Expert tips, tricks to effectively communicate and keep the momentum going at the Capitol

Advocacy

Geno Fragnito, MNCPA director of government relations | April 2017 Footnote

Our voice goes further when more are involved.

In early February, more than 70 MNCPA members from across the state gathered in St. Paul for CPA Day at the Capitol to represent the profession, educate legislators on important issues, and show a unified position on issues included on the MNCPA 2017 legislative agenda. Issues discussed with legislators were federal tax conformity, Department of Revenue (DOR) residency factors, unlicensed tax preparers regulations, tort reform and updates to the taxpayer's bill of rights -- including a creation of a private-letter ruling program at the DOR.

CPA Day also provided an opportunity for CPAs to meet with their individual legislators, discuss issues, develop or strengthen a relationship with their lawmakers, and build their brand as a trusted community business adviser. Legislative leaders who met with the group emphasized how grateful they are that CPAs are willing to share their expertise on the many complex issues legislators are dealing with this year. I echo their appreciation and thank all of you who attended.

Let's get personal

For those of you who couldn't make the trip to the Capitol, you can always bring the Capitol to you. Yes, I know we can't move the Capitol building to Hallock, Harmony, Moorhead or Marshall. But, you can invite your legislators to visit your business, the business of a client or your CPA firm office. In his comments at CPA Day at the Capitol, Speaker Kurt Daudt encouraged CPAs to do just this. Bring legislators to your office, talk about what taxpayers are facing and put a personal face on the impacts of legislation.   

You may be thinking, "Surely my experience couldn't change my senator or representative's mind." That's where you're wrong. Legislators place great value in the opinions and suggestions of constituents living in their districts. They especially pay close attention when the communication comes from a subject matter expert who has the letters CPA after his or her name. Who better for you to know than state lawmakers who set the rules you must follow?

Cut through the noise

Just as there are best practices in the business world that help increase the odds of success, so, too, are there steps to consider that will increase your chances of success when communicating with a legislator.

Traditional modes of communication like in-person meetings, phone calls and letters are still very effective, but the presence of social media continues to grow as an effective tool used to influence legislators. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are just a few social media platforms you might consider the next time you are looking to communicate with your elected officials, whether they are at the federal, state or local levels.

In addition, research by the Congressional Management Foundation shows that the effectiveness of your message increases when you include the following four components:

  1. The specific action you want your legislator to take.
  2. Why you want the action taken.
  3. The current and/or potential impacts to your local community or business
  4. A personal story or connection to the policy you are addressing.

All four seem like very simple things to consider, yet the research also shows a mere 9 percent share the local impact, slightly more (18 percent) include a personal story, and only half include a specific question or a reason to support or oppose legislation. Imagine how effective your message will be if you incorporate all four of these tips!

We are here to help

Even with some of these communication tricks in your arsenal, it's still possible to get tongue tied. That's where we step in. The MNCPA government relations team represents you at the Capitol -- but our efforts can only be successful if we know what is important to you.

Your experiences help shape our discussions at the Capitol and drive the conversations we have with legislators. If there are issues you feel require legislative or administrative action, the MNCPA will help you navigate what can sometimes seem like a bureaucratic maze with no way out.

As you run into regulatory issues in the day-to-day operations of your business or hear from clients, remember: You are a trusted community adviser and can affect change. Grow your network to include legislators who can help advance change, and don't miss your opportunity for success by overlooking a few basic elements of effective political communication.

Even if you couldn't attend CPA Day at the Capitol in February, there are still many ways for you to connect with policymakers in St. Paul and shape the outcome of the 2017 legislative session. And, it's not too early to start thinking about attending CPA Day at the Capitol next year.  

Have questions?

Do you have questions or want to get involved in the legislative process? Contact Geno Fragnito at 952-885-5550 or gfragnito@mncpa.org.