Speaking With Local, State and National Government Entities
Speaking with your public officials can be daunting at first but remember – politicians are people too! Their job title is just different from yours. Their job is to listen and involve the public in their decision-making process, so they rely on your concerns and opinions. With the right tools, you will walk confidently into an official’s office knowing your voice is the most powerful instrument in your advocacy process.
The Steps to the Capitol
Who Do You Need To Speak With?
Your location is key. Find out who represents your community so that you are providing relevant information to the correct person. If there is a bill introduced that has you concerned, advocate to all the representatives you can!
Know their political stance
Regardless of disagreements you may have with officials, your goal is to appeal to them so that they consider your request. Your goal is not to change their mind on their political stance, but rather to influence their decisions regarding your concern.
The Capitol Building has specific days set aside for “advocacy days”. Search our calendar to find the next available dates. If there is not a day that works, you can call their office and an assistant will set up a time for you to meet.
Know Your Story
Do you remember learning about Aristotle? He’s a pretty popular guy. You may remember words like logos, ethos and pathos, but why all this important?
When you talk to a public official, you’re essentially giving them an “elevator pitch”, or a short speech, typically only 1-2 minutes. When you give a speech, you need to rely on logos, ethos and pathos. Well, what are they?
Logos | Your logical argument – complete with facts and statistics. Some people don’t respond to stories, but hard evidence can get them. Do your research and know some basic facts. It’s hard to argue with properly sourced math and data.
Ethos | Your credibility – your personal connection. Your story could simply be: “I am a parent of a child struggling with emotional, behavioral, or mental challenges” or “I am someone who struggles with mental illness.”
Pathos | Your appeal to emotion – your story. You have a passion, a story, and now is the time to tell it! What made you come into the office that day to talk about this issue? What was a defining moment for your child or yourself? Really dig deep because most people tend to respond to emotion and passion.
Put Them All Together
You want to start with your credibility right off the bat, then move into your story, finally following up with statistics and facts to tie it together. At the end you should have a “call-to-action,” explaining why they should care as much as you do.
Team Up With Others
Whether you have an appointment to meet with a legislator or are participating in an advocacy day, you should bring a group with similar stories as you. One voice is powerful, but even just two voices doubles your impact.
Tips for group meetings
- Don’t let everyone give their entire elevator pitch – not even everyone in the group needs to talk. Your numbers speak volumes.
- Split up your talking points (one person gives stats, two people talk about their story, another talks about why this is important and why they should be on your side, etc.)
- Designate a leader. This person will introduce the group, address the issue at hand, and allow the group to speak freely. The leader should also give a wrap-up.
- There is usually only a 10 minute window given. Only use 6-7 minutes on your request so that there is still time for questions and input from the public official.
Are You Ready to Talk to Your Public Officials?
If you can answer “yes” to the questions below, you are well on your way to help influence positive change and to be a catalyst for your community!
- I know who my legislators are for my area
- I have an appointment to speak one-on-one with a legislator/assistant
- I know my story about why this is important to me
- I have facts and statistics to backup my concerns
- I have a group of people to attack this advocacy project with me
- I am confident in my beliefs and understand that legislators are people too