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So you were called to testify before the Pennsylvania legislature

This week kicks off budget hearings in Harrisburg with cabinet secretaries and other state officials testifying before House and Senate committees about the governor’s proposed funding. Aside from budget hearings, there are many issue and policy hearings before the state legislature. For example, the Norfolk Southern CEO went before a Senate committee earlier this week to discuss the company's response to the Ohio train derailment.

What do you do if you find an invitation to testify in your mailbox?

In the governor’s office, I worked with cabinet officials and others to help them prepare to testify before the Pennsylvania legislature


Here are a few tips:

  1. Research the Committee Members: Take the time to research the committee members. What are their priorities? Have they made statements or taken stances on the issue you’re there to discuss? What is their district like? Watch videos and determine their approach and style. Make sure that you and your team know what you’re walking into.

  2. Develop Talking Points and Message Boxes: After researching the committee, tailor your existing messaging documents, specifically your message boxes, to the appearance. Make sure your talking points and message boxes are in a digestible form and ready for prep.

  3. Prep Sessions: It’s important to take some time to practice before the hearing. You can get Q&A from your team and try to anticipate the questions you might get. It’s important to practice your answers, particularly the structure of the answers so you can respond crisply and succinctly.

  4. Reach Out to Media or Develop Content: Think about reaching out to media or developing content around your appearance. Is this an opportunity to reach out to local media for interviews? Can you cut some videos or develop graphics for your supporters and stakeholders? Or are you just looking to get past the hearing?

  5. Follow Up with Members: No matter the tenor and result of the hearing, follow up with committee members either with more detailed responses to their questions or requests or simply with a thank you note.

  6. Revise Your Communications and Advocacy Plan: The greatest value of committee hearings is information. You can hear directly from members, and it allows you to refine and adjust your strategy and get more insight into how you and your organization are viewed by policymakers. Update your strategy with this experience and make new targeting lists, if you need to.

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