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Publicizing legislative efforts.

When your affiliated state organization has a bill pending in the legislature, don't keep it a deep, dark secret. Let the world know about it, and if not the whole world, then at the very least the people in your state and, importantly, your clients. Especially clients, because the success or failure of your bill may impact upon the scope of accounting services you provide and the cost of those services to the client.

Select a Point Person

Keeping the media informed, especially the print media, is really very simple when media relationships are properly handled. First of all, when the affiliated state organization has a legislative battle brewing, the president should appoint an individual as the "point" publicity person. Often that individual is the chairperson of the ASO's public relations committee or the ASO's executive secretary or executive vice president. It may also be the chairperson of the state legislative committee that is sheparding the bill through the legislature.

Occasionally a member of the ASO's legislative committee may have a client who is in advertising or public relations or otherwise familiar with media relations, who could act as the "point" publicity person for the ASO for a small fee. Such professional assistance is invaluable because not only can the individual prepare press releases or other material for publication, but in many respects a professional can coordinate with and supplement the activities of the lobbyist assisting the ASO. Moreover, a professional knows which media to use (whether print or electronic) in a particular situation and time.

Write an Effective Press Release

Regardless of who is designated as the "point person," he or she should be aware of certain fundamental rules. If working with the print media, begin with the press release. Newspapers can be a prime mover in promoting the ASO's legislative efforts.

Make the press release factual and stick to the facts. Avoid editorializing (leave that to the editor) and try to give your press release and the story it contains a "down-home" flavor. By this I mean presenting the story in a personal way, emphasizing how the legislation will affect practitioners, small businesses and individuals.

Try to keep the press release to no more than one page. Two pages should be the limit. A busy editor (or department editor of a large newspaper) is simply not going to read more than one or two pages. If your legislative story requires more than two pages because the issue is complex, or you fear that it may not be understood, consider calling a press conference. If that is not feasible, provide additional details with an attachment to the release in the form of a question and answer fact sheet.

Above all, the press release should be factual (as mentioned previously) and credible. A press release that lacks credibility will cause you more harm and heartburn than you need when you are engaged in a legislative struggle.

The most important part of the press release is the opening sentence or two. It should contain the who, what, when, where, why and perhaps the how. The opening paragraph should capture the readers' interest and make them want to continue reading.

An important requirement of a press release is that it be clearly written. Use plain language and write to be understood. Use active verbs, simple declarative sentences and short paragraphs. Remember, you are writing about a legislative matter that is extremely important to you personally and to your affiliated state organization. You want the public, your clients and the legislators to understand your concerns and to empathize with you. Finally, check the press release for accuracy, correct English and spelling and other errors. Make sure the names of legislators and their districts appear correctly.

Other Ways to Get Your Story Out

Don't overlook "Letters to the Editor" columns as a means of getting your story across to the public. Preferably the letters should be written by an ASO officer or the chairperson of the state legislative committee. However, ASO members are free to write the editor and make their views and concerns known. Not all letters are published, but a well-written letter clearly addressing the issues and the legislation has an excellent chance of publication, particularly if it comes from the ASO president.

A crowning achievement in newspaper publicity would be an editorial supporting the ASO's legislative effort. This may not be as difficult as it appears. If an ASO officer knows the editor or assistant editor, a personal visit to him/her and a discussion of ASO concerns and the legislation may produce results. If you have an opportunity to speak with the editor, produce a detailed outline of your legislation. Tell the editor why the ASO (and clients of the ASO's members) want the legislation (or opposed the adverse legislation) and seek the paper's editorial support. If you point out that many of the ASO's members' clients are advertisers in the paper and that the legislation will affect them (whether favorably or adversely), you are sure to attract the editor's attention. The opportunity to attract the editor's interest is also increased when the editor sees that your legislative struggle involves a number of people or small business entities.

Through the use of the media--especially print media because its effect is longer lasting--you can publicize your legislative efforts. The affiliated state organization has a stake in the political process--namely, to produce a positive impact on the laws the legislature passes. Accordingly, the ASO should not hesitate to utilize its resources to encourage a favorable political climate and this includes its relationships with the media. Stated briefly, the ASO should use the news media to its best advantage.
COPYRIGHT 1993 National Society of Public Accountants
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Washington Comments
Author:Sager, William H.
Publication:The National Public Accountant
Date:Jul 1, 1993
Previous Article:A standard for cost accounting.
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