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An avid spinner and iced tea aficionado, Julie tackles association, nonprofit and small business communications challenges in this blog.  She's Senterline's Chief Problem Solver, able to overcome redundant databases and prickly politics with the greatest of ease.

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Tuesday
Apr052011

10 Tips for a Great Legislative Visit

It’s spring, and that means two things: the Dogwoods are in bloom and spring legislative visits are in full force!

One of my clients recently took a delegation to the state capital for its annual legislative lobby day. You know the drill. Real people. Identical shirts/buttons. Blistered feet.

The annual migration gives members/volunteers a chance to see your government affairs work in action and you’re able to attach real faces and real stories to your lobby efforts.

Now, you no doubt provide your volunteer posse with a capitol map, extensive talking points and a tick tock of pending legislation, but do you also arm them with the dos and don’ts of legislative office etiquette? Speaking from experience, I can tell you that you will never want to crawl under a desk more than when a volunteer answers a cell phone call when meeting with a Congressman. Often times these groups include folks who have never been inside a legislative office and have never met a politician. Or, as in my abovementioned case, have volunteers who are CEOs and company presidents used to calling the shots.

Here’s a fantastic Legislative Visit Top 10 List from my friend and former colleague Todd Priest:

10. Be Honest. Elected officials base much of their decision-making on the information provided to them. Give honest input and you will gain their trust and respect. Your credibility is at stake!

9. Be Courteous. Always be on time. Always turn your cell phone off – not just to vibrate. Turn it off!!

8. Communicate. Let your legislators know what is going on in his/her district that pertains to the industry. Remember, you are a good source of information!

7. Be Respectful. Never badmouth other elected officials or parties, even if they do. It may make them wonder what you say about them in their absence. Never argue. Refer to them using their title.

6. Handle the Business at Hand. You are there to talk about the organization’s agenda, not your own.

5. Be Swift. Be brief, be bright and be gone!

4. Be Understanding. Your issue is just one of several complex issues elected officials deal with on a daily basis. Always start with the basics and move on. Never assume the elected officials are completely familiar with your issues.

3. Never Talk Money. It’s illegal to talk about policy issues and campaign fundraising together. You’re just there to talk policy.

2. Be a Promoter. Let the elected officials and their staff know that your organization should be viewed as a resource.

1. Be Yourself. You’re not a professional lobbyist. Relax and participate when you feel it is appropriate.

Photo credit: Flickr user origamidon

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Reader Comments (2)

Very useful information, especially for those of us who don't visit our legislators on a regular basis!

May 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSue DeBrecht

Thanks, Sue! Visiting legislators can be really intimidating for those unfamiliar with the process. So glad you found the post helpful!

June 24, 2011 | Registered CommenterJulie Senter

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