Keeping in mind that your goal is to develop an ongoing personal relationship with your elected representatives, as well as to influence their position on specific issues or bills, here are a few things to remember when speaking to them:
- Know who your legislator is before making initial contact on an issue.
- Find out what legislative committees your legislator serves on.
- Do not be intimidated. Legislators will view you as the expert on the issue.
- Share your personal story if it helps to make your point.
- Do not assume that your legislator understands public education funding and the benefits to schools, students and communities. Take the time to educate him/her. Do not use jargon.
- Know your issue. Provide facts and figures to back up your position. Refer to the talking points and other materials located at http://www.paschoolfunding.org/take_action_tools_talking_points.shtml.
- Remember all causes are good causes. You must convince your legislator that there is something extra special about yours.
- Don’t debate with a legislator or give ultimatums such as “I won’t vote for you if you do not support my position.” Respect the legislator’s right to disagree with you.
- Know your opposition. Be able to address the objectionable part(s) of the opposition stance directly and effectively, using verifiable examples and statistics.
- Put the legislator at ease by convincing him/her that you are there to serve as an educational resource. Act like a partner, not an adversary.
- Put broad policy issues in a local perspective. Legislators who know how issues will impact local voters tend to grasp ideas more easily and are generally more receptive.
- Be a good listener and hear out what your legislator has to say on the issue.
- Be sure to thank the legislator for taking the time to hear your position.
- Once a legislator gives you a commitment, it is all right to check back with him/her later. Do not badger him/her with phone calls.
- Do not be disappointed if your legislator sends an aide. Aides are critical to the process.
- Spend your time working with legislators who haven’t made up their minds.
- Be brief, prepared, clear, honest, accurate, persuasive, timely, persistent, and grateful.
- Always follow up with a thank you note, and amplify your main points.
When your legislator goes the extra mile, you may consider acknowledging his or her efforts by writing a letter to the editor in your local paper.