March 28, 2016

What Are The Best Ways To Get Congressional Staffers To Hear You?

One of the most effective ways to influence a member of the U.S. House or Senate is through their staff. So, how can you get these individuals to hear you, and your concerns? The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call recently offered nine suggestions, culled from advice given by the staff members themselves. They are:

  • Be Upfront. Gary Meltz, principal at MELTZ Communications, said, “Staff appreciate candor, and just because there is a downside doesn’t mean their member won’t get behind you.”
  • Be Considerate. Be persistent in your follow-ups, but don’t forget to recognize a staffer’s typically overwhelming workload and time constraints.
  • Connect The Impact To Their District. Staffers are most concerned about their boss’s state or district, said former Hill staffer Rebecca Gale. They want district or state-specific information, so come prepared. Always make sure this information is left behind in paper form too.
  • Be A Subject Matter Expert On Your Issue. Staff members are assigned to many issues so “be a reliable source of information.” This is especially important because funding for congressional staffing has been cut and there are fewer staff members to go around. They have to handle more issues than ever before.
  • Defend Your View. Staffers will ask what your opposition thinks—be prepared to explain that to them, but also to explain why you are right and the opposition is wrong.
  • Be Honest. Staffers bank on the integrity of government relations professionals, so building trust is essential. If you don’t know the answer, say so.
  • Remember Committee Staffers. Because committee staffers are generally subject matter experts, Roll Call says “approaching staffers on committees will help you get your issue front and center where the rubber meets the road.”
  • Care About What They Care About. Staff members might not care about the same angles to an issue or argument—so be prepared to address what they do care about.
  • No Wining And Dining Needed. Sometimes advocacy professionals think they have to wine and dine staffers—Roll Call says don’t. Just ask for a meeting and present your case.