Members of Congress hear from hundreds – if not
thousands – of constituents every day. Getting your
message to rise above the noise is key to successful advocacy!
Below are some tips on how to communicate with Representatives and
Make it personal. If there's one
thing Capitol Hill sees enough of, it's stock letters. Online
advocacy tools are great, but Members and their staff recognize
generic letters. To make your letters stand out, include personal
details. While you don't want to go into too many details
(particularly if your letter is health-related), something that
tugs at the heart strings or paints a picture of a day-in-the-life
is much more likely to capture a staffer's attention. With that
Keep it short. Members of Congress
and their staff are pressed for time. A two-page letter that tells
your entire life story is just too long. Just as you need to learn
to share your story in 2-3 minutes, you must learn to write your
story in 1-2 paragraphs. Hit the relevant points – be
memorable but brief.
Remember the "ask." While
you want to stay away from the stock letters, you want to make sure
you actually ask your Member to take action. Be sure to
ask specifically for the Member to cosponsor a bill, vote
for/against a bill, join a caucus, etc. Don't get so caught up
in your personal story that you forget why you're writing.
Use social media. Social media is a
great way to interact with Congress. In the current negative
climate, Congress is bombarded with negative messaging, especially
in the anonymous social media field. But if you use social media
correctly – and for positive purposes – you can
get a Member's attention and get them to take action.
Create a campaign around Twitter (use a hashtag like #yesonHR2 or
#psoriasisSpeakOut to energize your advocates) and bombard
Congressional tweeters on a certain day or week. Also, make sure to
"mention" Members of Congress when posting a picture or
thank you. Don't let recent Twitter scandals scare you
– Twitter is on the rise in Washington, DC, and seems
like it's here to stay.
Follow up, follow up, follow up. The
squeaky wheel got the grease for a reason – because it
wouldn't shut up about it! If you want to be the squeaky wheel,
follow up with your Members of Congress. Remember, it's not
uncommon for Congressional staff to meet with 10-15 advocates a
day. Many times, what prompts these staff to take action for one
organization over another is persistence. Always be polite
but be persistent with the staff and hopefully, it will pay
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
Specific Questions relating to this article should be addressed directly to the author.
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