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Consumer Advocacy – Tips for Meeting with Legislators

This list is compiled from CASAA’s years of experience dealing with agencies and legislators and can serve as a guide to help get you started on the most effective path to consumer advocacy and defending your rights.

    • Do find your legislator/Board of Health (BOH) member and call their office for an appointment. You will often meet with staff, which is valuable in and of itself.
    • Do your homework and check the voting records of the legislator or BOH member before your visit.
    • Do be prepared bring studies/stories/charts with you. A few recent positive articles or some nice charts and graphs if you can manage to find them is always very good to bring with you. (Especially for initial meetings before legislation has been introduced, try to limit yourself to 3 or 4 because too many will be overkill for a small meeting.) These should be left with whomever you have met with at the end of your visit. Check out our Information Library for helpful sources.
    • Do know your topic. Spend time practicing so when you speak, you sound knowledgeable on the subject.
    • Do dress appropriately. Dressing well sends a message that you respect the office you’re about to enter. (Business casual dress is generally appropriate, although in some cases, a suit may be a better choice. Avoid informal dress such as t-shirts, shorts, and jeans.)
    • Do introduce yourself or your group and explain why you are there.
    • Do tell the truth. Don’t stretch the truth or make unrealistic claims.
    • Do remember these are people just like you, and they expect a little potential nervousness.
    • Do smile and offer to shake hands.
    • Do decide who will speak first, if you are going with a group of people.
    • Do limit your visit to one request, one piece of legislation.
    • Do expect to be asked questions. If you don’t know the answer, don’t be afraid to offer to find out and send the information in a follow up email or letter/fax.
    • Do answer questions respectfully, but keep returning to your basic message.
    • Do attempt to find out if the person with whom you are speaking will support you/your issue before you leave. If they are not able to indicate support, don’t be afraid to respectfully ask why not If they are they undecided, ask how can you help them make a decision.
    • Do always thank the person with whom you are meeting for their time at the end of your visit. Try to end the visit on a positive note.
    • Do follow up with a thank you note you met with and include any follow up information you promised to send along (if any).

Remember you can sway some of these types of people with a simple understanding of their position.

Remember that your personal stories are important and can help the person with whom you are talking understand why they should support your issue.

If you are registered to vote (and if you aren’t, you should be), you should definitely feel comfortable mentioning that, especially if the person with whom you’re talking appears noncommittal or non-supportive. You should explain that this issue is an incredibly important one to you personally, and you weigh in heavily in casting your vote.

    • Don’t show up without an appointment. This wastes everyone’s time.
    • Don’t make up facts or exaggerate the truth for dramatic purposes.
    • Don’t argue – persuade.
    • Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
    • Don’t be surprised if your meeting winds up being with staff, and treat that meeting as seriously as you would a meeting with the legislator themself.