One of the most effective ways of introducing your programs to policymakers and staff is to host a tour. A successful tour needs planning. Below are tips to make your site visit a success.
Before you begin planning, get permission from college officials. Keep everyone informed. In particular, work closely with your college’s Communications and Government Relations offices.
What impression do you want the policymaker to have of your college? What programs do you want to highlight? Brainstorm and select the most important features you want to show off.
Develop a Draft Agenda
Plan a short introductory presentation about the college and the programs that will be on the tour. Make sure there are opportunities to see classes and meet faculty and students.
Make the Invitation
Send a brief letter or email to the policymaker’s local office at least six weeks before the scheduled date. Introduce yourself and your program, and state your purpose for writing: you would like the policymaker to see an example of a workforce education program in their community and why it is important to support such programs. Include specific information (date, time, location, others who may be invited, whether the media will be invited, and what activities are planned). Elected officials have very busy schedules, so be as flexible and accommodating as possible.
Follow-Up With Their Scheduler
Contact the policymaker's scheduler 7-10 days after sending the letter or email. You may need to be flexible with the date and tour arrangements to accommodate the policymaker. NOTE: members of Congress will most likely be in their home districts Mondays, Fridays, and on the weekends.
Determine and Schedule Press Activities
Work with the policymaker's press secretary, if they have one, to determine appropriate press activities. Send a press release to the local media inviting them to attend the tour. In addition to giving the policymaker publicity, it will increase the community's interest in your program. Follow up with the media to make sure that they attend, since the policymaker will be expecting them! Take plenty of photographs. If you can’t have the media on the tour, send local reporters a follow-up summary and a photograph for their use.
Invite and Prep Supporters to Join the Tour
Invite a few supporters, such as students and industry partners, to join the tour, to help you make the case. Prep them beforehand and let them know what you’d like them to do: make a speech; be prepared to answer questions; or just attend. If you plan to take photos or videotape the event, have participants fill out an authorization form so you can use their images.
Conduct the Tour
When the policymaker and staff arrive, distribute program descriptions, student success stories, and other relevant information to promote your program. Make sure that your name, address and phone number are on every document so staff can contact you later.
Describe the scope of the program: how many people you serve and what impact the program has on the community and local economy. Explain why continued funding for workforce education is important to students, jobseekers and local businesses. Encourage interaction with students, so the policymaker can see how good workforce education programs can change people's lives.
Include any speeches or Q and A sessions with your supporters. Policymakers like to hear stories about how legislation they have supported has positively impacted people in the community.
Make Your Pitch
Emphasize how additional resources could benefit students. While you have the policymaker's undivided attention, make a pitch for support. Ask them to support your programs through increased funding and effective policies. Remember to be specific if current legislation is pending.
Send thank you letters to the policymaker and any staff who attended. Reiterate the need for additional funding and more effective policies for your program. Include copies of press coverage and a photo of the policymaker with your students and supporters, to remind them how important workforce education is to their community.
Planning a site visit? Great! Here is an easy-to-print checklist of tips.