How to Influence or 'Lobby' Your Legislator

Posted on August 28, 2015

How to Influence or 'Lobby' Your Legislator

By Reynolds Broker, Account Associate

The ability to influence or "lobby" your legislator is one of the most important aspects of the democratic process, second to voting. As an American citizen, lobbying is your right to educate, advocate and ultimately prompt your elected officials to pass positive and meaningful legislation. Follow these steps to maximize the effectiveness of your grassroots lobbying:

Develop clear goals for your advocacy initiative
Develop a mission statement that clearly defines your list of goals that are specific, concise and achievable through the legislative process. This may seem like the simplest aspect of the lobbying process -- but it is among the most crucial. Without clear, obtainable goals, your lobbying mission is dead in the water from the start.

Be prepared: Do your homework
Thoroughly prepare yourself before approaching and ultimately "educating," "informing" and/or "advising" a legislator on the importance of your advocacy goals. Legislators often lack the time, staff and in-depth expertise to tackle the wide spectrum of constituent issues facing them. This lack of knowledge presents an opportunity for you to present yourself as a credible representative and advisor.

Your research should answer the following questions: Why is this important to constituents? Why should a legislator care and support the bill? Who will be opposed to this legislation and why? Always cite supporting, credible information -- fact sheets, FAQs, personal allegories and contact information -- to bolster your arguments. Facts matter. If you can provide concrete, objective answers, your arguments and proposed policies will be taken more seriously.

Identify your legislators: Find a connection
The best place to start your advocacy campaign is with your own legislator. That's because your legislator has a vested interested in your opinion -- and your vote. This is known as constituency connection. Again, it is extremely important to do your homework to understand and connect with your legislator. Often, political, professional and even personal preferences and attitudes can indicate how your legislator will address your advocacy education initiatives and legislative goals. So make your goals relevant to an elected official's own policies.

And establishing personal relationships with elected officials and their staff is extremely important. Staff members are huge allies when vying for a legislator's time and attention. This symbiotic relationship is of value to both parties because it humanizes your advocacy issues and provides elected officials with credible constituent resources that are only a phone call away (which is ideal).

Clear communication
Legislators are busy, and so are their staffs. So cut to the chase. It is important to educate legislators about the "who, how, where and when," but more importantly, clearly dictate and define "what" actions need to be taken to appease your advocacy goals.

Follow up
This is the most overlooked step in the process, but it is essential to gaining legitimacy with a legislator. This step separates the serious from the "fly-by-nighters." It requires a great deal of diligence and, perhaps, professional persistence. You want to communicate that your advocacy initiative will not be discouraged by time or the possibility of failure. Plus, the longer you are witness to the process, the better you will understand the factors and people who make the wheels turn.

Contact us for more information on how to better influence your legislator, or if you want to take your strategic advocacy initiative to the next level. 

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