The following tips will help you communicate with your legislators with ease.
Arrive on time. Legislators’ time is very limited, especially at the state level.
Do not be intimidated. These legislators are in the business of representing the public’s interest. They need to learn more about your business and the people who work for you.
Know your legislators. If you don’t already know your representatives, make it your business to get acquainted. You should know about issues that are important to them. Do you live in their district? Does your company have a facility there? What are their committee assignments? What position have they taken on your issue in the past?
Be a resource. Legislators are expected to be experts on every issue. However, they rely on you, their audience, to provide that information. Be prepared to answer questions regarding key issues. Your credibility will increase if you provide useful answers.
Show your expertise. Yes, the legislator will want to know all about an issue from you. That is because you are the expert on your business, your issue and how it affects the legislator. Legislators want to do what’s best for their constituents.
Avoid false promises. If you don’t know the answer, make sure to ask someone who does. Nothing is worse than providing inaccurate information. Let them know you will follow up with their inquiry and do it ASAP. The quick response will get their attention and gain their respect. However, false promises could really ruin your reputation and credibility.
Listen, and always say “Thank you.” Listen to what the legislator has to say, even if you don’t agree with what he or she is saying. You can state facts to back your stance, but don’t argue. Thank the legislator for taking the time to talk to you. Someone will be following up with a thank you note for his or her attendance; however, if you spent a fair amount of time with a legislator, it would be more personal if you signed that letter or sent your own.
Addressing a legislator. Always address the legislator formally as “Assembly Member ________ ” (Representative or Delegate in some states) or “Senator ________.” If you know the legislator’s leadership position, be more specific, as in “Majority Leader ______, what a pleasure to see you.”
Keep it brief. The legislator is attending your function to meet and greet your organization’s employees and/or members.
Be energetic. A good attitude and enthusiasm about your business issues will reflect in the legislator’s approach to you. Communication is predominately non-verbal, so a good smile and body language will leave a resounding impression on the legislator.