Reaching Out to Public Officials
Families USA produced the Public Policy Toolkit for Enrollment Assisters to give assisters and others the knowledge and tactics they need to be effective advocates.
Public officials, particularly officials who are elected to represent a group of constituents, are interested in hearing from the public about issues that matter to them. Below we discuss some pointers to keep in mind when reaching out to any public official.
When contacting a public official, whether at the federal or state level, remember to be concise, persuasive, and courteous.
It is also important to learn how to harness the power of people’s personal health care stories. These stories provide emotional resonance and breathe life into issues in ways that other methods—like sharing statistics—cannot. They also help demystify complex topics by illustrating how a problem affects real people—including the constituents of elected officials.
As an enrollment assister, you hear these stories first-hand. For more information on how to use consumer stories in your advocacy work, see the Families USA Story Bank Toolkit.
Finally, remember to relax! There’s no reason be nervous when communicating with a public official. No matter what level of government they serve in, officials are public servants who hold their office only because you and/or your community put them there. Your public servants and their staff appreciate hearing from constituents about issues that matter to them. You don’t have to be a subject matter expert to talk about an issue that matters to you!
|TIP||You don’t have to be a subject matter expert to talk about an issue that matters to you.|
The sections that follow provide a few step-by-step examples of how to communicate with your state and federal representatives. While these examples focus on reaching out to elected officials, not officials who work in government agencies, many of the same guidelines apply.
Calling an Elected Official
Here is a sample phone call with a representative’s office:
Writing to a Lawmaker
When writing to your elected official using email or postal mail, follow these tips. A persuasive letter like the one below does three key things:
- outlines the concern at hand
- explains why it is important to the community
- requests an action from the representative
Requesting a Meeting
Every public official’s office handles appointments differently. To set up a meeting in an official’s state office or their office in Washington, D.C., the first step is to call and ask how to officially request a meeting.
If the public official is unavailable, request a meeting with a member of his or her staff. Staffers communicate regularly with the public official and often have a deeper understanding of policy issues.
Working with the Media
Officials at all levels of government keep up with local newspapers and news programs. Writing a letter to the editor in your local or regional newspaper is a great way to get your representative’s attention.
Families USA has a wealth of resources on how to work with the media. Contact us for tips on writing a letter to the editor at email@example.com.