~ Where the Sun Will Never Set on Our liberty ~
2017 CONGRESSIONAL RECESS TOOLKIT
Talking about your issue effectively
(You don’t need to be an expert.)
We are always most effective when we talk about our issue by combining key facts, values, and personal stories.
Key facts can be statistics or other concrete figures that support your case.
You don’t need to be an expert to talk to your elected officials. Memorizing a few key facts, however, supports your case and will make it even more compelling. Furthermore, one way to make key facts even more compelling is to make them local to the area your elected official represents. Make sure you come prepared with key facts from credible, independent sources that you can share with your elected official on your issue of focus.
Values are deeply held beliefs, which transcend issues or political affiliations, that can serve as a bridge between individuals—even if they’re divided on an issue, they often support the same outcomes. Some examples of values held dear by many Americans are that all people are created equal, that hard work and responsibility should be rewarded, and that we all must play a role in creating a better future for the next generation. It’s important to connect with your elected official on your values—they provide common ground for you and your elected official to discuss what is best for the community, even in the face of disagreement around the solutions to your issue. You should think of your stance on an issue as policy you wish to be implemented that are based on a common set of values.
Personal stories are examples of how a specific issue has impacted your life. They’re one of the most powerful tools we have for winning others over on the issues, because stories allow us to put a human face on the issue, making it less abstract and more accessible. For example, if you have children and live in a coastal city, and your issue is climate change, you might tell a story about your growing concern that rising sea levels could displace your family or even your children or grandchildren.In some cases, you may find it difficult to respond to statements made by your elected officials or their staff in opposition to your issue. It’s OK if you’re not sure how to respond to these points. It’s crucial to remember to bring the conversation back to the values, personal stories, and key facts that drive you to fight for this issue.
Now that we have covered what you need to do to prepare, you should feel empowered to visit your elected official. In the next section, we’ll provide some resources to make sure your office visit is successful.
CONGRESSIONAL RECESS TOOLKIT
II. EXECUTING YOUR OFFICE VISIT
Visiting your elected official
We have talked about why it’s important to visit your elected officials, as well as covered steps to prepare for your visit. But let’s consider for a moment that you’re now on your way—what’s on your agenda? How will you amplify your visit? These are questions we will address in this section.
Sample agenda for a sit-down meeting
While we have talked about how you should prepare, you’re probably still wondering about what the play-by-play of an office visit looks like. Though several people should attend a sit-down meeting, one person should lead the conversation. Below is a sample agenda you may use and modify for your meeting.
· Introduce those who are in the room, including any organizational affiliations they have.
· Explain the purpose of the visit: to talk about a given issue, find out where the elected official stands, and identify the best way to move this issue forward.
· Ask the elected official or staff:
What is the elected official’s stance on this issue?
What are the elected official’s concerns about it?
· Address the elected official’s concerns using examples from your own experience and the key statistics you researched.
· Explain why the meeting attendees support your position on the issue.
Call on a few meeting attendees with compelling stories to share why they support your position on the issue.
It’s not always necessary, but having a relevant expert voice as part of the conversation can also be beneficial. This person could be from a partner group or local university, for example.
Remember that the most effective way to discuss the issues is by combining key facts, values, and personal stories (see the “Talking about your issue effectively” section above for more information).
· Offer to send follow-up information that addresses the elected official’s concerns.
· Use this meeting as an opportunity to build your chapter’s relationship with the office—ask for a follow-up meeting to discuss the issue further.
· Remind the the staffer that your group will be excited to thank the elected official should they come out in support of this issue.
Tactics to amplify your office visit
Office visits primarily serve to put your support for the issue onto your elected official’s radar.
However, another key part of any issue campaign strategy is to shape a public narrative that support for your issue is broad in your community. Remember to make sure your office visit is publicized to the greatest degree possible, so that you have a chance to win over the general public and add your voice to a broader chorus of voices fighting for the issue.
Take plenty of photos.
Every office operates with different rules; some will allow you to take photos inside, and others will not. Make sure to follow the rules of the office, but if possible, take as many photos as you can to document your visit. If photos are not allowed inside, take some outside the office door, ideally where the name of the elected official is visible, as a way to document your visit.
Make sure to be considerate of others when taking photos.
Consider earned media. Depending on the situation, earned media may be an appropriate and strategic way to amplify your office visit to the broader public. There are many factors to consider when deciding whether an event is media worthy—for some general guidelines on this, consult
OFA’s Earned Media Guide
. As with photos, the press may or may not be allowed in elected officials’ offices. If press is not allowed, but you still consider your visit media worthy, consider hosting a short press conference outside the office before or after the visit. To keep the tenor positive, consider notifying the elected official’s office if you’ll be inviting members of the press.
Remember that amplifying your organizing activities is a key part of issue advocacy. Try to follow this mantra: Pics, or it didn’t happen.
III. AFTER YOUR OFFICE VISIT
After your office visit, you’ll want to make sure you amplify the work that you did. There are a few key ways to make sure you share your best practices, as well as share your successes and challenges, with your community members and organizers across the country.
Post the story of your visit on Connect.
Share your wrap-up in your local/state and National groups on Connect. Be sure to give some background on the issue you’re working on, where you’re working, some photos from your visit, and your favorite anecdotes from the visit.
CONGRESSIONAL RECESS TOOLKIT
Amplify the visit online.
Use social media—especially Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram—to summarize the event as a whole, thank those who participated, and reinforce the overall message of the event. These posts should include photos, and can also include a call to take further action in the future, whether you want to promote an upcoming event or other ways to get involved online.
Thank your elected official and their staff.
Don’t forget to take a moment to thank the office for hosting you and hearing your position.
At a town hall meeting, you will be in direct contact with members of Congress (MOC), the press, and other community members. Connecting your personal story—the reason you’re out at a town hall meeting and not sitting at home—to the policy outcome you want to see centers the discussion on the real impact a MOC’s decision has on his or her constituents. Your personal story will be the foundation for the commitment you’ll ask the MOC to make—will you commit to supporting your constituents’ needs?
As you begin writing your personal story, consider and respond to the following questions:
1) Why do you care about defending Obamacare?
2) Why is your story important for your MOC to hear? Why are you at the town hall meeting?
3) What commitment do you want your MOC to make
CONGRESSIONAL RECESS TOOLKIT
Begin writing your personal story.
Think of a key life moment in which Obamacare helped you or a friend. Consider the challenge you faced, the choice you made, and the outcome that came about as a result of your choice. Remember to finish by asking the MOC to commit to defending it.
Fore warned is fore armed.