Part IV: Advocacy tips for calling elected officials, legislative staff

April 15, 2022

In previous articles, we have talked about ways you can engage with PIA National and PIA Northeast advocacy initiatives, how you can give your time to candidates and how you can give of your money. In this installment in our advocacy series, we will talk about what to do if you are calling or writing a letter to your state or federal legislators.

In 2022, you might wonder whether calling or sending a snail-mail letter to your state or federal legislators is a good idea. You might ask yourself, “Wouldn’t they pay more attention to email or social media?”

The truth is legislators, just like everyone else, are bombarded with emails, so it is easy to get lost in the shuffle. Additionally, not all legislators have social-media accounts or do not use them often, so your message or your post in which you tag them may not be seen in a timely manner.

This is not to say that emails and social media do not have their place in a well-rounded advocacy strategy and campaign, because they do. However, if you want to stand out from the crowd, going old school with a phone call might be your best option.

Calling your legislators

A phone call to your legislator’s office is often a quick and easy way to figure out where a legislator stands on an issue. It is also a great option if time is limited because a bill is coming up for a vote or the end of a legislative session is drawing near and you want to make sure the Legislature acts on the bill you either support or oppose.

Before you make your call, make sure you do your homework. Check to see if the member is already a co-sponsor on the bill; you don’t want to ask the person to become a co-sponsor if he or she already is one.

Know the bill number and what the bill does as you will likely be asked for this information. Also know what you want to ask. Do you want the member to co-sponsor the bill, push for it to be on an agenda, or vote against the bill? Also be certain you can explain why you want the legislator to take this action.

While you might get to speak directly with the legislator, this is not common, especially if you are calling up without an appointment. You should ask to speak to the legislative assistant or director. They will be the most knowledgeable staffer to speak to about issues.

Any phone call should be followed-up with a letter to reiterate your concerns and your call to action—if the bill hasn’t already been acted upon or it still makes sense to include this information—and thank the member or legislative director for his or her time.

More in the Advocacy series

Katherine “Kat” Slye-Hernandez, Ph.D.
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Katherine “Kat” Slye-Hernandez received her Ph.D. in political science from the State University of Albany, Albany, N.Y., in May 2020. She also has her Master of Arts from SUNY Albany and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and History from Elmira College, Elmira, N.Y.

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