Working With Policymakers

All policymakers want and need to hear from the constituents who are impacted by their decisions. Public officials must consider a vast number of issues. Depending on the political level and resources available, these issues could be divided among many staff members that are responsible for following all activity and constituent support for each of their assigned issues. A staff member may be responsible for 20 or more broad issues and is seldom an expert in all of them. You are in an excellent position to share with them information about your personal journey or provide them with information about your programs and how these programs affect your community. Once you have developed a working relationship with the official and his or her staff, they may look to you more often and ask for your input as these issues come forward. By establishing yourself as a reliable source of information, you are improving your access to the policymaker.

There are many options available for communicating with policymakers: letters, faxes, telephone calls, personal visits and e-mail. Logic dictates that if you are trying to influence something that is going to happen immediately, faxed letters and phone calls are the best option. E-mail is an option as well, especially when communicating with staff members who you have worked with previously. If you need to provide detailed information and have a longer period of time in which to work, a personal visit is more likely to get the official’s attention. Whether you write, call or visit your policymakers, below are some basic guidelines are applicable to all methods of contact:

General Guidelines

Know your officials.

Identify yourself.

Be prepared.

Be specific.

Be concise.

Be constructive.