Viewing entries in
Public Affiars





To Move Michigan Forward, we must first create a vision that a majority of stakeholders can agree on. This vision will help everyone focus on the core issues and when they stray toward politics, we can bring them back to the issue. This is the process by which we can start stakeholder engagement.

At each step of the way, we will identify quick wins or mutual gains for each stakeholder, to build trust and let them know we are all in this fight together. And at each step, we share information to help each of us make informed decisions. If it is not something we can agree on, then we should move to the next issue and focus on those issues that we can agree on.

The use of ADR processes by the courts and federal government has been widely celebrated as a more efficient and cost effective method of conflict resolution. Mediation is a voluntary, confidential process in which a trained, impartial mediator helps people examine their mutual problems, identify and consider options and carefully consider possible resolutions. A mediator has the experience to bring disputing parties together and help them draw out a successful resolution while preventing an impasse during the negotiations, or otherwise prevent the discussions from breaking down. Unlike a judge or arbitrator, a mediator does not make the decisions nor do they offer solutions. They help separate the politics from the process, help the parties find a common ground, build trust and identify potential solutions to agree on. 

Public policy dispute resolution focuses on the resolution of issues affecting the public, such as: Transportation; land use, special education, election districts and healthcare.  With public policy disputes, the issues tend to be a bit more polarizing, emotional and there are often a number of stakeholders from the community, including non-profits and business groups, and governments at a local, state and federal level.

Whether it is a public policy dispute or a dispute between neighbors, the goal of public any dispute resolution is to save money, preserve relationships and take control over the decisions. When it involves a public policy dispute, it is helpful and most effective if it creates the opportunity for all voices to be heard. It is a process being used in the planning process of multiple projects, including economic development projects in Austin, Texas and Salt Lake City Utah. 

In any mediation, the first step in the mediation process is to get both parties to agree to use a mediator. That is actually the first agreement both parties make together and we are on the way to developing trust and building a relationship.

While many states have dispute resolution clauses in key legislation or dispute resolution centers at universities, the State of Michigan does not. The ADR Section to the State Bar of Michigan, continues to talk with universities about creating a "Center for Public Policy Dispute Resolution Services," and continues to talk with legislators.  However, since no university has yet to step forward in creating such a center, in part due to funding, The ADR Section is trying to show by example, the benefits of ADR.

Today’s political reality is that politics is by nature partisan and partisan politics has now overtaken the capitol. In addition, people and business are demanding a greater role in the policy making process so more voices are competing to make public policy that benefits or protects them. 

After Tuesday’s election, it is time our elected leaders push politics aside and focus on the big picture of helping Michigan Move Forward.



The way forward is by working together.

In Washington, Congress continues to find ways to avoid substantive issues such as immigration, transportation, poverty, education, serious tax reform and environmental regulation, among many others. In Michigan, there also are a number of unfinished issues that remain on the table, while the legislature is on summer recess for the election. In fact, in Michigan, we have a number of proposals on next month’s ballot that could have been resolved through facilitated discussion rather than expensive campaigns.   

In Lansing and Detroit we are still discussing bridges and transit. In fact, in 1976, President Gerald Ford offered funds to build a rail transit system in southeast Michigan. Instead, we just got the People Mover and in 2014, we are finally seeing progress with the M1 Rail construction now under way. 

However, despite the progress on regional transportation, our government leaders continue to struggle in finding their way forward and their failure to make difficult decisions by compromising.

Some would call it an impasse while others just chalk it up to politics. However, these are issues that can be resolved, and resolved in a way that preserves the relationships, maintains the political differences and helps move the agenda forward collectively. 

It is time we put politics aside - even in an election year. It is time voters demand our politicians to focus and do what is in the best interest of all those affected. Work to find resolution through chaos. Respect each other for taking a position and move on to find where you can each work together. 





The Michigan Legislature recently considered legislation concerning "distressed schools" and creating a process to establish an "early warning system," to avoid state intervention due to financial stress.

Currently there are  48 distressed schools or districts at risk of financial disstress in Michigan. Some districts have a short-term hiccup, while others face long-term issues, such as continued declining enrollments and increased labor costs.  According to Gongwer, the multi-bill package proscribes measures for financially distressed school districts—with advocates noting—doubles the maximum amount the Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board is authorized to lend troubled districts, revises the loan’s eligibility criteria, eliminates restrictions on the Board’s ability to restructure existing loan repayment programs and removes limitations on the amount of surplus funds that can be loaned to municipalities and school districts over the next six fiscal years.

A number of school officials are opposed to the legislation, arguing that some of the measures’ reporting requirements and criteria are burdensome and possibly redundant, and would actually add to the district’s financial woes.  However, those same school officials should work with a facilitator to engage stakeholders in defining the problem and working in advance of the state stepping in to identify and implement realistic solutions.

By being proactive and engaging your community early on, you can avoid difficult situations down the road. However, acknowledging the problem and engaging others in the solution is a difficult process, one that can be helped by brining in a neutral to guide the discussion and help extract solutions.  


Building Capital in Developing Relationships


Building Capital in Developing Relationships

Attending trade shows and conferences can be a tedious process. For many people, it takes us away from our families, sometimes for a week or more. While our children may think we are traveling to exotic locations, these events translate into long hours walking and talking. While some use it to sell a product or service, these events should be more about developing strategic relationships.

In attending conferences:

  • Know who you want to talk to
  • Know what you want to say
  • Be flexible and don't worry if you don't meet those that you had on your list.
  • Follow up -- Write a personal note to every business card your receive, follow up with a phone call, recall your conversation and suggesting next steps
  • Now make the hard sale
  • Close the deal

Conferences provide an opportunity to expand your network face-to-face and before you start to sell something, it is important to have or to make a connection so then you can develop the trust and later the business.

After all, we all know why we attend these events, to learn about best practices, to spy on the competition and to get in front of the buyers. However, I personally get turned off from those trying to make the "hard sale." I get it you have something you think I can use or need but you should first take the time to see if it is even relevant to what I do or to whom I represent. But first take the time to know me and I will take the time to know you. If I can't use your product or service perhaps I know someone who does, but if you go straight to the sale. Let's be friends first and build the capital in developing relationships that are mutually beneficial. 


Are we listening to Democrats?


Are we listening to Democrats?

Not with the messages handed-out by Democrats in Michigan. With so much going on in this state, from crumbling infrastructure under a harsh winter to a new vibe in Detroit and tremendous growth in Grand Rapids, you would think there is a rare opportunity for Democrats to share with voters what they stand for instead of whom they stand against. 

Unfortunately, I received two emails last week from Democrats that told me they want to play politics as usual. 

Each message was a solicitation:

Subject:  Dems $6 for 6 seats

I know we have asked for a lot lately, but only because the stakes are so very high for our state. Please chip in $6 for 6 seats in November. The deadline is tonight at Midnight and 231 donors have given so far, so your $6 donation could be the one that puts us over the top to our goal of 250 donors. Tim - Sent from my iPhone.

Then minutes later, I received a similar message:

“This will be the last update you get from us for a while because our deadline is tonight at Midnight. We know that you have not given yet, but we are just 28 donations from our goal so your donation could make the difference. Please chip in $6 or whatever you can to help us hit our goal by the Midnight deadline. Thanks, Sam”

With each message, the Democrats missed a rare opportunity to engage a prospective donor and voter in why they should support them. Each time they failed to create an emotional connection and failed to educate them on what issues they stand for or stand for advancing.

With the above messages, as someone who may make a contribution, I want to know:

  • Why are those six seats important?
  • Where are those six seats?
  • Who is running? 

I need something more before making that investment, even for $6. I also don’t like the negative messaging. The timing of these messages did not fit the news cycle, just a political calendar. At the time, the Legislature was voting on spending bills that focused on infrastructure, the U.S. District Court (Eastern District) was preparing to hear a landmark case on equal and civil rights dealing with the rights of same-sex couples and the UAW was just recovering from difficult challenges in the South – Issues, that Democrats do have a leg to stand on. Issues that they could engage me better on as to what they plan on doing about it and why I should care.

Yet, this week the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee announced a major tax proposal while the state is also considering major changes to state tax laws. The President also released his Budget with funding to help those living in poverty, to help restore and protect the Great Lakes and to help enhance our aging roads and bridges. Yet, this week, the Democrats were silent and I did not receive a solicitation.

I recall a time that I sat in the Lansing office of a former chair of the Michigan Democratic Party and asked if I can help create a vision for Michigan Democrats and a strategic plan for each caucus to take back to their district that would work to create a movement or engage others in why they should support Democrats. At the time, the Chairman pointed out his window, towards the state capitol with the House and Senate controlled by Republicans, and said, “You see that building, our message is against, whatever they are for.”

If Democrats are to make gains in 2014, they need a vision.  Their message needs to be strategic, coordinated and engaging.  Today, there is no such thing as politics as usual. People are no longer voting based on a D or an R behind ones name. To help those running for office, Democrats and Republicans alike, need to figure out, what they stand for and then arm their caucus with the tools and resources to broadcast and share that message in a way that will resonate with the voter.  It is time to end the politics and focus on the policy as a way to engage voters. 



Leveraging Michigan's Assets

Now is not the time for the State of Michigan to reinvent the wheel. After all, we already did that, including: The automobile, the assembly line, the elevator, traffic light, football helmet, seeds in a pouch, pharmaceuticals and so much more. However, today, we need to find something in our state to leverage for new job creation. What to leverage is underneath our nose -- our Universities. Michigan's universities can help us turn the business climate around by spinning off new companies and create a ready to work workforce to transition into a new industry. They did it in North Carolina, Boston, San Jose and elsewhere. We need Michigan’s universities and its presidents to step forward to help grow Michigan’s economy. We need the help of our universities to leverage Michigan’s assets.

A private dock on Mackinac Island, Mich.

A private dock on Mackinac Island, Mich.



Protecting Your Client's Reputation

Should lawyers represent their client’s outside the courtroom, they have to become comfortable in talking freely about their client’s case without jeopardizing legal outcomes. Lawyers in general are trained to be reticent, answer only the questions asked and to give no more information than is necessary. In the face of the media and those who rely on it, however, expansive information and open communication can serve the client better than creating an appearance that the client has something to hide and, worse is hiding behind a lawyer. Public relations counsel can employ strategies to build, preserve, and protect client reputation, while reinforcing their client’s legal strategy. In the public eye, we may be presumed guilty if we respond to a reporter’s question with “no comment.” To avoid this presumption of guilt, it is important to develop a message and answer questions, or appear to, while staying on that message. In today’s economy, lawyers need to provide their clients with more than just legal services. By learning how the media operates, lawyers can best serve their clients, by blending law, policy, politics and strategic communications to provide an integrated approach to addressing or better yet resolving legal problems.

For more information, please contact, Daniel Cherrin at or 517.377.0865.



When Politicians Lie...

.... They get caught.  Toronto Mayor Rob Ford knows that now when he faced reporters earlier this week asking them to re-ask a question they asked him in May. "You asked me a question back in May and you can repeat that question," Mr. Ford told a bunch of journalists earlier this week as reported in The New York Times. He then admitted that he did indeed smoke crack cocaine.  Also last week, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (R) was accused of plagiarism, denied it and finally this week admitted what happened. (Although to his credit, he also came out with a plan for addressing the situation.) Rolling Stone magazine released their "Top five political excuses of all time" earlier this week and unfortunately we keep hearing these excuses from our elected leaders.

To a political figure there is no worse punishment than a damaged reputation. The longer a person works to cover up something the more damage they will do to their reputation. As a result, here are 5 tips to help politicians out of a sticky situation:

  1. Don't lie.  If you do lie or misrepresent something, speak out of turn or make a mistake, quickly admit it, apologize, work to resolve the issue and move on to the next issue.
  2. Don't try to cover it up, it will only make things worse.
  3. Don't react. Re-evaluate the situation and respond quickly but thoughtfully.
  4. Don't dodge the media. Focus on the facts and process.
  5. Seek the advice of an attorney and public relations professional before things get out of hand.




“Know WHAT to say, WHEN to say it and WHO to say it to!”

To often an organization creates a marketing plan that fits in a binder and gets shelved. Hours are spent defining your audience, studying the data and creating plans that do not have anyone following through. It is time to end the planning and begin with creating a strategic road map to reaching your core audience, centered-around your organization's values and focused on empowering the consumer to make a purchase, advocate or change their lifestyle.  

To learn more about re-setting your marketing strategy to focus on your organizations core, while creating a road map instead of plan, see this presentation delivered today at the Michigan Society of Association Executive's (MSAE) OrgPro 2013.

“Know WHAT to say, WHEN to say it and WHO to say it to!” looks at the brand of an association and assists association leaders in re-defining their audience and setting objectives in creating an integrated communications plan. It will hit the high notes in terms of helping association leaders, from large and small associations, with marketing goals and strategies for defining the audience, crafting the message and identifying the appropriate media channels from traditional media, digital and social mobile. Association leaders will walk out as marketing professionals complete with a one page strategic communications plan to start working on when they return to work.



Media Tips for Lawyers, Representing Clients In The Public Eye

article IMG_0344 Screenshot 11:27:12 12:03 AM 484359_10151114446092757_1756183311_n IMG_0839 Today’s legal market demands a broad range of business solutions lawyers can provide their clients. A strategic communications plan can prove to be an extremely helpful tool lawyers can provide their clients, in anticipation of or during litigation, or just an overall part of their legal strategy.

Every Company Is A Media Company

Today, every company with a website, blog or social media presence is a media company and anyone with access to a computer, smart phone or tablet, has the potential to damage a company’s reputation. However, at the same time with digital and mobile technology, companies have more opportunities to take their message directly to the consumer, to protect, enhance and elevate their reputation.

For companies such as Domino’s and The BBC, to celebrities and politicians such as Lance Armstrong and Elliott Spitzer, lawsuits today are no longer fought in the courtroom.  Cases are being tried in the media, with the potential to damage brands and reputations alike.

Clients Turn To Lawyers As Spokesperson

In general, a lawyer’s job is to represent their clients in a court of law, not in the media, and many are uncomfortable in talking to reporters.  However, client’s today are turning to their lawyers not just for legal support, but to help protect their reputation and often speak on their behalf.

“An attorney’s duties do not begin inside the courtroom door.  He or she cannot ignore the practical implications of a legal proceeding for the client. Just as an attorney may recommend a plea bargain or civil settlement to avoid the adversarial consequences of a possible loss after trial, so too an attorney may take reasonable steps to defend a client’s reputation and reduce the adverse consequences of an indictment, especially in the face of a prosecution deemed unjust or commenced with improper notices. A defense attorney may pursue lawful strategies to obtain dismissal of an indictment or reduction of charge, including an attempt to demonstrate in the court of public opinion that the client does not deserve to be tried.”

In today’s media saturated environment, where we can share pictures or Tweets from our phone instantaneously with the world, that may even end up on CNN or FOX News, many clients will turn to their lawyer for advice, counsel and a response.  So lawyers should have a basic understanding of interacting with the media, on line and off.

Balancing advocacy for clients and legal ethics

The Bar is concerned that attorneys often speak with authority and that whatever they say can help shape public opinion.  As a result, a good rule of thumb in talking to the press or in any public arena is to stick to discussing the facts or explaining the process. In making statements to the media during or in anticipation of trial, a lawyer, or their client’s spokesperson, should avoid making any statement that would "have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding."

In other words, “don’t say anything you couldn’t or wouldn’t say in court.” This includes speculations on a criminal defendant’s guilt or innocence, opinions on any participant’s credibility and character, conjecture on why a participant would not submit to examination, and, generally, any information that is not likely to be admissible – Just stick to the facts.  For example:

  • The claim, offense or defense involved
  • Information contained in a public record
  • That an investigation of a matter is in progress
  • The scheduling or result of any steps in litigation
  • Undisputable facts
  • A request for assistance in obtaining evidence and information necessary of the investigation
  • A warning of danger concerning the behavior of a person involved.

A lawyer, however, may make statements that may be required to protect a client from substantial undue prejudicial effect of recent publicity not initiated by the lawyer or the lawyer’s client.  A statement should be limited to such information that is necessary to mitigate the recent adverse publicity.

Crisis + Litigation Communications

The sands have shifted in the practice of law.  Gone are the days when clients were only concerned about the legal ramifications of a lawsuit or legal quagmire.  Today, clients are often also concerned with how they are judged in the public eye and perceived by their customers, vendors and by their own families.

A litigation communications plan, blends both legal expertise and media savvy, by helping to frame messages during the litigation to help preserve, protect and enhance the reputation of the parties. It also helps to monitor what others are saying about the case and the company and works to control the message, address concerns and build relationships to help the company emerge from the litigation with its reputation intact. An effective litigations communications strategy, works to enhance legal efforts by providing clarity on complex legal issues, before and after litigation. However, the process should start long before a matter goes to trial and even before the firs documents are filed. The goal of litigation communications is to guarantee that the client's public image is completely aligned with the legal team's efforts and strategy, while ensuring the company's message is understood outside the courtroom. As a result, communications experts should be retained early on in the process, to monitor the media, craft the messages for key audiences, respond where and when appropriate and otherwise be involved.

In retaining a public relations professional, it is important that you find someone who understands the interplay between the law and legal process on one side, and the media and public opinion on the other. Managing these complex communications in a timely and efficient manner can play a vital role in the cost-effective mitigation of a crisis or legal matter.

Tips for dealing with the Media

Despite certain rules imposed on lawyers, reporters, journalists and bloggers may contact you based on a case that you are working on or a client that you represent, or perhaps even the issue areas you work in everyday.  Alternatively, you may contact them, to help position your client in the public eye or to promote yourself as an expert on an issue that is receiving a lot of attention in the news.  Regardless of how a reporter comes to you, in dealing with the media it is important to understand what they want and how you can best work with them.

The media is interested in a story that others want to read, watch or listen to.  News is something that is:

  • Timely,
  • Relevant, and
  • Sometimes entertaining.

Reporters will most likely report on stories that are:

  • First
  • Trends
  • Unusual or unique
  • Involve celebrities, kids or dogs and
  • General human-interest stories.

When the reporter asks you if he or she can ask you a few questions, try to get a little more information from them. Find out what the reporter wants to know.  Depending on when they call, they are most likely on deadline and looking for a quick sound-bite.  If you need to, ask if you can call them back and think about what you want to say.  Then call them back in a timely manner.

Here are a few more tips in terms of working with the media:

Know why you want to talk to the media -- What do you hope to achieve in talking to the media?  Before you talk with a reporter, know what you want to accomplish, even if they catch you by surprise.

Know your audience -- Then understand who your audience is. This will help you craft the appropriate messages that resonate with the right audience.

Know what you want to say – Once you know why you want to approach the media, and who the audience is, know what you want to say.  Have a few key messages written out that you want to convey to the reporter and think of a few questions they may ask -- and be ready to respond.

Do your homework – Know what the reporter writes about and covers. Be familiar with their latest story and angle.  Go on their website, perhaps they have a blog or check them out on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter.

What not to do with the Media:

Never say “No Comment” or “Because a lawsuit was filed we cannot comment on active litigation.” Instead say something more general and stick to your messages, or “I can’t tell you that now, but what I can tell you is..."

  • Don’t repeat a negative question or phrase
  • Stop using jargon or technical lingo
  • Try not to go “off the record”
  • Never lie
  • Don’t attack competitors or sell yourself

During the interview – Think of it as a debate not a conversation, unless you are talking to Stephen Colbert:

  • A reporter is using it to gather information or to find a story
  • Know your objectives and stick to your key message
  • If the reporter gets off message, bridge back to your key message
  • Answer only the question asked
  • Stick to your messages

Don’t hide anything you don’t want them to find later. When speaking to the media be concise and thorough and tell them everything that you can with in reason. You do not want them finding out information on their own and then confronting you when you are not prepared to answer their questions.

If you don’t know, don’t tell and don’t worry – Don’t panic if you are asked a question during an interview that you do not know the answer to. Be honest and tell them that you do not know the answer but that you would be happy to look into it and get back to them. Never attempt to make something up.

Silence. When being interviewed, once you have made your point do not be intimidated by silence. Silence is not a bad thing during an interview, it’s a tactic used by reporters to get you to talk, in the hopes of getting you to say something that you shouldn’t have.

“Off the record” or “For background only” – As a general rule, if you don’t want it in print then don’t say it.  However, an ethical reporter will respect what you are trying to say and will work with to make sure what your saying is accurate. It helps to know the reporters covering the issues you are working on and have a good working relationship with them. It also helps to not be confrontational and to respect them for having a job to do and that you want to work with them in preparing their story.

Timing – Just as a lawyer sticks to deadlines prescribed by the court, reporters have deadlines to keep and times they need to either file stories or air them. You will develop better relationships with a reporter if you are sensitive to their deadlines.

Preparing for an ambush – If a reporter catches you by surprise, stop in your tracks, address the reporters questions (you can be vague if you want), then let them know that you have another commitment and that you will get back to them by their deadline.  If a reporter calls by phone  take their message, find out what they want and when their deadline is,  and get back to them in a timely manner.

Working with the media – It is about relationships.

Corrections -- Don’t be afraid to correct the reporter or ask them to revise their story to be accurate.

Monitor the media – Know what is being said about you, your clients, your firm and your industry.

Anything else? – This is always the last question in any interview, so be prepared to summarize your key messages; say anything that you forgot to say before; or clarify any statement that needs further explanation. s not deserve to be tried.”2

Social Media Tips

Social media is becoming more than a tool for us to stay in touch with our friends or family, it is becoming a new area to look out for our client’s interests and/or a new medium to promote our practice. It also is our opportunity to control the message and to clarify misinformation. However, interacting with those using social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest or YouTube, is a little different than working with the traditional media.

Know the influentials –  There are millions of people using a variety of social media sites that it is important to know who the influential people are.  There are a number of social media sites that you can use to track the influentials.

Monitor the chatter – Once you know who to follow you should monitor the chatter. Listen to the tone of the comments and questions and participate where appropriate. A good way to monitor the media is to create Google Alerts, Twitter feeds or Facebook updates. Even if you don’t join the conversation, be aware of what people are saying about your company on different social media platforms.

Engage the community – Once you are able to gain an understanding of social media and how it works, go ahead and begin to engage the community. However, in using social media one’s credibility is gained through transparency, honesty, relevance and value.

Crisis Management

If a crisis ensues, you may not have the time to monitor social media sites and find the right time to engage people on line. Should that be the case, you should be more proactive, reserve the various domain names with your name, your companies name and variations thereof  so should something happen, you can go on line and communicate directly to the masses.


The documents you file in court are public documents and subject to FOIA. Don’t be surprised if you see the language from your depositions, motions or others in an article or even on a graphic on television. So, if a reporter asks for a document, it will go along way if you just give it to them but feel free to redact sensitive or privileged information.

Hiring PR Counsel

Lawyers need to understand what is news and how to best communicate that news to the public.  If attorneys will not provide such services, then they should build strategic partnerships with public relations firms to help them. To meet the needs of today’s businesses, lawyers will need skilled advice regarding how to position their clients before the media, while legally protecting their clients.  Seeking PR counsel is an important aspect of any legal strategy. Even if the issue is a small matter, there is no way we can tell how public opinion can or will shape the outcome of a case. Therefore, in engaging public relations counsel:

  • Have the lawyer retain the PR firm as opposed to your client directly, to try to preserve attorney-client privilege.
  • The public relations counsel should consult with both the client and attorney at every step of the process.

Once a public relations firm is engaged, they will, depending on the strategy: help with messaging and identify the appropriate media to communicate those messages or even act as your client’s spokesperson. They also should monitor the media and find ways to enhance, protect and further your client’s reputation.



A Road Map To Moving Forward - It includes you!

With the recent State of the Union, State of the State, County and City, we now know where our elected leaders want to lead us. Each has laid out their vision for where they want us to go. Now it is up to us to help them. Whether we support their agenda or not, we each have a role in seeing our Nation, State, County and City succeed. It will only succeed if we give our opinion, show our support for specific issues or voice our opinions against regulations or legislation should it negatively impact your family, business or industry.

How do you do that?  This morning, I gave a similar presentation to the Michigan Society of Association Executives (MSAE) Association Management Academy at the American Concrete Institute and here is what I told them:

1.Figure out why you to to become more engaged in the political/legislatie process.  Does it fit into your mission or strategic plan? Are your members asking for it? Is your industry affected by legislation?

2. Learn about the legislative process, how the legislature works, How a Bill Becomes a Law (SchoolHouseRock) and what role lobbyists play (ThankYou For Not Smoking) in addition to other outside influences (Distinguished Gentleman).

3. Know the regulations and laws that impact lobbying, advocacy, campaign finance and ethics and why those laws were created in the first place. (Casino Jack)

Some useful resources include: ASAE; Clerk of the U.S. House; Secretary of the Senate; Senate/House Ethics Committee; or, your Secretary of State.
4. Know what your issues are. Begin to create an issues matrix to help identify the issue and prioritize them.
5. Identify the resources you can use to engage lawmakers in a discussion about the issues important to your members, industry
or business.
6. Get to know those whom you elected. You may or may not have voted for them, but they did get elected. So take the time to meet them, learn about them and teach them about the issues you care about.
7. Know what their agenda is. In Michigan, right now the legislative agenda is full of issues involving Jobs, People & Good Government. Knowing what the issues are will help open the door to solid discussions between you and those ultimately deciding on what the laws will be.

8. Become relevant. Knowing the agenda and staying on top of the news cycle will help your issues remain relevant. Provide the local angle to a national problem, take the legislative agenda in Lansing, Columbus or Albany and show others how it will impact you locally.

9. Become an expert. Lawmakers are pulled in too many directions with too little time to fully read and understand the legislative issues they are voting on (for the most part). By knowing the issues.

10. Proactively develop relations with lawmakers and like-minded organizations that can support you and your agenda and likewise you support theirs.

Relationships help empower people to act and it is important to develop those strategic relationships early.  To view the presentation vist: Helping Associations Create Government Relations Program.

*For education purposes only. Please consult an attorney for any legal advice. This post does not create an attorney-client relationship.



Tools to Craft Your Message to Lawmakers

Primary Message:The Challenge (Background/Summary of the problem)

Secondary Message: What needs to change, barriers, issues? What is the desired change or outcome? What do we hope to achieve? (this could be a policy change, funding, etc.)

Your Message/Experience/Story:

Why do you have  the solution or are a leader in finding solutions? What do you do? Why do you do it?  This should include personal stories tied to emotions to create a story and an image in the legislators mind, complete with research or statistics/numbers to show positive results.

The Ask: What is the call to action or solution?

KEY TAKE AWAYS These will become are key messages so what do you want them to remember about your visit.


Don't forget to always leave something with them -- a folder, brochure, fact sheet etc. and then don't forget to follow up with them after your meeting.



Telling Your Story to Legislators

Media at Capitol You know how local, state and federal policies impact the day-to-day life of your program, association or company than any member of Congress, the legislature or city council, so many elected officials need you to help them understand the issues, establish a connection and work collectively to find solutions. When we have the opportunity to talk with your Mayor, Member of Congress, State Representative or State Senator, we have to be sure to tell the stories that are going to make the most sense to them and encourage them to act if that is an appropriate next step.

Ideally, you would establish relationships with lawmakers long before you ever need them. This could be due to your involvement in the community, a pre-existing relationship from school, through your children and their activities, based on meetings where you have invited them to tour your business or their political advocacy or attending fundraisers and other events.

Regardless of when you meet them, you still need to know your story and the messages you wish to convey. Here are 3 tips to telling your story to legislators:

1. Share the Strongest Message

  • Share a couple of stories about your program.
  • Thank him/her for past and ongoing support.
  • Let them know what they can do this year.

You may find yourself meeting with a legislator or staffer who offers that they are connected in someway to your organization or issue.  Seize that link and deepen the connection.  However, in many other instances, they may not be familiar with your organization or issue. This is your chance to advise the member on the vital issues in your industry.

  • Start with the basics of what you do and who you serve; and,
  • Why you need their support or leadership.

2. Tell the stories that are relevant, newsworthy and tied to a larger agenda so that they the lawmakers are more likely to seize it as their issue

  • Find out as much as you can about your Senator and Representative.
  • Quantify the impact your organization and issue has on the economy, in the community and around the industry.
  • Localize the issue so that they can see the connection/impact in their district
  • If they don’t seem to support your issue, don’t argue with them. Work to just disagree, focus on what you can agree on and move on.
  • Use the meeting opportunity to be conversational, and get to know one another. Convey that you can be a friendly resource any time.
  • Think about what you want to bring to the meeting:  A Fact Sheet on the organization and issue, key contacts, annual report, latest newsletter, media clips, key contacts etc.

3. You are the expert!

Most of the time, legislators want to know the basics. So what may seem basic to you is information they are hearing for the first time.

And just relax. They may be elected officials with ornate offices (at least some of them), they are still people that you elected. They could even live in your neighborhood.

Visit us later this week to find a template to CRAFTING YOUR STORY.



A New Way Forward & A Consensus Approach to Public Policy

The honeymoon is over. The dust has already settled on the President’s Inaugural Address and the State of the State for many Governors. The Mayors have returned from their winter conference and special interests already staked out their positions on legislative agenda’s across America. Over the next legislative cycle, what issues will be tackled, which ones will be resolved and which issues will our government leaders punt to the next session will depend in large part to how well our legislators can get along.

We elected our leaders to represent a common mission not a party platform. Yet in legislating, most often it is politics that trump sound public policy.

It is time to shift how government decisions are made and for our elected leaders to find:

a new way forward while seeking consensus instead of controversy.

It is time our leaders lead us forward, not back. This starts by reframing the problems plaguing our state or nation in a way that each side could identify with. Once we find a connection to an issue, we are most likely to work hard at finding a resolution. In doing so it is hard to look beyond the politics, but as long as we can agree to concepts and work to make small steps towards building or rebuilding trust in finding a common agenda, our lawmakers can eventually find common ground and those difficult issues, the ones that kept getting put off or “re-authorized,” will move off the agenda so we can focus on the next great challenge.


Reinventing Michigan


Reinventing Michigan


This evening, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder delivered Michigan's State of the State Address. An outline of his remarks can be found here. He continued on his them of "Reinventing Michigan," and focused on three core areas:

  • Jobs;
  • People; and,
  • Good Government.

While he talked about his achievements from the past year, tonights address was focused on giving his vision for 2013 and provide a road map for the legislature to help him "Reinvent Michigan," focused in the same three areas I listed above.


In 2013, Governor Snyder will focus on bolstering Michigan's infrastructure by fixing our roads and paying for them and building a new border crossing between Michigan and Ontario. This summer, he will work to bring together political leaders from around the Great Lakes Basin to focus on finding ways to preserve our Great Lakes, as a region. And by December, Governor Snyder will address issues related to public land and renewable energy.

Also under JOBS, Snyder will address the issue of education in the state and focus on providing students the choice of shaping their own education while addressing the needs of Michigan's failing schools. He also provided support for creative options to ensure that all children have access to a pre-school education.

He also is giving greater focus to Michigan financial services and insurance industry and earlier today created a new department to focus on that issue alone. He also created a new Veteran's Affairs agency that will focus on caring for Michigan's Veterans and ensuring they have opportunities to find a job upon returning from service or buying or protecting their home.


Snyder will also look at addressing the issue of mental health and is searching for creative ideas to deal with this issue states are now starting to grapple with. He will work to strengthen neighborhoods and build communities.


While also finding ways to make our public officials and those doing business with the state and local governments more accountable through ethics reform, campaign finance and changes in how local elections are administered.


  • If you want the best, buy a Michigan product.
  • A year of summits.
  • Use common sense and get it done.
  • Thus is our opportunity.
  • Success stories.
  • Creative solutions.
  • Work together.
  • No blaming.
  • Look forward.
  • Creating a better path for our kids and their kids.

And of course, doing all this with, "Relentless positive action."  Now, let's get out there and "get the job done."