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Training Webinar: Making Public Policy Issues Relatable


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Business Forward is joined by Nat Wood as he demonstrates the best practices and language for advocacy, media, and outreach, using health care reform as a case study.

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Training Webinar: Making Public Policy Issues Relatable

  1. 1. Making Public Policy Issues Relatable Using health care reform as a case study to demonstrate best practices and language for advocacy, media, and outreach Nat Wood Vice President Rational 360
  2. 2. Business Forward helps you make the business case for public policy reforms that work. Business Forward has worked with more than 100,000 business leaders across the United States, and health care costs consistently rank as their top concern. We have organized hundreds of briefings on health care. Those briefings included two Secretaries of Health and Human Services, two Small Business Administrators, dozens of U.S. Senators and Members of Congress, and hundreds of other officials. Public policy is complicated and sometimes seems irrelevant to the immediate issues business leaders face. But the market forces involved in health care reform, the affect the federal debt has on the markets, and the challenges our antiquated immigration system pose to hiring are all things business leaders understand. They know how to talk about how their own bottom line is affected when bad policy take effect, and they are trusted messengers in their community. INTRODUCTION
  3. 3. KEY THEMES We asked business leaders across the country to tell us what they think federal policymakers should do to control health care costs and expand coverage. Responses varied, but eight themes emerged. 1. The ACA is working and it could work better if Congress improved it. Under the ACA, nearly 20 million more Americans have insurance, health care inflation has slowed, and Americans have more choices. It’s not perfect, but it’s progress. 2. ACA repeal, without a plan, will hurt businesses and the economy. House Republicans voted to repeal Obamacare more than 60 times. But they have yet to offer a workable plan to replace it. 3. A government-run, single payer system is too risky and could be too expensive. Approximately 180 million Americans have private insurance. Shifting to a government-run, single payer system would be risky and could be far more expensive. 4. Small businesses need options like the ACA. The ACA provides affordable choices for small businesses, through marketplace exchanges that allow small businesses and employees to access plans with less overhead, red tape, and risk. Before the ACA, a small business’s insurance rate could rise dramatically if an employee or family member suffered an expensive illness or a serious accident.
  4. 4. KEY THEMES Eight themes emerged from our discussions with business leaders about health care. 5. Without protections for pre-existing conditions, executives have a harder time switching jobs or starting new businesses. Prior to the ACA, executives were less likely to switch jobs or start their own business if they or a family member had a pre-existing condition. 6. The ACA’s focus on preventive care saves money and increases productivity. Workers with health insurance are more productive because they take advantage of preventive care, get sick less often, and face less stress. 7. Affordable health care supports a competitive and innovative economy. Affordable health insurance supports a competitive economy and encourages innovation. 8. Expanding coverage and choice helps control costs. The ACA has reduced the percentage of people without health insurance to the lowest levels ever.
  5. 5. POLICY BACKGROUND THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT IS WORKING It helped 20 million uninsured Americans obtain coverage. It has also: • reduced costs for small businesses • increased worker productivity and mobility • invested in preventative care that will reduce the long-term cost of chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. To put information, competition, and incentives to work, a health care system must: 1. cover pre-existing conditions 2.require Americans to buy insurance 3.subsidize the cost for lower income families. THE “THREE-LEGGED STOOL” OF HEALTH CARE
  6. 6. 1: MAKE THE BUSINESS CASE You have a business to run, so you want the time you volunteer to be meaningful and efficient. 1. Undecided Americans trust business leaders more than politicians when it comes to health care. 2. Undecided Americans want to know how a particular bill or issue will affect their industry, their town, and their employer. A business leader can explain the connection between national issues and her local economy in ways that matter. 3. A data-driven, results-oriented approach helps depoliticize contentious issues.
  7. 7. 2: UNDERSTAND YOUR MISSION Before you speak out, be sure to understand which role you’re playing. 1. Raising awareness about a problem. 2. Pushing specific provisions or concepts during a legislative process or budget negotiation. 3. Helping close a deal, supporting a tough vote.
  8. 8. 3: HAVE A CLEAR OPINION “On the one hand... but, on the other hand...” won’t help a Member of Congress decide how to vote, and newspapers are unlikely to publish an op-ed that fails to pick a side. If you’re going to speak out, be clear. Support a bill. Raise an alarm. Provide cover on a tough vote. Avoid equivocation.
  9. 9. 4: KEEP IT SHORT, KEEP IT SIMPLE (AND PRACTICE) Talking live to a radio reporter? You’ll get two questions and about 20 seconds. Taping a TV interview in your office? The station will use about 30 seconds of your 15-minute interview. Meeting with your Senator? You’ll get about five minutes. 1. Reporters can’t quote you if your answers are too long. 2. Make your point quickly, and make it repeatedly. 3. Using local examples and simple comparisons can help you make your point more quickly.
  10. 10. 5: SPEAK FOR YOUR EMPLOYEES, CUSTOMERS, SUPPLIERS AND COMPETITORS 1. You’re most effective when you cite your employees, customers, suppliers, or competitors as evidence. For example, an accountant with 50 employees has credibility explaining the kinds of health care options they value. 2. Most business leaders share the name of their company when they talk with reporters, publish an op-ed, or speak out in some other way. These executives are building their company’s brand. Alternatively, you can also speak generally, without naming your company, as an expert in the industry.
  11. 11. Each medium also has it’s own rules of engagement – and its own voice. 1. Most newspapers limit op-eds to 600 words. A letter to the editor is usually less than 200. 2. Posts on Facebook and Twitter are often more casual. LinkedIn is more buttoned-up. 3. With TV, you’ll talk to a different audience on a local news broadcast than on a national business news show. 4. Press releases should be written differently from blog posts, and differently from a formal op-ed. 6: PICK YOUR MEDIUM – AND FOLLOW THE RULES
  12. 12. 7: BECOME A RESOURCE FOR REPORTERS AND ELECTED OFFICIALS MEDIA Business reporters on deadline have a hard time finding experts – particularly local ones. By introducing yourself to a reporter who covers an issue that interests you, you make it easier for her to use you the next time that issue is in the news. If a particular issue has a big impact on your business, offer the reporter a tour of your office or factory. Do not hesitate to start with smaller outlets or trade journals. ELECTED OFFICIALS When you call your representatives, consider data, case studies, or recommendations tied to your business. Also consider inviting the representative to tour your business.
  13. 13. 8: IGNORE LOADED QUESTIONS ABOUT “HOT BUTTON” ISSUES The whole point of having business leaders speak out is to get beyond the partisan or hot button issues that dominate most press coverage. Your job is to focus on what a particular proposal or problem means for business, jobs, and economic growth. That’s your area of expertise. • You’re not obligated to answer any question you don’t feel comfortable answering. • Learn to “pivot.” Answer the question you wish you had been asked. • Your messages are your “safe zone.”
  14. 14. 9: ACT LIKE YOU’RE ON-THE-RECORD, EVEN WHEN YOU’RE NOT As a general rule, we recommend you operate on- the-record – and pick your words accordingly. On-the-record means the reporter can quote you directly (by name).
  15. 15. 10: PICK YOUR BATTLES – AND LET BUSINESS FORWARD HELP A single business leader, acting alone, is unlikely to have an impact. But hundreds or thousands of business leaders, making similar arguments at the same time, are hard to ignore. With your permission, we can also include your comments in testimony we present to Congressional committees and federal agencies.
  16. 16. OP-EDS Op-eds make an argument about a pressing issue, usually featuring an unusual and compelling voice from the community. In deciding whether to publish your piece, editors will ask four questions. 1. Is your issue important? 2. Is it timely? 3. Does it have a significant local angle? 4. And do you have a credible and interesting angle?
  17. 17. LETTERS TO THE EDITOR In contrast to an LTE or op- eds, blogs should have an edge. To break through on websites like Medium and Huffington Post, you need to make your point in sharper terms. LTEs respond directly to an article or op-ed the newspaper has recently published. 200 words or less. Don’t be surprised if the newspaper edits for space. BLOGS
  18. 18. TV (AND RADIO) • Stories run from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. • A typical quote in one of those stories runs about 10 seconds. • Stay on message; keep it short; keep it local. • Have three points; practice each point before you speak with the reporter; practice referring back to them in different ways. In pre-taped TV interviews, look at the reporter. Be a “happy warrior!”
  19. 19. SOCIAL MEDIA Capitalize on moments. Use key events to build your audience and your brand as a business expert. Remain active. • Be authentic: avoid sounding like a press release. • Avoid sarcasm. • Ignore “trolls.”
  20. 20. TALKING TO YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS GENERAL A small number of calls (from informed constituents) can have a bigger impact than you might think. Regular communication, over time, builds trust. Be sure to focus on your elected officials – the ones who represent where you live, where you work, or your employees. LETTERS Use email. Regular mail can take weeks for delivery. Include the legislation or issue in your subject line – with a “yes” or “no” to make your opinion clear. Cite local examples, if you have them. Identify yourself as a constituent and business leader in your first paragraph. CALLS Identify yourself as a constituent, identify the topic/bill you want to discuss, and be clear about your position. Ask for the Legislative Assistant covering your issue. If they refer you to a Constituent Liaison, that’s okay. Ask for the name and email of the staffer responsible for that issue, then send him or her a follow-up email. REQUEST A MEETING, OFFER A TOUR Ask for the Legislative Assistant covering your issue. Request a meeting with the official. If dealing with a Member of Congress, request a meeting back home, during in-district work periods. If appropriate, invite your elected official to visit your place of business.