Lobby Like a Pro: Meeting Tips
Make the right presentation to your legislator — that means learning your representative’s positions on breast-cancer issues. You want to make relevant arguments based on what they already believe. Also, always thank legislators who have been supportive in the past.
Know Your Legislators Record on Breast Cancer Issues
You can get all the background information on your legislator’s position at the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s (NBCC) report on Congress' voting record.
Prepare For the Meeting
Expect a brief meeting, especially if it is with the legislator. Make the most of your time and clearly communicate the message that made you passionate enough to visit. Define your issues beforehand and plan the best way to present them. If three or more advocates plan to attend, designate a spokesperson to lead the discussion and summarize your positions.
Staff Can Be Important Allies
Your legislator always makes for the best meeting — but they have jam-packed schedules that make this difficult. Don’t underestimate the value of a staff member, however. These professionals often make important decisions about which issues the legislator addresses. They also filter information for your representative, so if you can shape their view of the issues, it can influence your congressperson. Take meetings with staff seriously and build positive working relationships—it will pay off.
Keep Your Message Focused
Broad messages won’t accomplish much in these meetings. Focus on the specific issue you want to change and the specific bill or initiative that your legislator can support. You want to be able to tell them: “Here’s what you can do to help me and countless other young women.” If the legislator tries to bring up other issues, try to refocus him or her back to the agenda you came to talk about.
Know Your Issues
We’ve said it before: know your information and you can advocate powerfully. When lobbying, you should learn all the pros and cons of the arguments you’ll discuss. Your legislator may ask questions from the opposite point of view, and you make a much stronger case when you can answer confidently. If you don't know the answer, tell the member or staffer that you'll get back to him or her. You can check the facts online or call the NBCC office (800.622.2838).
Use what you know about your legislator's views or experience to make an appeal. Show them why you care about this issue — and why they should, too.
Bring a packet of materials to support your positions. Relevant news articles and informative materials, combined with your personal passion, make for a lasting impression.
Remember to Follow Up
Your meeting doesn’t really end until you follow up. Always get the staffperson’s contact information (a business card, if available) so you can follow up with any additional questions and make sure your legislator comes through on any promises to sign bills.
Document the Meeting
Keep notes to make the most of your meeting. You need to record any legislator commitments, their views and other important information. When several advocates attend the meeting, give someone note-taking duties.
Send a Thank-You Letter
Thank your legislator, in writing, for attending the meeting. A thank-you letter also means one more chance to remind your legislator about the issues you discussed and any commitments they made. Remember to always thank legislators for supporting your positions.