June 14, 2015

How Do You Get A Federal Lawmaker To Listen? Read National Journal’s Helpful Tips

The Washington, DC magazine National Journal recently published a presentation offering advice to individuals and groups looking to influence federal lawmakers’ decisions. While the presentation is available through the magazine’s website to subscribers only, MSCI is happy to pass on the vital information to its members:

  • Five Key Principles For Influencing Behavior: When writing to a lawmaker or talking to them, first voice your support for them generally and then ask them for change (or what you want). Share your ideas about how to change things and then tell stories about how the policy would impact you, your company and your community. Finally, don’t forget to provide information – give them the data to back up your arguments.
  • Personalize Everything. Lawmakers and their staff say that Individual letters and e-mails can have greater influence on member decision-making than form letters. Advocates should focus on sending more personal messages to their member of Congress to capture the individual voice or perspective.
  • Staff Is The Gateway. Members trust their staff to help them listen to constituents, so don’t be surprised – or offended – if you end up meeting with a staff member. And certainly don’t say no to a meeting with staff!
  • 3 Keys To A Successful Meeting. Whether you meet with a lawmaker or a staff member, remember three things: 1) Stay focused and raise only the issue you are scheduled to discuss; 2) Do not discuss elections or campaign support and respect the member’s political views and relationships outside of the issue at hand, and 3) Leave behind a 1-2 page briefing paper with data points about the issue that was discussed.
  • Follow-Up Matters. If you meet with a lawmaker or a member of his or her staff, always remember to send a thank you note. But with your thank you note, include a reminder of the topic on which you met and any information or statistics your shared or promised to share.
  • Remember Your Vote Counts! Your representative or senator’s reelection hinges on their ability to serve the constituents who vote them into office. They understand: to keep you happy they need to hear from you and then act.
  • Change Takes Time. It’s easy to think nothing is happening in Washington, and while legislation can move at a glacial pace, change does happen. For example: it took 19 years to write the nation’s first Internet law and 29 years to get the first federal tax reform bill passed!