Guide to Conducting a Successful Plant Tour
Planning the Tour
Visits by legislators to your company's facilities are an effective way for grassroots participants to build relationships with legislators. Plant tours illustrate first hand how plant processes relate to legislative issues and are an excellent tool for grassroots advocacy.
Plant tours also provide a visual link to your company's commitment to the Responsible Care initiative. Tours showcase your facilities' environmental, health, and safety standards.
The following guidelines will help you plan a successful plant tour:
- Determine the objectives for the visit.
Decide what issues you want to discuss and how best to link the issues visually with plant operations. Find out if the legislator has particular interests.
- Issue the invitation in writing.
Offer a range of dates to accommodate busy legislative schedules; dates during congressional recesses are especially appropriate.
- Announce the legislator's visit to all employees.
Once the tour is confirmed, promote it throughout the company by distributing a brief biography of the legislator and information about the legislator's importance.
- Arrange for photographs during the tour.
Work closely with the legislator's press aide on publicity and news coverage.
- Provide the legislator with information on your company prior to the visit.
For example, include the total number of employees, the products your company manufactures, and the amount of sales.
- Choose the tour guide with care.
The guide should be articulate, knowledgeable about plant operations as well as issues that concern the company, and know by name everyone the legislator is likely to meet.
- Map out the tour.
Develop a tour schedule and route that illustrates the objectives you set for the visit. Know when the legislator has to leave, and allow for extra time if the legislator wants to remain longer in one location.
- Prepare key equipment and safety gear ahead of time.
Ensure that equipment is operating to provide action interest. Provide safety gear to all participants when necessary.
- Rehearse the tour the day before.
It may be helpful for participants to answer possible questions to prepare for issues the legislator might raise.
Conducting the Tour
A plant tour is an appropriate and useful way to educate legislators and help increase the 'comfort index' of grassroots participants.
While a plant tour may be a familiar activity, the following tips will assist you in conducting a tour to meet your objectives:
- Begin the visit in your office.
Provide the legislator with an overview of important facts about your company's facilities and the tour, including environmental and energy problems and outlays, standards and advances in health and safety, and new products and equipment.
- Talk in quiet areas along the way.
Provide the legislator with an economic profile, including number of employees and amount of payroll, taxes, and local expenditures for materials and services. Be careful to avoid overwhelming the legislator with more technical or economic data than an interested layperson can absorb.
- Be sure to introduce employees the legislator encounters during the tour.
Remember, employees are the legislator's constituents. Also be sure to introduce all those with whom the legislator has a personal or political relationship as well as all grassroots program participants.
- Conclude the tour with a meeting.
A discussion provides an opportunity to answer the legislator's questions and reemphasize key messages and legislative issues in detail.
Following the Tour
To build on the relationship established by the tour, below are suggestions for follow up activities:
- Send a thank you note to the legislator.
Always thank the legislator in writing. Reiterate the points discussed during the visit.
- Forward electronic versions of photographs taken during the tour to the legislator and press secretary.
- Send press clips about the visit that appeared in local newspapers and internal publications to the legislator and press aide.
- Update the legislator continually on developments in your plant and company.
Take care to thoroughly inform him or her of how the plant will be affected by current legislative proposals. Send annual reports and other company publications to allow the legislator to keep up to date with your company.
- Stay in frequent touch.
Take note of accomplishments, honors, or significant events in the legislator's career.
- Continue to discuss issues of interest.
Offer to meet with the legislator's staff and serve as a resource on industry issues. Follow up when your legislator visits the district again.
Implementing the Tour
Often your legislator is in his or her district office during congressional recesses, which are especially good times to schedule a plant tour. Below is a list of usual congressional recesses:
President's Day Recess (February)
Spring Recess (March/April)
Memorial Day Recess (May)
Independence Day Recess (July)
Summer Recess (August Labor Day)
FaIl/Winter Recess (November January)
State legislative recesses vary throughout the country. Contact your state legislators' offices to determine the recess schedule.