Advocacy 101: Preparing to Persuade
The Role of an Aging Advocate
As an aging advocate, you will be called upon to take your message to local, state, and federal policy makers and elected officials – on a wide range of subjects, and through a variety of communication channels – all in an effort to nurture public support for issues that are important to you.
Before making contact with elected officials, it is crucial for you to do some homework in order to get a better understanding of the issue you want to address. So, learn about the elected official’s views on that issue and learn the legislative process through which the bill or funding authorization will proceed. It is important to identify the issues that you feel best suited to address – match advocacy opportunities to your professional expertise, personal interests and unique talents.
Be sure to prepare yourself with talking points, fact sheets and “leave behind” materials before every legislative visit.
How to Make your visit a Success
- Be prepared. Learn about the official with whom you are meeting and the status of the issue you will discuss. Plan what you will say and stay “on message”.
- Briefly discuss the issue in non-technical, jargon-free language.
- Explain why the issue is important to you personally. If possible, link the issue to a personal experience or situation in the elected official’s district.
- If you are a part of a group of advocates (e.g., LAAAC), chose a spokesperson (preferably someone who lives in the district) and decide on a strategy.
- Expect to meet for about 15 minutes. Arrive early and leave on time. Be sure to thank the elected official for considering your point of view and your request.
- Expect schedule changes – an elected official business must come first. If there is a delay, a staff member will handle the appointment. That’s fine: staffers often are the most knowledgeable issue experts in the office and can be very influential.
- Remain positive and courteous.
- Don’t use terms or abbreviations that may be unfamiliar to an official without explaining their meaning.
- Follow up with a brief thank-you letter that reiterates the purpose of your visit and invites the elected official to call upon you for help.
- Think long-term: Work to build an ongoing relationship with elected officials and their staffs. They will be more likely to look after your interests and to be proactive on your behalf.