I was thousands of miles away when I first got the call that Colorado legislation was plowing ahead with a new bill that would be recognized in Performance Marketing circles as the Colorado Advertising Tax. I had no other warning let alone preparedness prior to that other than “this is coming, but we don’t know when” and knowledge of similar bills in New York a year or so ago. I had no idea what to do. When someone else is dictating and calling the shots (e.g. legislators) you don’t have time to play around. You just have to jump in and get moving. There really aren’t any rules – other than use common sense, be polite and listen to your gut.
Here are some things I learned along the way that I wish someone had told me ahead of time. I hope they help you if you need to defend your stance with your local government.
Before the bill hits your state:
- Find out who your legislators are – do the research ahead of time
- Contact your legislators and start some dialog now while you don’t need them for anything
- Keep in touch with your legislators – when the time comes you want them to already know you and your story
- Reach out to not only your legislators but others in your area that will fight on your side – team work is key
- Start a mailing with including specifically those in your area in the industry so you can stay connected when you need each other most.
- Know your local resources – who has media connections, you already has close relationships with their legislators, etc.
- Work on a game plan ahead of time – who is likely to get involved – also, who in the industry will help from outside of the state.
When the bill is actively being discussed:
- Connect with local Affiliates that will be likely to fight with you.
- Keep your chatter about tactics to closed communication with only those directly involved – others are always listening, don’t share your game plan with the universe by tweeting and blogging your every move.
- Get a hold of information you can share with the legislators – the PMA helped us with this.
- Plan a “Visit the capital” field trip day – gather a group of people to go literally door-to-door talking with legislators. If you can, try to plan far enough ahead so you can schedule appointments. In Colorado, we had zero lead time so we just showed up. We did, however, make sure to be mindful of the legislators’ busy schedules.
- Write letters and make phones calls to all legislators.
- Repeat 1-5 until the battle is over
General food for thought
- Have a unified message among your whole group
- Keep in touch with each other – communication is a key to a successful game plan
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
- If you have some skill or knowledge that can benefit everyone, share. You’re in this together, so fight together.
- for a little more insight on this perspective, read Things I Learned from battling the government
Remember, these are real people you are talking to. You need to be mindful not to completely wear out your welcome in the sense that if you bombard too much, people will stop listening. But make sure not to give in the first week just because things aren’t looking good. By all means, when they ask you to stop because their inbox is too full, really think about that before you stop sending messages… maybe their inbox is too full because there are so many of you that have written – the legislators work for you, they know it, they need to listen to you when you have a real issue.
In the end, remember to say thank you.
Special thanks to those who helped me along the way while I was sorting out this learning curve! You know who you are, yes, there’s brownies in it somewhere.
Another great read: The Power of Grassroots Affiliate Efforts