Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Communicating with the Capitol: Make the Ask

There’s a wide variety of ways to communicate with Congress.  You can send letters and emails, make phone calls, post on social media, and set up in-person meetings both in DC and in the state or district.  With all the methods of communication now available to us, Congressional offices get bombarded with massive amounts of correspondence, and the reality is that some messages get lost in the shuffle.  But Members of Congress and their staff consistently tell us that communicating with constituents is their top priority, and when you consider that their constituents are the ones who decide if they remain in office, this seems to make a lot of sense.

How can you be heard in this communication chaos?  We’ve heard a lot from Congressional staff about their preferred methods of communication and what bothers them, and we figured it would be useful to share some of this information with you!  Check back weekly for new tips and tricks on how to get your message heard in the hubbub.

Today’s Tip:  Make the Ask.  We’ve heard time and again from constituents who have met with their representatives’ offices on the Hill that they’re frustrated when nothing actually changes or gets done after their meetings.  They tell us their meetings went so well, the staff was nice and really interested to hear what they had to say, but then nothing tangible materializes.  And then we ask, “Well what did you ask them for?”  The response to that question usually leaves people confused.  They say something like, “We told them about our awesome programs and how many people we serve and the need we fill in our community,” and our response is inevitably, “Well, that’s not a question.”

If you don’t ask for something specific—in the form of a question—the staff is going to smile and nod and tell you how cool your work sounds and then go back to their desk and work on issues for all the other people they met with that day that did ask them for something specific and tangible.  The simple fact is, if you don’t ask, you can’t expect to get anything.  So next time you’re going to the Hill, make sure you prepare one ask, be it for bill co-sponsorship, attendance at an event back in the state or district, or to introduce legislation.  Just make sure it’s in the form of a question (seriously, I can’t stress this enough!).

No comments: