Advocacy Do’s & Don’ts!
Advocacy Do’s & Don’ts!
• Schedule visits in advance. But walk-ins are OK.
• Form relationships! Don’t wait until you need something to contact policy- makers.
• Be open to talking to legislative staff. Be prepared to meet in the hallway or in the open.
• Be informed! Know the issue, the system and the key players.
• Give personal examples! They are incredibly powerful.
• Be honest! Do not exaggerate. It’s ok to admit that you don’t know something and that you’ll get back to the legislator with more information later.
• Always follow up with information you have promised.
• Be concise! Keep all visits, calls, testimonies brief and to the point. Stay “on message.” Effective legislative meetings should be narrow in scope.
• Practice, practice, practice! Explain your opinion & make your case to family, friends & colleagues before you make your case to policymakers.
• Seek out new partnerships & alliances with others who share your views.
• Be specific! Know what you want your legislator to do, and ask for it!
• Stay active! Maintain communication with policymakers.
• Be patient, persistent and positive.
• Know what other issues or problems your legislator is working on, and help when you can.
• Thank legislators for meeting with you and for their support or consideration, even if they are against you.
• Follow up a visit or telephone call to a legislator with a letter, thanking him/her for what you heard them say they would do. Offer yourself as an on-going resource.
• Assume staff will talk with each other.
• Treat the legislator as you would like to be treated. Use common sense.
• Wait until you need something to contact policymakers.
• Be late. Plan your visits well (House/Senate). Know the short cuts to getting around.
• Don’t be offended if a member is unable to meet with you personally and requests that you meet with a staff person.
• Ignore or be disrespectful to legislative staff.
• Exaggerate. Don’t make promises you can’t deliver.
• Send form letters or emails—lots and lots of ‘em. Don’t send snail mail. Emails are better.
• Confront, threaten, pressure or beg.
• Expect the impossible or insist on immediate action.
• Pretend to speak for everyone.
• Bury them with paper.
• Don’t overload a lobbying visit with too many issues.
• Don’t hold a grudge or argue—if it’s clear the policymaker will not support your position, just give them the facts and ask him or her to consider your viewpoint. Keep the lines of communication open.
• Don’t be put off by long-winded answers. Bring the member back to the point. Maintain control.
• Don’t make moral judgments based on a vote or an issue.
• Don’t waste a legislator’s or aide’s time.
• Don’t write members of the House when the vote is in the Senate, and vice versa.
• Don’t publicly or privately complain about your legislator or a member of his staff.
• Don’t blame legislators for all the things that go wrong in government.
• Don’t give up!
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