WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi show featured a segment today called "Making Government Listen" with guest host Rebecca Roberts and "the Advocacy Guru" Stephanie Vance, author of "Citizens in Action: A Guide to Lobbying and Influencing Government" and a partner with Advocacy Associates
Here's the description from their website (where you can also listen to the segment):
"On any given day, congressional offices are swamped with thousands of emails, phone calls and letters. Now that the health care debate is heating up, that daily flow of correspondence has transformed into an avalanche. So how can a single citizen break through it all to influence a member of Congress? We explore strategies for effective advocacy on the Hill, at the statehouse and your local government."
I just caught the tail end of it, so didn't get to participate, but listened to it online and thought it worth sharing. It's a great reminder and I think really helpful for newbies!
Some (OK a lot of) highlights:
--Don't mail stuff to DC; it has to get irradiated and thus is not very effective
--AUTHENTICITY is key to making grassroots WORK.
--100 form letters that all say the same thing HAVE LESS IMPACT as 10 or 20 unique letters authentic, most thoughtful, relavant, personalized letters from people who honestly feel these concerns
--Constituents are the ones who are listened to. Communications sent from non-constituents are re-routed to the appropriate rep
--Tone down the skepticism a little and do the research to find out why your reps are voting the way they are. It may not actually be because of campaign donations.
--Relationships with staff are essential, especially the scheduler (don't think they're "just" an assistant!)
--Don't be surprised or insulted by meeting in the hall
--Being polite and respectful WORKS!
--If you get a cranky staffer, the person doing the lobbying needs to be the adult, take the high road, and work to foster relationship
--Know what your legislator is interested in (e.g., what types of legislation they've introduced and support, what they mention in their press releases), then frame your discussion along the lines of what interests them and show the way it intersects (even if it's tangentially related).
--Sometimes Chris Van Hollen's office (Rep from MD who also has a national roll) shuts down because they get so much correspondence/communications, they have to take a break to get through it all!
--Tell the truth and be accurate and you'll gain respect. Again, AUTHENTICITY works!
--Social media is valuable and useful, and the key is STILL your message and its authenticity. Personal stories are really valuable
--Know what you want, who you're talking to, how to talk to them, and how to follow up
--Follow up is what distinguishes effective advocates from ineffective advocates. E.g., if you get a form letter back, take the time to write another letter thanking them for the letter and asking again for what you really wanted to know.
--Relationship-building asks have value, too.
--To work with committees where your Rep doesn't sit, you can still ASK your Rep to do something, or work through coalitions that are involved in the legislation.
--Summary of what works: Specific, thoughtful, communications WITH A PERSONAL STORY, and follow up.
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