The most powerful advocacy is local, and that means each of the 2,000 meeting professionals at WEC can play a role in telling the industry’s story, an expert panel told participants during Monday’s Advocacy Luncheon.
“The opportunity for our chapters and chapter leaders is to become better informed, understand the impact we’re making in our local communities, and get together with our convention bureau partners to understand not just our local economic impact, but our business impact,” said MPI International Chair Kevin Hinton.
“The most important lesson I’ve learned, particularly in my new role, is that you can’t just do this when there’s a crisis,” added Christine Duffy, former MPI international chair and now president and CEO of the Cruise Lines International Association. Duffy quoted a senior U.S. Congress member’s advice that “you can’t just show up here and expect us to understand what your industry is about…you have to be here every day, every week. We need to hear from people in the local districts.”
Advocacy specialist Roger Rickard noted that all politics are local, and that means a handwritten note is one of the most effective forms of advocacy. The note should contain exactly three sentences:
- Who you are and who you represent.
- Why the issue is personal for you and your organization.
- What the elected representative can do to help.
He explained that handwritten correspondence will land on the Congress member’s desk, unlike the 40 million emails he or she receives each year.
Panelists encouraged members and chapters to contact their local Congress members and identify local partners with an interest in supporting a strong meeting industry. A participant said MPI’s Greater Calgary Chapter had generated profile by giving an award to the mayor during National Meetings Industry Day, an event co-organized each year by eight chapters across Canada. “We knew we would get him to our meeting because we were giving him something,” she said, and local media followed in his wake.
Michael Massari, senior vice-president of Caesar’s Entertainment, said the Las Vegas industry realized the need for ongoing advocacy after the community came under attack in 2009. Since then, Caesar’s and other properties have become more prominent in MPI, the U.S. Travel Association and other industry organizations.
“We realized we had to do this in a meaningful way, get involved, and advocate to make a difference,” he said.