Effective Lobbying Tips

There are at least three purposes to a lobby visit:
1. To put your organization on record in the hope of influencing a vote;
2. To obtain information; and
3. To establish a relationship with an elected official.

The following tips will help you achieve the above purposes:

Research the legislator. Know as much as you can about the person you are trying to influence --- party affiliation, committee assignments, position on your issue, and voting history.

Prepare Talking Points. Know your issue and prepare a list of specific points that you want to discuss during the visit. Understand your organization’s position on the issue and be able to explain this to the legislator. Be able to explain the arguments that the opposition employs. Most elected officials want to understand all sides of an issue.

Express appreciation for any support the legislator has given to your organization in the past.

Lobby in two’s and three’s. You will give each other moral support and will have someone with whom to compare impressions with later. This latter point is especially helpful when dealing with an elected official who will not be explicit about his/her stand.

Have a representative delegation. Having a diverse group allows you to express different points of view --- i.e., medical professional, parent, youth, clergy, and/or businessperson.

Present a positive image. Form a lasting impression and develop a good rapport. Dress appropriately and be confident in your presentation, but not threatening.

Stay on topic. Confine your conversation as far as possible to the measure(s) you are discussing. Express only your organization’s point of view, not your own. Don’t let the elected official stray onto other issues; otherwise, the impact of the visit will be minimized.

Ask for advice. If you know the elected official favors your position, let her/him know that you are aware of that fact and ask for advice on how to reach other legislators with your message.

Don’t argue. Try to avoid any prolonged or controversial argument. It is likely to confirm the elected official in her/his opinion. Don’t try to pin the legislator down or into a corner – s/he may need room to change their position later.

If possible, don’t allow the legislator to commit definitely against your position. It is better to leave the representative undecided than committed against you. Someone else might be able to convince him/her.

Don’t take notes during your meeting. Legislators will be more likely to clam up if they know their opinions are being recorded. As soon as you finish, find a quiet place and make your notes – don’t depend on your memory.

Don’t be afraid to admit your ignorance. Say you will find the answer and report back, and be sure to do so. This is a great opportunity to follow up with your elected official.

Don’t interrupt. Allow the legislator to present her/his viewpoint fully. Be a good listener.

Don’t alienate your elected official. Attempt to leave the legislator with a friendly feeling, even though you may disagree. Say you are sorry that you don’t agree and do not emphasize the difference of opinions. You will need to talk to them in the future on other bills.



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