Lawmakers are people, too – Tell and sell your story effectively

For most people, interacting with any government official — from a local council member to U.S. Senator and County Executive — can be extremely intimidating. How do you approach them? What do we talk about? Or, even worse, what if you don’t see eye-to-eye on a particular issue, much less anything?

First and foremost, remember that lawmakers are human, too. They’ve also certainly dealt with a lot worse.

So, how do you effectively connect and communicate with your elected representatives? With over 80 years of experience collectively advising some of our state and nation’s top lawmakers and crafting comprehensive communications plans to embolden workers, entrepreneurs, families, and communities, C2 Strategic has you covered.

Here’s five helpful hints you can employ right now to make it happen.

Make an ask

This may seem straightforward, but we’ve seen countless people hit this pitfall. Without bringing a topic or area of concern to your representative, you’ll never make it past the front door — figuratively and literally.

Plan ahead

We’re all busy people getting pulled in different directions. However, it’s that more complicated for lawmakers and staff. Understand that if you’re traveling to Frankfort, Indianapolis, or Washington, D.C. for an advocacy event, you need to reach out ideally weeks or months in advance, not days.

Do your homework

It’s difficult to have a productive meeting when you’re not prepared. That means before the big conversation, do some research. What motivates the person you are meeting? What committees, working groups or boards do they serve on? Who are their staff? What is their position on a particular issue? Do they even have an opinion? A quick web search should certainly be a valuable tool in these endeavors.  

Think ahead and prepare talking points to reinforce your stance. Leave-behinds and visuals aren’t a bad idea, either.

Be yourself

Authenticity is absolutely critical. No one likes interacting with a robot. Speak with conviction. Show emotion. You can disagree, but don’t be disagreeable.

Be persistent

Simply sending an email or making a call to request a meeting is not enough. Prepare to do both, repeatedly. Cover all your bases.

Still no response? Ask for the lawmaker’s scheduler or executive assistant. If they’re unavailable, get their name and email address. If that doesn’t work, find out if there is a staff member you can speak with about your concern — and be sure to get their contact information.

Again, government officials get countless requests, meaning a one-off call or email will very likely get lost in the shuffle. Don’t stop until you get an acknowledgement.

Practice makes perfect

Now that you now the right way to advance and accelerate advocacy efforts, let’s highlight some of the important work we have done with a variety of organizations to make progress where people, policy and politics intersect. 

  1. Make an ask: partnering with the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents (KASS) through several Kentucky General Assembly Legislative Sessions, C2 Strategic has worked hard to conceptualize and effectively communicate KASS’s “Kids First” priorities.
  2. Plan ahead: when The Whitney/Strong Organization wanted to launch an aggressive advocacy campaign in Frankfort around their Crisis Aversion and Rights Retention (CARR) bill, C2 Strategic helped plan logistics and provided creative and media relations support to ensure maximum exposure of CARR Day on the Hill across the Commonwealth.
  3. Do your homework: the River Ridge Development Authority is the economic engine of southern Indiana, but they were having issues with stakeholder outreach around their annual report. In response, C2 Strategic ideated a more concise, multifunctional, visually appealing report – including social media graphics, talking points, etc. – that incorporated feedback to ensure readers could easily digest and understand RRDA’s major accomplishments and key industry differentiators.
  4. Be yourself: the Kentucky Community & Technical College System (KCTCS) is Kentucky’s largest provider of higher education and workforce development programming but KCTCS staff lacked real-world experience in driving that message home through media interviews. That is why KCTCS partnered with C2 Strategic to empower and equip campus marketing directors with the tools, skills and confidence to sell and tell their story to the media – grounded in emotion and process – no matter the circumstance.
  5. Be persistent: one of the state’s largest managed care organizations (MCO, Medicaid) was at a crossroads with Kentucky lawmakers and the executive cabinet, with low visibility and appreciation for the holistic approach the MCO takes toward improving members’ overall health. In response, C2 Strategic worked hand-in-hand with the MCO’s government affairs and public relations teams to identify and target lawmakers for additional outreach. Much of that work included soliciting support in press releases and event participation, requiring multiple touchpoints (email, calls, direct asks, etc.) to garner their buy-in.  

Now, it’s your turn

Government is here to serve, but it’s up to you to make sure you are seen and heard.

Make an ask. Plan ahead. Do your homework. Be yourself. Be persistent. You are your greatest advocate. 

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