Tips for Communicating with Elected Officials
- Be brief. A legislator’s time is limited. So is yours.
- Be appreciative. Acknowledge previous support and current action.
- Be specific. Don’t be general.
- Be informative and factual. Give reasons and provide the supporting materials.
- Be courteous and polite. Treat them as you would want to be treated. Ask for a specific action without being demanding or threatening.
- Be reasonable. Remember it’s all right to have a difference of opinion.
- Be realistic. Issues may need to be resolved through compromise.
- Be understanding. Put yourself in the legislator’s position and try to understand his/her concerns and goals.
- Be knowledgeable and evaluate issues. The introduction of a legislative bill doesn’t mean that it will become law. Don’t get too excited about it until you’ve learned the who, what and why of it.
Ways to Communicate to Your Elected Officials
Letters are still the primary means to communicate with public officials. They represent voters, are read and elicit responses. Letters can be informal or formal, typewritten or handwritten. Due to security issues, letters to federal officials, in particular, may take a longer period of time to reach the officials.
Call in advance to set up an appointment and explain the nature of your visit. Do your homework and make sure you understand the official’s position on a particular issue. You may consider inviting other individuals from like companies with similar concerns, and don’t be bashful about inviting the official to your place of business. Elected officials rely heavily on their staff for guidance, information, research and more, so it is important to get to know their staff.
Always be concise, and discuss only one issue per telephone call. If the issue is in regard to a particular bill, provide the bill number and state your position. Explain how the bill impacts your business and why you support or oppose it. Make phone calls sparingly.
Depending on the legislator, email can be an effective way to communicate when issues are time sensitive and the need for action is critical. Keep your message short and to one screen, so the official doesn’t have to scroll his/her way through the text. Always provide complete contact information in your email, including address and phone number.