You will learn how to reach and get results from senators and members of the assembly and Congress.,
Links below… excellent techniques in NYTimes for empathetic conversation that can be used for lobbying specific legislation. Will work for your elected officials and their staff.
The goal… is to start a conversation. The easiest way to do that is by asking questions – ones that are non-threatening, open-ended and non-leading.
Questions are powerful because they make people feel safe, demonstrate respect, gather useful information, contribute to understanding, elicit empathy, build relationships and encourage self-reflection. Asking people about their own experiences in a nonjudgmental way is an especially good opening because it gives them an opportunity to talk about a subject they care and know more about: themselves.
The key to sharing persuasively is to present a story rather than an argument.
Story – your story from the place your legislator represents – is the key to persuasion when lobbying.
Elected officials have to deal with a lot of nonsense. Some people badger them when what they really need is therapy. They seem to think public officials have nothing better to do than listen to crazy rants.
Back in February I wrote about a man sending hundreds of emails to Rep. Marc Levine.
Last week I interviewed Sen. Mike McGuire who spoke with some amusement about a constituent who calls every day.
Bear this in mind and make sure your communications are businesslike…
Rep Louise Slaughter contributes to this video about lobbying for the arts…
Sometimes your representative or senator just disagrees with you. They don’t like to say no, and usually won’t do so directly. Often they will tell you they want to think about it then send a letter of rejection, i.e., sorry, can’t be with you on this one…
Found this old video announcement for my book
Keep On Voting After The Election
which is currently being revised to reflect current politics going into post-election 2019
New version come next Fall but you can still get a free copy of the still useful first version… just follow directions and post your own video… I’ll send you a book
To cut through the clutter cascading on members of congress and their staff, send a thoughtful, personal letter from a voter in their district. If it’s handwritten, so much the better. But don’t mail it. Carry to the local office, meet the staff there, make friends and let them forward it to Washington.
This demonstrates a much greater commitment and convern than sending a n email through their site. You want them to know HOW MUCH you care…
After a newspaper article about a class I’m teaching, I was contacted by an irate and agitated citizen activist. He was angry at Assemblymember Marc Levine (District 10 Marin/Sonoma). Seems this man has been writing letters and sending emails, lots of them, to Levine, and never gets reply.
Since the topic of my class at College of Marin is Personal Political Power – How to take action and make a difference, I’m always interested in citizens communicating with politicians. A main theme I emphasize is that elected officials focus on keeping people happy and offending as few as possible. This is especially true for their own voters.
I’ve interviewed hundreds of elected officials, lobbyists, volunteer advocates, academic researches and political operatives and staff. They all confirm that messages from constituents are the most powerful impact on politicians.
So I was interested in talking with a man who sends lots of messages and gets no response.
Here are excerpts from our conversation, which I recorded with his permission, and my thoughts:
He said, “I have written over 200 communications to a man named (Marc) Levine who is an assemblyman for this area (Mill Valley) to the California legislature,”
OK, first red flag for people who want to persuade elected officials. You can easily be a pest by writing about everything under sun and especially things for which you have no particular knowledge or experience. The unkind description is “gadfly” (an annoying person, especially one who provokes others into action by criticism).
Then he said, “The question I asked him was, have you ever been in the armed forces of the United States? That, I have continued for over 200 requests,,, he (Levine) promotes the fact that he is a graduate of the postgraduate naval school in Monterey.”
FACT CHECK: Assemblymember Marc Levine states on his official web site “Levine earned his Master’s Degree in National Security Affairs from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA.” He says nothing about military service and that school does accept civilians.
Back to irate writer: “When that is shown to most people they believe and make the assumption that he (Levine) was in the armed forces of the United States.
“Therefore, I think he is a phony.
“When you are promoting your history to accomplish an objective, then you should have the guts to answer a question about it.”
OK, listing a master’s from the Naval Postgraduate school might cause some to infer Levine was in the Navy. But this is unlikely since, had he been, he would have stated that with large type and pictures.
My professional goal has been for many years to get people to communicate with elected officials. But I also teach them how to be effective and this story is an example of wasted time. Wasted for the writer and wasted for the assemblymember staff who have to glance at the emails before deleting them.
What’s going on here is something all elected officials have to deal with. A person who writes not to get response but to vent and pursue a personal vendetta. He feels good about sending questions when he knows the answer. He’s trying to engage his assemblymember in a tar baby discussion that would never end.
I don’t blame Marc Levine for ignoring the emails. I suggest to all who write elected officials that if you have something substantive to say, make a reasonable request and make sure the message was delivered to a person you can vote for, you will almost certainly get an answer.
I asked Rep Huffman about the effectiveness of Indivisible.
Read about my upcoming class on lobbying (at College of Marin) with comments from U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman…
Click Here To See The Story in Marin Independent Journal
Here’s the video writer Keri Brenner shot at Peet’s coffee shop during the interview…