The Great Minnesota Legislative Engagement Opportunity: Craft Brewers Guild at the State Fair
The biggest lobbying assets for any organization are:
Demonstrable and compelling stories about the far-reaching impacts of the organization's issues on our state's residents, communities, and businesses;
A large and diverse statewide community of engaged supporters who can be activated to contact their legislators when the need arises;
A bipartisan cohort of legislators who understand and care about those issues, who feel connected to that community of supporters, and who, as such, will be champions for those issues and supporters at the legislature; and
A strong lobbying plan for the legislative session, and people with the skills to execute that plan.
It seems logical to assume that an organization that has broad public reach, visibility, and popularity, as well as a significant and demonstrated positive impacts on Minnesota's jobs and economy, can automatically check-off the first three assets and focus entirely on the fourth. The reality, however, is that there is nothing automatic about turning an organization's support and impact outside of the Capitol into support and impact inside of the Capitol, and the best lobbyists and lobbying plans utilize every opportunity in between legislative sessions to maximize engagement to build up those first three assets.
Case in point is the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, with whom we've been working for the last year on legislative strategic communications and, more recently, on behalf of whom we will be lobbying.
The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild was established almost twenty years ago to celebrate and support the craft brewing sector here in Minnesota. The Guild supports brewers in a variety of ways from connecting them to one another to holding events year-round that highlight the amazing products brewed in Minnesota to advocating at the Capitol for policies that support the sector's ongoing growth.
It comes as no surprise that the Guild has incredible public reach and popularity. The Guild's annual flagship events, most prominently All Pints North and the Autumn Brew Review, draw tens of thousands of Minnesotan craft beer lovers from across the state. The Minnesota State Fair, however, brings hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans to the Guild's growing exhibit and vendor space in the Agriculture Building. These craft beer lovers know how to support Minnesota's craft brewing sector as consumers, but most haven't considered whether and how they can also lend support for passing good craft beer policies at the state legislature.
That got Apparatus thinking about how to turn the Great Minnesota Get Together into the Great Minnesota Legislative Engagement Opportunity.
To inform visitors about the role craft brewing plays in growing Minnesota's jobs, economy, communities, tourism, and more, Apparatus designed and built an interactive exhibit in the center of the Guild's area at the State Fair. Thousands of fair-goers weighed in on what matters to them when they think about craft brewing's impacts and signed up to receive emails about how to support the Guild's efforts at the state legislature.
To foster the growth of strong relationships between craft breweries and legislators, as well as begin cementing relationships among legislators who support craft brewing, Apparatus helped the Guild put on the first annual Brewmasters v. Legislators Quiz Bowl at the State Fair. Senators Dziedzic (DFL-Minneapolis) and Osmek (R-Mound) and Representative Wolgamott (DFL-St. Cloud) competed against Jim Watkins (Sociable Cider Werks, Minneapolis), Jacob Schnabel (Spilled Grain, Annandale), and Bob DeLange (Waconia Brewing Company, Waconia) to see which group knows more about the other's job. Everyone on stage and in the audience had a great time learning the ins and outs of the brewing and legislative worlds (and we've received lots of calls from other brewers and legislators wanting to participate next year!).
We're already looking ahead to the legislative session and to working with the Guild, our growing cohort of legislative champions, and the thousands of State Fair craft beer lovers who signed up to help support good craft beer policy to make the 2020 a lobbying success for Minnesota's craft brewing sector.
You can learn more about the Guild's policies here: https://www.mncraftbrew.org/policy/