Rule 6: Look big, be everywhere
The FDOT needed to know that we just were not taking our case to them and wishing and hoping for some positive outcome. They needed to feel that our story was being told at every possible level.
On the political front we engaged our state’s eight regional promotion groups to meet one-on-one with the 160 legislators in their district offices over the course of 2008/2009. An actual constituent is the strongest contact your association can have with any politician and our RPG members went out in force; armed with scripts to tell their legislator that our locally produced, cradle to end-use products put more of their constituents to work than imported oil and it saves tax dollars. They left, asking the legislators to, “check with the FDOT and ask them to let concrete fairly compete.”
During our State’s Legislative Session, which runs from 60 days during the beginning of March, our industry held a fly-in, which included a legislative reception and breakfast and over 90 meetings with legislators in their Capitol offices. Everyone checked their ego at the door and they took marching orders, directions and a script and ventured forth into a process that was foreign to many of them. For the first time, Concrete was recognised as an independent voice in the political arena and not just another Association that goes in lock-step with the overall construction and transportation interests.
While we were getting our message to the FDOT through legislative channels, we were also utilising contacts in the Governor’s office to add to that effort. Following our meeting with the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff, whose policy area includes transportation, the Governor’s office began ‘monitoring’ the issue; just enough to keep the Department moving towards the final decision in order to determine our next step.
Our Association participated, as best we could in fundraising for candidates who supported our efforts. During one such reception, where I had showed up early enough to get a one-on-one with the Representative, I was asked if I would be willing to present to the House Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Committee. I accepted the invite and found myself testifying as to why the Legislature should encourage the use of Florida made concrete. During my testimony, the FDOT Secretary was called up to answer questions, and, as noted above in Rule 6, she wasn’t overjoyed to be answering questions as to when her Department would be coming to a resolution. In fairness, I didn’t know she would be there. It was not my intent to have that happen, but nonetheless, it strained the relationship unfortunately.
While we had limited funds, we also needed to get some free and purchased media in order to look as though we had a groundswell. We hired a media consultant who organised plant tours which received television, radio and press coverage; we met with editorial boards, talked on radio shows and even bought a single billboard on a stretch of concrete road on I-95. That single billboard became legendary, as folks mistakenly reported seeing it from South Florida all the way up to the panhandle and we did nothing to correct that misperception.
On the web, we built a microsite and advertised on the Sayfiereview, the single most important political website in Florida, knowing that all the policymakers and elected officials would be checking in and would be reminded that concrete was the best possible choice for mainline.
The bottom-line was that we weren’t trying to change the mind of every Floridian. For that matter, not every Floridian truly cares about the issue, even if some may argue that they should. The goal was to target the handful of decision makers by making them understand that we are knowledgeable, organised and committed.
Read the article online at: https://www.worldcement.com/the-americas/05062013/effective_concrete_advocacy_part06/