Visit an elected official


A key goal in advocacy is to develop a long-term relationship with your legislator. A personal meeting, ideally while your legislator is at home in the district, is the best way to build that relationship and communicate your views on an issue. After a face-to-face meeting with your legislator, follow-up communications are even more effective. The following suggestions can help you plan a successful meeting with your legislator.
 

Understand Your Purpose
 

  • Know what it is you want the visit to accomplish and do not leave until you have the answer or the process for getting the answer.
  • If this is your very first meeting, your goal may be to simply introduce yourself and learn more about the lawmaker and their staff.
     

Prepare for Your Visit
 

  • Always make an appointment
    • Work with the legislator’s appointments secretary/scheduler.
    • Explain your purpose and who you represent.
    • Be persistent in seeking an appointment.
  • Do your research and understand your pharmacy or association’s shared past with the legislator.
  • Determine who should attend the meeting. Reaching out to your state pharmacy association is always a good idea to learn more about the lawmaker and to determine if someone from the association should attend.
  • If more than one person is representing your pharmacy/association in the meeting, decide on roles beforehand
    • Organizer/Leader: If one person has a good relationship with the legislator, they should lead the meeting (this does not mean that they need to do all the talking but rather, they are responsible for keeping the meeting moving and on track).
    • Note-taker: One person should always take written notes on what the member said in order to avoid “he said/she-said” issues later on.
  • Be prepared to make your case in 15 minutes or less.
  • Decide how the results of the meeting will be used (in grassroots communications to employees, on grassroots websites, etc.) and make sure to communicate this to the legislator during your meeting. This ensures the legislator knows there will be significance to the answer they give.
  • Bring information and materials supporting your position to leave behind whenever possible.
  • Take a business card.
     

Presenting Your Case
 

  • Open the conversation by introducing yourself and describing your pharmacy, number of employees, number of scripts you fill per day/week/month, other facts such as number of Medicare or Medicaid clients served by the pharmacy and community involvement(find ways to make your pharmacy/association relevant to the legislator).
  • Explain why you are there and know the name of the issue and bill number, if applicable. State your concerns about the issues, supported by facts (short and to the point is always better).
  • Preserve your relationship by always being respectful to the legislator and/or the staff that accompany them (note that you can still be firm without being disrespectful).
     

Getting Your Answer
 

  • Before you leave the meeting, make sure to get either
    • A “yes” or “no” answer, or
    • A reason why they cannot give you an answer and a date by which a specific person will give you a “yes” or “no” answer.
  • If the legislator says “yes”, restate what yes means so that the legislator can confirm. A legislator saying “I tend to agree with you” or “I generally see your point” is not always a “Yes, I will vote with you”.
  • If the legislator says “no”, find out why and where the disagreement is.
  • Watch out for wiggle words and phrases. A legislator saying “It's a complicated issue”, “I’ll consider your input” or providing other similar responses is NOT an answer.
     

Following Up
 

  • Get the name and contact information of the legislative staff member and stay in contact via letters, emails and telephone calls to the legislator and key staff advisors.
  • Send a thank-you letter to the member and staff that:
    • Reiterates their answer.
    • Lists the expectation you have reached.
    • States a timeline.
  • If their answer was “no”:
    • Use the letter to restate the reasons for disagreement (even though the legislator disagrees, this creates dialogue).
    • Offer to share additional information if they change their mind in the future.

Even if they don’t agree with you, by following up you can mitigate the passion with which they oppose you which, in some instances, can be a good outcome in itself.


Forms of Address for Government Officials

 

Person

Letter Greeting

Spoken Greeting

President of the United States

Dear Mr. (or Madam) President

Mr. (or Madam) President

Vice President

Dear Mr. (or Madam) Vice President

Mr. (or Madam) Vice President

Cabinet members

Dear Mr. (or Madam) Secretary

Mr. (or Madam) Secretary

United States Senator

Dear Senator Jones

Senator Jones

Speaker of the House

Dear Mr. (or Madam) Speaker

Mr. Speaker; Madam Speaker

United States Representative

Dear Representative Jones

Mr. (or Mrs., Ms.) Jones

Governor

Dear Governor Jones

Governor or Governor Jones

State Legislators

State House: Dear Representative, Delegate, or Assemblyman*
State Senate: Dear Senator

State House: Representative, Delegate, or Assemblyman* Jones
State Senate: Senator Jones

Judges

Dear Judge Jones

Mr. Justice or Judge Jones; Madam Justice or Judge Jones

Mayor

Dear Mayor Jones

Mayor Jones; Mr. (Or Madam) Mayor; Your Honor

 

*Certain states have a House of Delegates, House of Representatives, or House of Assembly Members. Address your letter accordingly.


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