Learning to Hug a Porcupine: Relationship Building with Lawmakers and How It Helps Your Organization


Building relationships with elected officials can sometimes be difficult and uncomfortable. It challenges you and your key stakeholders to get close to politicians in ways that may feel “prickly” – like hugging a porcupine. This program will help you overcome that discomfort, revealing the methods and benefits for building relationships with elected officials. The presentation is based on: exclusive surveys of congressional staff; focus groups Members of Congress and staff; and interviews with state legislators. Participants will learn:

  • Who Congress and state legislators listen to.
  • What congressional staffers believe are the most effective communications tactics for influencing undecided Members of Congress.
  • How and whether the Internet has made legislators more responsive and accountable to constituents.
  • The differences in impact between different forms of communications (e-mail, postal mail, in-person visits, and social media).
  • How to conduct effective in-person meetings, influence legislators at town hall meetings, and developing effective relationships in the state/district.
Date(s) & Time(s): 
Monday, March 16, 2020 - 3:30pm to 4:30pm

Brad Fitch


Bradford Fitch is President and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation. 

Fitch started his communications career at the age of 16 working at his local AM radio station in Upstate New York and a disc jockey and reporter. After graduate school, he worked as a television reporter in Washington, moving on to Capitol Hill for 13 years as press secretary, legislative director, and chief of staff.  In 2001 he served as Deputy Director of CMF, a non-profit dedicated to improving congressional operations and citizen engagement. He left CMF in 2006 to form a successful internet startup, before returning to CMF in 2010.

Fitch frequently quoted in national media outlets on how Congress works. He is also is the author of Citizen’s Handbook to Influencing Elected Officials and Media Relations Handbook for Agencies, Associations, Nonprofits and Congress.

Congressional Ballroom B
Session Type: 
Concurrent Session
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