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4 Keys to Successfully Communicate in Washington, DC

Discover the four keys to successfully communicate in Washington, DC.

Advocacy and Coalitions


I recently participated in the American Boating Congress (ABC), a coalition of industry partners coordinated by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NNMA). Hundreds of members came to Washington, DC to meet industry counterparts and convey the importance of the marine industry and recreational boating to Congress. Boat and motor manufacturers, electronics companies, marina developers and owners, and sport-fishing and diving enthusiasts all shared their piece of the importance of this multi-billion-dollar industry. Some Members of Congress were invited and spoke as part of the program. Many coalition members spent a full afternoon meeting with Members of Congress and staffs. They were heard.

The same week, I attended the Shipbuilder’s Council of America (SCA) Spring meeting, also in Washington, DC. This is a gathering of, you guessed it, companies who build ships and support shipbuilding! SCA orchestrates meetings and facilitates engagement with Congress on issues of critical importance to shipbuilding: the Jones Act, supply chains, fuel prices, and workforce development, for example. Senators and Representatives actively address this group to help with their own education and understanding of the issues.

A persistent message told consistently will be heard and understood. Click To Tweet

The Submarine Industrial Base Coalition and Aircraft Carrier Industrial Base Coalition gather annually in Washington, DC, and at other times in the year, to perform a similar function of outreach and exchange with Congress. With billions of dollars spent on capital ships like submarines and aircraft carriers, it’s essential that the decisions be made based on a complete set of facts. It requires that industry participate in this dialogue.

Abbott Labs Infant Formula Debacle


Much closer to home, the Abbott Labs infant formula debacle is presently being addressed in similar fashion by an unlikely, but powerful and credible group of lobbyists—young mothers who are completely reliant on formula for both healthy infants, and in our family’s case, those with highly specialized dietary needs. One company controlling 80% of an available product sounds like something found in state-run corporations. Yet here we are. The FDA has watched the looming train crash coming for weeks since that Abbott facility in Sturgis, MI was shut down over issues of contamination. The response from the Biden administration has been feckless, failing to recognize that this was not just another problem with the avocado or broccoli supply. This is the only source of nutrition available to some babies, infants, and toddlers.

Some courageous young mothers banded together on social media, telling cogent and powerful stories of the impact on their, their child’s, and their family’s lives. They contacted media outlets, organized letters and emails to Congress, and put themselves out there to demand a better strategy. Their efforts are gaining attention. The issue is now being addressed in multiple ways such as from the White House podium, the initiation of legislative fixes in Congress, use of the Defense Production Act, Congressional hearings to better understand what is the true state of this industry, and acceleration of supply lines into the U.S. from other countries not a victim of the Abbott stranglehold on this market.

The 4 Keys to Successfully Communicate in Washington, DC


Coalition lobbying works. Just like direct lobbying works. The four keys to successfully communicate in Washington, DC are:

  1. Be absolutely credible. Don’t sensationalize, just tell the truth
  2. Talk and listen—communication requires both
  3. Proudly put your name on your product or issue
  4. A persistent message told consistently will be heard and understood

The Make Your Move podcast is a multi-season series devoted to the lessons learned of military members in their post-active duty lives. I hope you enjoy the stories of the men and women brave enough to share their transition stories so publicly. Listen to the latest episode here.

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