November 01, 2014
Politics, Like Direct Selling, Is All about Relationships
by Emily Reagan
“Just because you do not take an interest in politics does not mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” Pericles made that statement in 430 B.C., but the Direct Selling Association is sending the same message today. At the DSA Annual Meeting in June, Chairman Truman Hunt set an objective to build the association as a force for good. Securing vital political influence is one step toward that goal, and the DSA’s Government Relations team has held two training sessions this year—one at Nu Skin’s headquarters in Provo, Utah, and one at Mary Kay’s Addison, Texas, headquarters—to provide a practical approach to legislative relationship building.
The Government Relations Training Session is now available in a series of videos at www.dsa.org. The DSA is continually reaching out to officials and advancing the conversation around direct selling; however, unified action by member companies and their employees could exponentially multiply those efforts. In the videos, five speakers outline the “why” and “how” of building relationships with members of Congress.
“Unrelenting effort on behalf of each and every company, no matter its size or political acumen, is going to be required if the industry is going to be successful,” says Michael Lunceford, Chair of the DSA’s Government Relations Committee and Senior VP of Public Affairs at Mary Kay.
Mary Kay’s VP of Government Relations, Anne Crews, outlines areas of major concern to direct selling companies, such as the independent contractor status, restrictions on door-to-door selling, labeling requirements, and onerous consumer protection laws on products and services. With a firm grasp of the issues, companies can maximize their efforts through coalition building or grassroots lobbying. Whatever the strategy might be, says Crews, effective action will require support from top-level executives.
“For a government relations strategy, you’ve got to have buy-in from the top,” she states. “Your CEO, your president, your executive leadership team have to understand the importance and the priority of lobbying.”
The session also covers the finer points of meeting and interacting with representatives. Rod Givens, District Director for Democratic Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, explains what to do—and not to do—when visiting a member’s office. According to Givens, getting involved in the political process is all about building relationships, regardless of whether a company anticipates resistance or support on a specific issue.
“Even if you believe this might not be an issue that one party will agree with, go see them,” says Givens. “One more point: When you go see them, make sure you bring a constituent. Make sure you bring someone who lives in that district.”
DSA Attorney Jeff Hanscom drives home the importance of bringing constituents into the conversation. “There is no limit to the number of touches—the number of communications—that you can have with legislators, but the biggest thing they want is to hear from their constituents,” says Hanscom, who specializes in issue advocacy at the state level. “How is this going to impact them? If you have facilities in their district, if you have independent contractors in their district, they want to know that.”
For companies looking to take the first, or simply the next, step in their political strategy, the DSA offers a variety of tools. The Government Relations team sends out regular issue alerts with specific calls to action. This summer, the DSA launched an online “Who Do You Know?” tool that enables companies to survey their salespeople and discover existing contacts. The Association also raises funding through its PAC and Super PAC to support candidates across the country.
“Reach out to us,” Hanscom urges members. “We are working for you, and we want to make sure that we provide you with the information and give you the tools to get involved.”