Be Your Own Lobbyist: How to get your message across effectively
Tuesday, May 12, 2015on
No matter what field you work in, good communication skills are key to successfully selling a product or your business. Public Policy work is no different, and you don’t have to hire a lobbyist to successfully convey your message to your local elected official. If there’s a public policy issue or a particular bill that you’re concerned about, you can be your own lobbyist without having to throw on a suit, put Dr. Scholl’s inserts into your high heels, and stand around in the Statehouse lobby all day. But before you pick up your telephone, or meet with your House or Senate member in person, there’s a few tips that will help you get your message across effectively: 1. Leave the industry jargon at the office. Chances are if there’s an issue that you’re passionate and concerned about, you’re probably already somewhat of an expert on the subject. However, your representative is most likely not. Before you reach out to call them or take a meeting, break down your arguments and fact and figures into basic terms, and leave out industry jargon that is harder to understand. Here’s a great formula to follow when lobbying for your issue: This is what the bill actually does + This is how it affects me + 2-3 reasons why you should support/kill this bill + this is what the other side says = One better informed politician. Your Representative or Senator will be grateful to you for delivering your message in an honest and simplistic fashion, and will be much more open to your thoughts and opinions. If you are concerned about an issue but are not much of an expert on the topic, you can always contact us for talking points on a particular bill to help prepare you. 2. The Golden Rule wasn’t just for Sunday school. There’s a reason why you grew up being told not talk about religion or politics at the dinner table. When there is an issue that affects your quality of life and well-being, you have every right to be passionate, or even upset and angry. But that does not mean you should be mean, nasty, rude, or launch ad hominem attacks against your representative. Even if you are on different sides of the argument, you’re elected official is an everyday human being just like you. If you resort to name calling and threats, your message will get escorted out right alongside you with security. By remaining respectful and collected, your message is much more likely to be received, even if they don’t agree with you. And they will remember your sincerity if you ever reach out to them on a different issue. 3. Don’t always have your hand out. The first time most people reach out to one of their elected officials is usually to criticize them, or ask them for something. While it’s true that their job is to reflect the will of their constituents, it will be much easier to get their ear if they don’t want to run when they see you coming. Just like in business, relationships matter. When they cast a vote that you agree with, reach out to them and let them know that you appreciate it. This gives you a greater leg to stand on when you do have to reach out to them on a controversial issue. 4. Don’t use robo-emails. Unless you’re ok with them automatically getting sent to the virtual trash can. Instead of clicking on that big, flashing red button that says “contact your legislator,” take two minutes to write them a personal email. It doesn’t have to be long, and it will have a much better chance of getting read. These short tips will go a long way in helping you effectively communicate your thoughts and opinions to your Statehouse representatives. If you have questions about who your representative or Senator is you can find them here. If you’re a member of one of our 13 area chambers of commerce, contact me anytime with questions or concerns. I may have just worked myself out of a job on this one….