As discussed in the Committee Voices column in February, building a relationship with your local elected and appointed officials can have short- and long term benefits to your park. The trick is to know how to get started and who should be contacted first.
To get started, make a list of those people who fill the following roles in your area:
- City & County
- Chamber of Commerce
- State Legislature
- Regulatory Agency
- Congress/U.S. Senator
Then, in the order listed above, begin the process of building a relationship with each individual.
When drafting your government affairs plan, it’s best hat you begin with your local elected officials: city council members, area county government members and your local chamber of commerce government affairs staff member and the chamber executive director.
Next, move to your state senator and state representative, then to surrounding senators and representatives (making sure to do the outreach while they are not in session!). Then, move to your congressmen and national senators. The reason the chamber staff should be included with local government officials is that chamber staff maintain strong relationships with city leaders and will often be able to help you gather additional business support for our issue if a strong relationship already exists.
Here are 9 steps to follow:
- Know who’s who. Make a list of the people you need to meet. Check out their web sites for photos; then if the person is in the office when you visit, you will recognize him or her.
- Extend an invitation. Write a letter inviting the person to visit your waterpark. It is a good idea to arrange he site visit during the waterpark’s open hours. While our facilities may be fabulous, nothing is more moving than seeing thousands of guests having a great time.
- Prepare background material. Include a brochure about your waterpark and a fact sheet listing pertinent information, such as how many visitors come through our gate each year, how many full and part-time staff are employed and the money your waterpark puts into the community each year. Also, highlight staff talents and expertise as a resource to elected officials and staff. You might consider including a biography on your water quality expert, operations expert or lifeguard coordinator. Also include the top three areas of concern for your waterpark.
- Deliver the invitation in person. Plan on hand-delivering your introductory letter and supporting material to the person’s local office. In the letter include an invitation to lunch and a tour of your facility. Hand-delivering the letter will give you a chance to meet the staff and allow staff to put a face with a name.
- Bring a treat. Everyone likes goodies. It never hurts to show up with a tray of cookies or snacks with a table-tent-type card in the middle that says: “Big Fun Waterpark thanks you for your hard work and dedication.” Or “Big Fun Waterpark appreciates all you do.”
- Plan your visit around their schedule. Remember, don’t visit a legislative office the day before or day of council meetings or during the legislative session, as everyone is very busy at these times. After the visit has occurred be sure to complete the following steps:
- Thank you, thank you, thank you. After you visit with the office staff, send a hand-written letter to all the staff members you meet the day you delivered the package. A simple, “It was a pleasure to meet you the other day. If I can ever be of help to you or to your office, please don’t hesitate to call,” is all that is needed and goes along way in making someone feel acknowledged and respected.
- Follow up. If you do not receive a call from the local officials scheduler within a week or so, feel free to call the office and ask to schedule a meeting.
- Sweetening the Pot. After meeting with the elected official, it never hurts to get a listing of staff birthdays and the birthday of the elected official. A birthday card or a plate of cookies goes a long way in showing respect and creating friendships. Other suggestions: send an invitation to the official or staff member to join you in your opening day festivities or send a card and photos of an event that serves the community, such as your park’s National Water Safety Month activities.