- Access—Your ability to talk to a legislator as someone you know.
- Credibility—Your believability on the subject you are discussing.
Gain Access, Protect Credibility
If you don’t have access you can’t gain credibility. If you lose credibility, you will lose access. Get to know your legislator. It may take time, but begin now. Personal one-on-one relationships are the best.
How to Lobby
Schedule meetings: Come prepared to discuss one issue and bring written information to leave behind. Keep the meeting short; just long enough to voice your concern.
Write Letters: Keep them brief and to the point. Keep them to one subject and avoid form letters. Neat, handwritten letters have the most impact. Be sure to include your name and address on the letter itself since envelopes sometimes get tossed.
Use the Phone: But keep in mind it is sometimes hard to get legislators directly. Talk to the legislator’s staff. They often have better command of details and facts.
Relax: Be yourself. Lobbying is a perfectly legitimate and vital right each of us has a citizen. Democracy thrives on an informed and active citizenry. IF you vote (and you should!), why not follow-up and voice your concerns? You choose to either assert or abdicate your role as an active citizen.
Dos and Don’ts
- Do know your facts.
- Don’t bluff. If you don’t know, admit it and get back with the information later.
- Do be brief and to the point.
- Don’t pressure, threaten, or seek to intimidate. You are in this for the long-run.
- Do thank public officials and not just when you are asking for their support.
- Do leave something behind, such as a fact sheet or a copy of a bill.
- Do get involved with campaigns, advisory boards, and civic organizations.
- Don’t underestimate your right to be heard. Elected officials serve the public.
- Do get to know your legislator.
Use Effective Methods of Contact
- Face to face meeting (most effective)
- Phone conversation
- Personalized letter (if legible, handwritten is best)
- Phone message, often left with staffer
- Personalized email (type “I’m a constituent” in subject line)
- Petitions, pre-printed postcards, just click e-mail, and other ready-made grassroots devices (though better than no contact at all)