This week we are sharing a fresh view from Capitol Hill from Colleen Bell, who recently joined FGH after a dozen years as a congressional staffer.
While the impacts of COVID and the Jan. 6 riots have brought a lot of change to how Congress operates, in some respects a sense of normalcy is starting to return. Yes, gridlock abounds, but progress can be made if you take the right approach to making your case in the legislative process.
- If you want to be listened to, be smart on your issue, have a specific ask and keep meetings efficient. Staffers like nothing more than people who are prepared, confident in what they’re talking about and have an easy ask.
- Be a resource and build a relationship. It might be stating the obvious, but staffers are more likely to help folks who they respect and trust. By mastering your subject matter, you can be a resource to them as well. The truth is, staffers need to get a lot of their information from downtown.
- Be honest with your partners on the Hill. Address challenges your organization might have headfirst. If you know you have to make a tough ask, don’t sugar coat it. Hill staffers appreciate candor.
- Be flexible these days in how meetings and negotiations happen and how much access there is right now to members and staff. On the Democratic side many staff are still working from home and in-person meetings are rare, and on the Republican side there’s a strong desire to get back to business as usual. Tension is running high in both chambers, and every staffer is handling it differently, so be sensitive to the differences.