Monday, January 19, 2015

Senate 101: How to Make Your Message Pay Off

I’ve come up with the “Message Index” or MI. It’s based on 100 points. It’s the way I measure messages I write to elected officials. You may want to use it to assess your own messages when you’re writing to Senators about issues.

  • Ideally, before you write a letter, you have established a relationship with somebody in the Senator’s office. If so, you may refer to that person right up front in your letter to the Senator or you may write write directly to that individual. In addition, in the first paragraph, say (1) where you’re from, (2) what you do and/or whom you know, and (3) what you want. Why? If you are a constituent from the state someone will answer your letter. If you provide information that suggests you are connected to important state players and/or a network of people, that will translate to – this person is important, let’s keep his/her contact information so we can get to it quickly when we want to disseminate something to the state. And, if the initial reader of your letter knows what you are concerned about, your letter will more quickly get to the person who can act on it. (15 points)

Then your letter should –
  • Provide background on the issue. Describe what’s working and not working. Provide statistics. Tell a story about a person from the state who has been adversely impacted by the status quo or would be adversely affected if the status quo were altered. (15 points)
  • Describe how to address the problem. Say something about who should be involved, how to resolve the issue, and when to take action. (30 points)
  • Describe the beneficial impact if the problem is fixed. Here too you could provide statistics – how many people, the projected cost benefit, and the impact on other things such as systems, communities, families, or the local economy. (10 points)
  •  Describe what you are prepared to do to help the Senator and his/her staff learn more/do more, such as - research, talking points, draft memos, contacting others, or a floor statement. (15 points)
  • End in one page. (5 points)
  • Use links to resources to save space. (5 points)
  •  Include all your contact information. (5 points)
You may ask a friend to rate your draft based on the Message Index. If you get a response from your Senator's office – a letter requesting more information, a call, and an opportunity to meet – you have hit a home run! You will be well on your way to becoming someone to whom the Senator will turn  and on whom the Senator will increasingly rely going forward on this issue. And, I guarantee, your letter will not be thrown away or ignored.

Good luck.
Common Grounder

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