by Belinda Judson
Executive Director, Mid-States NATO
I read an article recently
where someone likened putting together a good government
a cake. That’s an interesting analogy and one that
seems to be very fitting when you think about it. A good
government relations program does indeed take the right
ingredients that need to be mixed together well and “baked” with
care to end up with a quality product.
Here’s the recipe being used for our association’s
• One part NATO
• One part NATO state/regional units
• 2 parts members
• Miscellaneous items (on occasion)
Blend together well and “bake” for the appropriate
Let’s look at the individual ingredients to see
how they come together to make up our government-relations “cake.”
NATO. NATO monitors
and gives exhibition a collective voice on federal legislation.
It works closely
with the state/regional
units and keeps them apprised of all matters of concern
coming out of Congress.
When necessary, NATO will ask state/regional
representatives and NATO members to weigh in with their
on particular legislative pieces. This helps lawmakers
on Capitol Hill understand how certain proposals will
affect their own hometowns and constituents.
Along with its entertainment coalition partners,
NATO also puts together an annual Hill Day. This gives
an opportunity to visit with their representatives
and share concerns about any pressing issues. More
it gives members the chance to cultivate and reaffirm
invaluable personal relationships with their Congressmen.
NATO state/regional units. NATO’s Regional Units
Task Force chair monitors state legislation daily and reports
to regional representatives on items of concern to their
units. Regional leaders also keep abreast of the issues
and their units in turn keep their memberships informed.
And though some regional associations employ lobbyists,
there may be times when members need to personally contact
state representatives on certain matters. There may even
be instances where it is advantageous to have members testify
before state legislative committees to reinforce exhibition’s
position on an issue. Although a leadership can help with
letters and/or testimony and accompany members to hearings,
having lawmakers see front-line people before them can
make all the difference in their decision on an issue.
NATO’s Regional Units Task Force
chair also compiles weekly reports for NATO to keep it
apprised of what is
transpiring in the state legislative arena. NATO has
always been very generous with its help and support of
units. While NATO leaves the decisions on how to handle
state legislative matters up to the state units, it willingly
and freely gives its advice on the issues, and helps
with suggested language for letters, position papers,
or whatever else is needed to aid with state legislative
battles. And since NATO is kept up to date on these issues,
and has worked so closely with the state units, it allows
all involved to work together more easily and more meaningfully
on behalf of the industry.
Members. As you can see, members are
a key component in all aspects of the legislative process – from
simply staying informed to being actively involved. From
to the state and local levels, member involvement is
the most important ingredient in any government relations
While NATO and the regional units
can work diligently on legislative matters, in the eyes
of the lawmakers,
member, as a constituent, is the most influential.
Miscellaneous ingredients. Just as
there are different flavors of cake, so are there different
legislative issues – and at times we must
add something different to the recipe. Often it
to work a partner with
similar interests and goals. We might work closely
with our colleagues at the Motion Picture Association
for instance, on issues such as camcorder piracy,
obscenity and admissions taxes. Or we might work
with the National
Soft Drink Association to defeat beverage taxes.
Separately the ingredients for our
government relations program don’t make much of anything. When they
are put together properly and handled with care, however,
contribute to a very fine result.