The political system offers numerous points of access for ordinary citizens. But success depends in part on understanding the needs and limitations of the individuals in the political world with whom you make contact. Below are excerpts from guidelines provided by two mass-based organizations, one in the environmental movement and the other in the conservative Christian movement. Though from groups at opposite ends of the political spectrum, these two very useful guides make strikingly similar recommendations.


American Life League

Lobbying Lobbying

If you plan to meet with an official, it helps to write first. Letters demonstrate the amount of interest you have for the issue. They also give the MP [legislator] something to refer to in your meeting.

Make your argument clear and reasonable. Be specific about your objections, aims and ideas for solutions. Show relevant press clippings or a briefing paper on the issue. Provide evidence of local support for your issue.

Make sure you prepare for the meeting and have at hand all the information you need. It's useful to leave some information with the MP so they have something to refer to and pass on to relevant people.

If you're going to the meeting in a group, ensure: You all have a good understanding of the issue. You've worked out in advance what you're going to say and who will talk about what. One person is responsible for taking notes during the meeting. Before you leave the meeting, try to get a clear commitment of the sorts of assistance the MP will provide. Don't settle for vague promises.

After the meeting, make sure you write back thanking them for the meeting and outlining what you discussed - particularly reminding them of any promises they may have made. Don't let them forget!

Keep meeting short and to the point.

Be accurate! Have your facts documented. If you don't know an answer, offer to search for the information and return with it later.

Don't assume the legislator is well-educated on the subject. Most legislators are not well informed on life topics--they deal with too many other subjects. Take time to share important points and use your time to educate them.

Use personal stories when appropriate. Personal stories are very effective. If appropriate, bring along someone who has dealt with the topic firsthand.

Thank legislators. Tell them they are appreciated every chance you get. Build them up!

Take time to mentally recap your meeting. Sum up meeting before leaving: "All right, this is what I'm hearing you say..."

Once you return to your office, do another recap. Did I say I'd get back to him on something? Did I accomplish my goals? Did I learn something important? If so, file it for future reference. Write a thank-you note to the legislator.

Media Relations Media Relations

Your issue has to be newsworthy. It affects people...the more people affected, the higher the news value. It is happening is today and tomorrow.

Think visually when arranging an event. This may mean activists wearing gags, children carrying flowers, black arm bands, or banners with your message. Let the media know what they'll 'see' when they come to your event.

Be good media 'talent'. Know your issue inside out, speak clearly, succinctly and plainly on your issue, be up to date with your issue, and explain it in a way that the average person in the street will understand and be interested.

To make it easy for journalists to do their job, provide a press release which explains the issue [and] your own photos or videos.

Be professional. Give the reporters clear, concise and factual information, and always provide your sources. Do not exaggerate the truth; the truth does just fine on its own. Never expect reporters to do something for you just because you have developed a rapport. They have a job to do just as you do.

Know contacts and experts. A reporter needs to know whom to contact when a story is breaking. If you have done your job ahead of time, the call will likely go to you.

Be helpful. Reporters have many requests to do stories. You may offer them a story about an upcoming event, and they won't see why they should cover it. Be kind, but persist. Don't give up. Help them to come up with an angle. Don't be obnoxious, be creative; you may be surprised with the results.

Source: Greenpeace; American Life League. (full source)