Posts tagged ‘Communicating with Congress’

Which Method is Best for Communicating with Congress?

Given the many different methods of communication that are available today and the significant increase in pending legislation in congress, it is a challenge to choose the best method for connecting with policymakers.

During the last ten years, the amount of communications between constituents and Congress has increased dramatically, due primarily due to the Internet.

Letters Play Important Roles in our Lives
Creative Commons License photo credit: William Arthur Fine Stationery

In determining the best mode of communication to get your message to the right person on Capitol Hill, there is a conventional order of congressional communication that can be followed.

The typical order of congressional communications is as follows:

  • Write. Written letter on an organizational or individual’s letterhead.
  • Call. Telephone call to a congressional office. Usually used for requesting a personal visit.
  • Visit. A personal visit may take place with the policymaker or a staff member.
  • Follow-up telephone call or email, made when appropriate.

However, successful advocates utilize a variety of different forms of communication and frequently at the same time.

The most traditional method of communication is the letter. The letter remains important today for a variety of purposes, such as expressing thanks for a meeting or to communicate the official position of an organization. Keep in mind that letters are only effective when time allows them to be so. Screening measures and congressional security can often delay mail delivery. Email can make congressional communications much easier, but there are limits to technology that should be recognized.

If you have a serious concern regarding an issue, it is often best to utilize a variety of methods of communication, such as writing, emailing, calling, and personally contacting the relevant policymaker. You might also consider writing your local newspaper or speaking at a town hall meeting.

When choosing the best method for communication, try and learn individual communication preferences, as different people have different preferences regarding Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelakcommunication types. Some choose to primarily rely on email and may prefer email over a phone call. Other people tend to be somewhat slow in checking their email and thus sending them an email would be least effective.

Learning the communication preferences of relevant policymakers and their staff can help to ensure that your message is received in the shortest amount of time possible.

For more information about communicating with Congress, consider the Capitol Learning Audio Course, Strategies and Tactics That Will Help You Impact Congressional Action.

Reference: Section 8.6 Determining the Best Mode of Communication in Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelak.

For more information, see “What’s the deal with contacting my Representative or Senators?” and our FAQ: “How to Contact Congress.”

For detailed information about Congress and the legislative process, see these resources from TheCapitol.Net:

Tags: ,

A Guide for Communicating with Congress

Writing your Congressman or Congresswoman can be a great way to communicate your concerns regarding relevant issues. Today, most members of Congress prefer to hear from constituents through email due to the fact that it is faster, does not pose any security risks and is much easier to sort.

All members of Congress can be contacted through their web sites: House; Senate.

2010 Congressional Directory

You can also contact your three Members of Congress by telephone; however, you should keep in mind that telephone calls are typically taken by a staff member and are not taken directly by your Representative or your Senators. When you telephone, you should ask to speak with the aide who handles the issue that is relevant to your concern. Make sure that you identify yourself as a constituent and tell the aide that you would like to leave a brief message. If you are calling to let the member know that you support or oppose a particular bill, be sure to mention the bill by name and give your reasons, briefly, for either supporting or opposing the bill. It is also a good idea to ask for your Senators’ or Representative’s position on the bill if you do not already have that information. You might also request a written response to your call.

If you choose to write to your Representative or Senators, begin by looking at their website and the ‘Contact’ page. This will usually connect you to an online form.

According to Congressional staffers you should include the following to ensure your message is as influential as possible; your name, address and zip code. This allows the staff to verify you as a constituent of the member of Congress. You should also reference specific legislation in your communication rather than simply a general reason for writing. (You can find bill numbers by using Thomas.)

Follow these tips when communicating with a member of Congress:

  • Always be courteous and respectful. Never use threats.
  • Be constructive rather than negative.
  • Know your issue and be prepared to discuss it. Prior to writing make sure you have obtained information about the issue and do your homework to ensure you are knowledgeable about what you are discussing.
  • Keep your comments factual, pertinent and brief. Do not try to cover more than one issue per communication.
  • If you are writing a letter, restrict it to no more than two pages. Remember that elected officials hear from hundreds of people daily.
  • Identify the subject within the first paragraph if you are writing a letter. Refer to the bill by the House or Senate bill number or title when possible.
  • Do not use a form letter provided by any organization; use your own words to describe your concerns and proposed solutions.

For more information, see “What’s the deal with contacting my Representative or Senators?” and TheCapitol.Net’s FAQ: “How to Contact Congress.”

For detailed information about Congress and the legislative process, see these offerings from TheCapitol.Net:

Tags: , , , , , , ,