Kenny Thompson Jr. is the Senior Director of Government and External Affairs at PepsiCo, the largest food and beverage company in the United States. He leads PepsiCo’s business-wide strategy for targeting, investing, cultivating and maintaining signature partnerships with external stakeholders to drive positive business and community impact.
Before joining PepsiCo, Kenny held several positions in the Obama White House, including Special Assistant to Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Senior Advisor to United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Special Assistant and Advance Lead for President Barack Obama.
Kenny spent two years on the Obama for America Campaign in 2007 and 2008 as a member of the National Advance Staff, during which time he traveled to 38 states and over 100 cities.
A native Texan, Thompson has a Master’s of Business Administration from Georgetown University. He received his undergraduate degree from Texas Christian University, where he played baseball for the Horned Frogs.
Currently, Kenny serves on the board of directors of the Women’s Congressional Policy Institute, the AddRan College of Liberal Arts at TCU, and is a member of the Chancellor’s Advisory Council at TCU.
Kenny and his wife Jessica live in Washington, DC.
- It all comes down to knowing your audience and building relationships
- Learn best practices on approaching elected officials
- Local matters now more than ever–driving policy change at both the local level and on capital hill
[7:34] Local matters now more than ever. Building relationships with the mayor, city council, school boards are crucial to making an impact locally.
[11:29] What can we learn from political campaigns that we can apply to our outreach efforts?
[12:34] What motivates people locally and showing them how it impacts them on a daily basis. Once you get people motivated it’s much easier to get people organized.
[15:37] Come with solutions, they get noticed. Anyone can come with a problem, come with a solution. If you can identify a problem, identify a solution.
[16:46] Don’t let the great be the enemy of the good.
[19:12] Use your subject matter expertise to promote your cause. Don’t assume because the person across the desk has more power that they know more than you.
[19:55] Tips when speaking on Capitol Hill: Member of Congress care about what’s going on in their districts. Make sure you tie all things back to their district, don’t forget to give credit where credit is due. Connect to local mayors and local decision makers “I’ve been working with the mayor in our city about this and they support this.”
[22:27] Use events to build your lists but stay engaged with your audience. Don’t let the connection end at the event.
[23:55] There always needs to be a call to action. Be specific. Don’t ask them to do three things, ask them to do one thing. The more times you ask the more likely you are to get action.
[26:45] The importance of building relationships with key influencers. Don’t just focus on the elected officials, but also who are they listening to? Where are they getting their news?
[29:40] Changing policy takes time and it will feel like two steps forward, one step back. “When you’re building relationships you just want to be an honest broker.”
[30:49] “Anyone can kick down a barn door.” (Sam Rayburn)“But very few people can sit down at a table and know the public policy or a specific issue and advocate for it and engage with other people thoughtfully.”
[34:52] What are some of the ways PepsiCo is taking on local initiatives related to water? Working with local farmers to reuse water, fixing irrigation problems, putting water back into the system. Partnering with organizations at the local level, Flint, Sacramento, Baltimore to help fix infrastructure problems.
[37:24] Kenny talks about starting with the basics, like infrastructure, as the first step to solving major issues such as education. *Boom: He’s a #waternerd
What It Takes by Richard Ben Cramer
Educated by Tara Westover
WaterNow Alliance believes that local leaders hold the keys to our future. WNA is a nonprofit network of over 400 councilmembers, mayors, water district board members, and utility management nationwide that champion sustainable, affordable, and community-based solutions to water management challenges. They are a catalyst for change and an architect for solutions. WNA helps to identify and overcome barriers, provide tools, training, project and policy support, and shares best management practices for local initiatives advancing community resilience. WNA is a forum for collaborative action through convenings and annual summits, and a network for local leaders to learn from each other.
Join this unique network of local decision makers leading the way to a healthy and resilient water future for their communities. Membership is free and open to the decision makers who vote on all things water from policy to programs to rates and who are ultimately accountable to the public. Visit waternow.org/join or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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