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Our favorite stories about public lands and opportunities for you to get involved in protecting your outdoor experiences.

 

How to Talk so Your Lawmaker Will Listen

Tania Lown-Hecht

If you read our last post, you are probably convinced that your email, phone call, or tweet to your Senator or Representative really matters. But what if you’ve never contacted your legislator before—maybe you’re not even sure who represents you—and you have no idea how to start? Or maybe you’re an old pro, but you’re still wondering what kind of message is the most effective.

Here are 4 tips we use all the time when we talk to Congress:

  1.  Know how to get in touch. The first step is to know whom you’re contacting and how to get ahold of them. Congress has a website you can use to look up your representatives and send them a message. You can also use the site to find office phone numbers. Most lawmakers—both federal and state—also have their own websites with links to their Twitter and Facebook profiles.
  2. Introduce yourself and tell them why you’re writing or calling. Most lawmakers get hundreds (or more) messages every day, so you can be direct about why you’re calling right away. “My name is Tania and I’m calling to express my support for Bill SR 23.”
  3. Make it personal. Tell them why the bill, policy, or issue at hand matters to you, and remind them why it matters to their district. “I’ve lived in your district in Montana for 10 years. I’m an avid backcountry skier and a small business owner. These mountains are a huge part of why I settled here and opened my business in town. Protecting this area permanently will have a major impact on my business, and my quality of life as a Montana resident.”
  4. Ask for their support. Request their support directly. And if they’ve done anything that deserves a pat on the head, make sure to give it to them. “You’ve been a great advocate for our public lands. I trust that you will do everything in your power to support the effort to permanently protect this place.”

Most important to remember is that your lawmakers represent you, and they want to know what you think. You don’t have to be an expert to share your opinion on an issue. In fact, the voice of an average person can often be more memorable and persuasive to a lawmaker than the voice of an expert lobbyist.

Want to learn more about how to be a good advocate for issues that matter? Check out the other posts in the series:

Part 1: Why Slacktivism Matters

Part 2: What Really Happens When You Write to Congress?