sElected officials are much more likely to remember and learn about the issues your business faces by effective personal communication than by any other method. Put yourself in your their shoes. Meeting employees and understanding how their actions affect your business and those in the district or the surrounding area is much more impactful than a phone call or letter. So how do you set up a meeting?
- Plan in advance. Be clear about what you want to achieve. Organize the main points you plan to communicate ahead of time. Determine in advance which representative or staff member you need to meet with.
- Call for an appointment. Simply call your elected official’s office and ask for a meeting. In most cases, they will have a scheduler, or someone designated to handle their schedule. Be prepared to give the reason for your meeting and who you represent. If you know anyone on the legislator’s staff, you can ask them for assistance in setting up the meeting.
- Be flexible. Offer several dates for a meeting. Elected officials have full schedules and are balancing priorities, so it is best to allow them as much flexibility as possible. Explain what the meeting is about, and how long it will last. Once you get your meeting, stick to your time commitment, they will appreciate your respect for the demands they face.
- Prepare your materials. Whenever possible, bring a few materials supporting your position to the meeting, like fact sheets, news clippings, or even a simple one page briefing paper. Include the basics on your company: how many employees you have, how your business supports the community. Sometimes, an elected official may not be aware of the real-world impact legislation may have on any given industry or business. It’s up to you to provide them with clear information that demonstrates your points and builds your case effectively. NCA staff will be happy to help you put together appropriate materials. Keep handouts to no more than three items.
- Be punctual, and patient, when you arrive. Sometimes, if your representative is ahead of schedule, you can get more time. More often than not, your representative will be running late. Sometimes, your meeting may be interrupted due to a vote or some other unplanned event in the member’s crowded and constantly changing schedule. If that happens, be prepared to graciously continue the meeting with your member’s staff.
- Get to the point. Elected officials are busy people just like you. Exchange a few pleasantries at the beginning of your meeting, and then get down to business. Whenever possible, make the connection between what you’re requesting and the interests of the member’s constituency. Your elected official’s primary goal is to represent the voter’s interests. Spell out what you need, and be prepared to answer questions or provide additional information.
- If appropriate, when concluding, ask for next steps or feedback. If some follow up is required, you will need to be in communication with the relevant staff liaison. This is also a great time to invite your representative to be your guest for a plant tour. Courteously offer other assistance as needed, on this issue or other mutual interests.
- Send a follow up thank you letter. Reiterate your main points. If you’ve promised additional materials, be sure to enclose them. The letter will remind your elected official just what they discussed with you and reminds the staff to follow up on any action items. At a minimum your letter will serve to remind them of the meeting and reinforce the relationship between you.