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How I Met 45 City Council Members in One Year

PUBLISHED: 
January 9, 2020

By Dana Healy, Executive Director, CTV North Suburbs

Original Post Date January 8, 2020

Photos by Sydney Bertun, provided by Dana Healy

Have you ever gone to a party and not known anyone? Welcome to the last fifteen months of my life. I moved from the East Coast to the Midwest, and needed to rebuild my network of government officials in order to be successful. Here’s how I did it.

I am an Executive Director of a Community Media Center and a Joint Powers Authority for nine cities. Essentially, I have to keep nine cities happy all the time through cable and video production related services. I’ll be sharing how I connect with Government Officials and bring them and their constituents value.

Connection Strategy #1 – Dog and Pony Show

Get on the agenda for the City Council of the cities you represent. Do this annually. If you’re new to the gig, introduce yourself and walk through upcoming changes and recent successes. The opportunity here is to be proactive and transparent with the Council Members to gain buy-in for upcoming changes and initiatives. City Council members are well connected and can be very helpful if you approach them.

Value Add – You are being recorded giving a presentation about your community media organization. Use that video content to magnify your message to more constituents via social media.

Connection Strategy #2 – Follow Up Emails

Your City Council members now have a sense of who you are. Send a follow up email the morning after the meeting you attended asking for feedback and a one on one meeting. Remember to add an agenda and a specific time length of the meeting. These are busy people, be up front about what you will talk about with them

Value Add – Asking for feedback from your presentation will give insight on how to present better in the future and what is important to that City Council member.

CTV Team members, Jared Wiedmeyer, Isabella Stilone, and John Camitsch, pose with Mounds View City Council Member Bill Bergeron at a CTV Speak Out

Connection Strategy #3 – The One on One

In my previous post about networking I mentioned the power of the one on one. This is where relationships are built. Set up these meetings and ask for insight on needs of the city, upcoming projects, and opportunities for increased communication to the community. Remember, you are listening.

Value Add – Listen 90% of the time, talk 10% of the time. This is where you learn more about what is important to the city.

Connection Strategy #4 – The Well-Timed Email

Learn about an upcoming milestone, or a cause the Council Member supports. You can find out this information during your one on one meeting. Make a note in your calendar to reconnect around that time with an email. “Hi Council Member XYZ, I wanted to wish you and the Rotary good luck at the Pancake Breakfast tomorrow morning. Talk to you soon.” This reminds them that you are around, and triggers a positive outlook on the organization.

Value Add – Offer to dispatch a video crew for coverage of the event. This gives you more community video content, and builds trust and value with the Council Member.

Connection Strategy # 5 – Identify Your Champion

A Champion is a person with strong connections that supports you and your organization. They are willing to introduce you to connected people and can “vouch” for you. These are extremely valuable people. It will take time to identify this person and build up trust. Bring value to them for working with you. They are the key to your organization’s success.

Do not rush this! This takes time. Think in years vs months.

Value Add – Ask your champion to introduce you to certain people. Be very clear on the connection you need. Always thank them for their help and introductions.

Connection Strategy # 6 – Rinse and Repeat

Relationships need to be nurtured. Once you’ve made a well-established connection, don’t shelve it and wait until you need something from them. Keep communicating and helping them. I do my dog and pony show every year, followed by one on one meetings.

Value Add - A simple email to check in, or a holiday card goes a long way.

Relationship building is what we need to do as Executive Directors in PEG and Community Media. We have a responsibility to educate our cities, legislators, and community about the value we are bringing. Break out of the silo and connect. What are some ways you connect with your city officials? What challenges do you have? View this post on LinkedIn to join the discussion.

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