Think about the following questions:
- Who are my elected officials? Why am I relevant to them?
- What is their legislative record and general philosophy on public transportation issues?
- What issues are my elected officials they passionate about?
- What committees are my elected officials on?
- Are my elected officials newly elected, or more senior?
- What party do my elected officials belong to?
- Tell a compelling story -- – you have something of value to contribute!
- Know your facts.
- Make your message your own – why is public transportation important to you and your community?
- Be positive – how can you and the elected official work together to solve a mutual problem?
General Message Delivery
These tips apply to all communications -- letters, phone calls, and meetings.
- Decide which method of communication suits you and your purpose.
- Develop a thoughtful, well-argued message. (volume does not equal effectiveness)
- Ask your member to take a specific action in support of public transportation.
- Ask your member to respond to the request.
- Make it clear what your priorities are.
- Tell your congressional office how you can be an ongoing resource on public transportation in their district or state.
- Make your message targeted and forceful without being rude or threatening.
- Tell the truth.
- Be reasonable about opposing points of view.
- Be prepared to answer questions about opposing arguments.
- Determine whether a meeting is needed to deliver the message.
- Decide where you want to meet, after looking at the congressional calendar at www.house.gov or www.senate.gov.
- Decide who you want to deliver your message (preferably someone from the district).
- Limit the number of people you bring to the meeting.
- If you’re in DC for a national meeting, try to coordinate with others from your state.
- Fax the scheduler a meeting request, including a list of issues and attendees.
- Follow-up with a phone call to the scheduler after sending a written request. (find fax and phone numbers at www.congress.org)
- Schedule carefully to assure ensure you will be on time, but not too early, for each meeting.
- On voting days, try to schedule meetings with members before 11:00 A.M.
- Be prepared to meet anywhere -- – standing up in the hallway or on the run to a vote.
- Be prepared to deliver your message in five minutes.
- Make sure you have short, concise, and consistent information to leave behind. Don’t forget a one-pager about public transportation in your community – see the NAPTA One-Pager Template for more assistance.
- Leave your information in a file folder with your organization’s name on the label.
Effective Site Visits
- Decide Who to Invite: Is this a visit for staff? Members? House members? Senators? A combination?
- Sketch Out a Plan: One way to make the invitation as enticing as possible is to be specific about what the elected official can hope to gain from the experience.
- Transportation: How will the elected official get to and from the event?
- Time: How much time can the member commit to the event? Do not try to cram too much into a short visit. Make sure you hit the highlights.
- Food: If this visit is going to occur during a regular mealtime, you should consider setting up a discussion over an informal buffet or box lunch.
- Weather: Obviously, you can’t control the weather, but you can be prepared for all possibilities. Make sure you have enough umbrellas, bug spray, or whatever you’ll need to make the visit pleasant for everyone.
- Attendance: Think carefully about who you want from your program to attend the visit, while keeping the total number of people to no more than five.
- Recording The Event & And When To Bring In The Media: You want to be sure to capture this auspicious occasion. Consider inviting the media – but only after talking to the Congressional office!
- Send a thank you note to the staff and the member soon after a meeting.
- Always ask again if you haven’t heard back, but give it some time.
- Report on your meeting in a non-threatening way.