Congressional Testimony Tips From Seth Rogen
In early 2014, actor Seth Rogen testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee to ask for more research funding for Alzheimer’s disease. Organizations are well aware that star power sells and having a celebrity spokesperson can help bring attention to your cause. Ben Affleck was also on Capitol Hill that same day giving testimony. However, no one seemed to care the latest Batman was there because Rogen’s opening statement was the talk of Capitol Hill. In fact, two days after his appearance, C-SPAN reported that video of Rogen’s testimony was their third-most-watched video EVER. What lessons can associations learn from this experience?
1. You have to use the right member. Sure, Seth Rogen is a celebrity and celebrity = attention. However, celebrity does not guarantee that someone can articulate personal experiences and connect them to legislative requests. Heck, celebrity doesn’t even guarantee that someone can read. While your association may not have a Seth Rogen at their disposal, you do have members who are knowledgeable about the issues and can articulate them in a way that engage and inform.
2. Once you find the right member, prep them for the congressional experience. If you have watched the congressional hearing, you may have noticed that not all of the committee members were present. This did not sit well with Seth as he took to Twitter openly asking why this hearing was so poorly attended by members of Congress. In hindsight, I wished the organization he was working with would’ve filled him in on what a typical day on Capitol Hill is like. Wednesdays are usually the busiest day on the Hill. At any given moment, there are floor debates, hearings, meetings with constituents, and other activities occurring simultaneously. While it would be great for members of Congress to be present at every hearing, that’s just not possible. It doesn’t mean they don’t care. If anything, this presents a great opportunity for Seth and the advocacy organization to continue their congressional outreach.
3. Humor works. Seth Rogen is funny. Alzheimer’s is not. And yet, here was this comedic actor who was able to translate humor into an ask for more research dollars to fight the disease his mother-in-law is battling. A little levity when faced with these challenging issues is appreciated by those advocating for these issues as well as the legislators who are faced with making tough choices in a difficult economy.
Stefanie Reeves is a senior lobbyist with the American Psychological Association and recently founded Generation Advocacy, an advocacy training firm. A version of this post appeared on her personal blog. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org