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INTRODUCING MEMBERS OF CONGRESS TO YOUR BRAND: How to get your representatives to visit your franchise location and remember its importance.

Franchising is a collection of team members' stories that depict how your partnership with a brand has played a part in changing the trajectory of lives and communities.

Back-of-house refers to bringing elected officials and their staff members to your brand to see the internal happenings of your business and gives them a chance to connect intimately with the lives that their votes, bill filings and co-sponsorships effect. Behind the scenes tours also lend themselves to meaningful conversations specific to your business--it's mission and impact--and the significance of the franchise model. This is an example of the power of brands.

Personal relationships and visits to The Capitol can certainly be helpful in advocacy, but they become even more impactful when those in office get to know business owners and teams on the home front. How can you arrange for such a visit?

First things first, know who your elected officials are.

There are several websites that make identifying your delegates easy and even a good of Google search can get the job done. Take 30 minutes of one day a year--consider making it just after elections--to identify your elected officials. Capture information such as phone numbers, emails and office locations. Remember to include local elected officials as well.

HDG Hotels felt the benefit of having a connection to all three levels of government when a local city ordinance unexpectedly threatened to negatively impact business. Prior to the issue arising, HDG had held a heart of the house tour with the congressman, was present at a small meet-and-greet for a state senator and established a positive relationship with the city manager. All three levels of government advocated from their unique positions to help influence the direction the ordinance would eventually take.

Had those individuals not been able to speak from experience regarding the hotel that would have been impacted, things could have ended differently!

You've identified your delegates. Now what?

Even if you have a personal relationship with the elected official, learn who the staff member is that helps schedule visits. It makes a difference.

Two things to remember:

1. The ball is always in your court. If you don't hear back from the office, wait a couple of weeks and then try again. Keep trying.

2. Along the way, keep IFA in the loop. IFA is a wealth of information.

The ask might go something like this: We'd love to host the Congresswoman for a visit with our team to learn what our business does in the community. We anticipate spending an hour together. Our hope is to share our story and to learn more about her story.

Once you have a tour scheduled, get ready to share your story!

But first, give yourself a pat on the back. It can take being pleasantly persistent to get a visit scheduled. Then, get prepared:

How to prepare:

* Plan for an hour-long visit.

* Make sure your staff understands the purpose of this visit, which is for your representative to meet your great team members and to learn more about the business you are all in.

* Prepare your team for interacting with your guest. Maybe he/she is open to learning how to fold a fitted sheet, make a bed, do napkin origami, etc.

* Are there specific team members you hope might share their story? Give them a heads up and make sure they're comfortable.

* Set aside a place to come together after your visitor has been given a look behind the scenes. This is your chance to recap what has been shared. It is also an ideal time to have previously identified and prepped team members share their story.

Bonus question! Ask your guest to share their story with your team.

Ask your representative to share with your team what led them to run for office. Ask what his/her priorities are. Oftentimes those in office get a barrage of "asks." Being asked instead what is on their agenda can be a way of strengthening a budding (and even already established) relationship.

Along the way...

Take pictures and/or video. You can ask a team member or find a friend to do you the favor of playing photographer for the hour. Share your pictures with the staff member, IFA and social media. If you really want to go for it, short recap videos that depict a positive experience can be good for all involved!

Say thank you.

Once again, "keep IFA in the loop" comes into play. Has your elected official taken action--or avoided actions--that have been beneficial to your industry and franchising? IFA will know!

Thank your guest for being with us on issues. Thank him/her for taking time to be with you. Thank the district staff member who helped make arrangements. Send thank you notes as a part of follow up. Most of all, thank your team.

When those in office are in a position to protect or impede our industry, they're going to tell a story. Will it be yours?

By Lisa E. Lombardo, HDG Hotels

Lisa E. Lombardo is the Chief People and Culture Officer at HDG Hotels. Her role consists of all things engagement--internal and external, which includes government relations.
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Comment:INTRODUCING MEMBERS OF CONGRESS TO YOUR BRAND: How to get your representatives to visit your franchise location and remember its importance.(FRANCHISE RELATIONS)
Author:LLombardo, Lisa E.
Publication:Franchising World
Date:Dec 1, 2019
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