Tips for Communicating with your Legislator
Developing a good relationship with your legislator is the best way to have a positive effect on public policy. Communication is important whether it be by telephone, in person, correspondence or email. It is also important to keep in touch with your legislators before, during and after the legislative session. The more familiar a legislator is with you, the more responsive they will be when you contact them.
Following are a few tips to keep in mind when communicating with your legislator.
Keep your message simple.
- Be brief, clear and complete.
- A one page letter on a single topic is best.
- Type or write legibly.
- Include your name and address on the envelope and letter.
- Be sure to include your full name, address, phone number and email address in an email message as well.
Use proper etiquette.
- Use a formal address and salutation.
- Address your legislator as representative or senator as shown below.
- The envelope should be addressed to The Honorable [first name] [last name]
The Honorable [First Name] [Last Name]
West Virginia State Capitol
Dear Senator [Last Name]:
Your letters, email messages and telephone calls count and can make a difference on an issue. Time your letter, email message and phone calls. Timing can make all the difference on an issue or bill.
All written correspondence should:
- Clearly state why you are writing – specific issues should include the bill number. Don’t assume the legislator knows about the issue.
- Use facts or resources to support your position
- Stress the personal or community impact of this legislation
- Ask for the legislator’s support or non-support
- Follow-up and request a response from your legislator
- Be polite, respectful and say “thank you”
When calling, always identify yourself to the person answering the phone. You will more than likely be talking to a staffer. Let them know in which legislative district you reside. If your legislator is the author of the bill, acknowledge his or her hard work on the bill. Be prepared before you contact your legislator.
- Rehearse what you are going to say before you make your phone call
- Refer to the bill by number
- Give examples, statistics, etc.
- Be polite, respectful and positive
- Never threaten
- Ask for a response
- Ask for the legislator or staff person to keep you informed
- Say “thank you”
Tell your legislator “your” personal story – how the piece of legislation will affect you personally. Remember your role is to explain and inform your legislator.
Remember, legislators are people too. Your goal is to build a long-term relationship with them. Listen to what the legislators have to say. Always ask how you can help them and express your appreciation for their hard work.