execute its briefings.  This was a one-hour discussion held in the Congressional Auditorium in the Capitol Visitors Center.  The hook?  Mickey Hart, a legendary American percussionist and the drummer for the Grateful Dead, along with a “rock star” neuroscientist using a multi-media presentation format.  Even though there was only a week’s notice to put the event together – and it was held the day before the government shutdown went into effect – the event was well attended.

Of course, you can’t always count on having either body parts or a rock and roller available to draw persons to your event.  But our experience has shown that doing something just a little bit different, something that maybe people have not seen or done before, can be the difference between a crowded room of enthusiastic attendees…and something less than that.

Lyle Dennis