Direct Action 101: Contacting Representatives

Here are some strategies for more successful letter writing or calling to your Representatives. Use them when you write or call your Reps, when you organize with friends or family to write or call your Reps, and make this a part of your social justice, community organizer tool kit!

Before the Call or Letter:

  • Work when you’re calm.

-Being passionate is fantastic, but don’t call or write when you are angry. Give yourself a moment to calm down, breathe,                and think. You want to be taken seriously, and even though your feelings are valid, sometimes it’s hard to understand                    people who are experiencing those big emotions right now. We often don’t convey what we think we convey when we are              having those emotional moments. The points we try to make when we are very emotional often aren’t received the way we           intend. So, if it’s an issue you are emotional about, take a beat before you start to collect yourself. I know it’s hard to do                 that, but you’re a super star, and you can do it!

-Be sure to include all of these important things when you call or write:

1. Tell them who you/ and your family are (just a little info), and if you belong to any groups such as Veterans, teachers,                    LGBTQ, a Union, etc.
2. Tell them what you DON’T like (examples: don’t like proposed Presidential Cabinet Appointments, don’t like                               proposed cutting of the EPA, etc)

3. Give SOLUTIONS, tell about your values, tell what you would like to see happen.

  • If you’re writing, get all your materials together (stamps, pens, envelopes, etc).

-This will help prevent you from getting sidetracked and keep your train of thought. You can get to work, bust a few                         letters or phone calls out, be done rather than writing half a letter, wandering around looking for stamps, continuing the               letter, and losing track of your point.

 

  • Make a checklist of the representatives your are going to call or write so you make sure you don’t lose track.

-This will also help you keep track of how many times you have contacted each representative, and if they have                                replied. That way you can target your own calls and letters more efficiently.

 

During the Letter or Call: 

  • Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself.

-It’s easy for anyone to miss bits of information, and the staffers you’ll be talking to or writing to are just human.                              However, when we repeat important information, not only do we ensure they catch it, but also we ensure they know that              it is important.

  • Remember to talk about yourself and your family a little. You are the constituent.

-This is important, because politicians often try to appeal to different groups. What is your job? Have you gone to college?             Has anyone in your household served in the military, been in a Union or served as a teacher? These are not the only way               to get politicians to pay attention, and a good representative will pay attention simply because they are a good                                 representative, but sadly, not all representatives are good ones. And that is why we look at all the tools in our tool box.

  • Go slowly.

– This may seem like it is exclusively about talking on the phone, but it isn’t. While it’s important to not rush through a                    phone call, it’s also important to not rush through a letter. Build off of your outline. Use examples. Make it personal. They            need to remember these issues affect people.

 

After the Letter or Call:

Take a moment for yourself, breathe, have a coffee to yourself, do something to relax for a minute. Yay! You did it!

Now, don’t forget to keep track of who you have contacted about which issues, and if you’ve received any response. If you talked to someone on the phone, you may also want to take little notes about anything their staffer says to you. For example, I recently called one of my Senators, Maria Cantwell , and the staffer I spoke with told me the Senator was out of town, they didn’t know when they Senator would return, and the Senator had not released a statement about the issue I was calling about, which was publicly making a statement against President-Elect Trump’s Cabinet nominees. So, I made note of that. I also know when she is up for reelection. I have also contacted my other representatives.

I prefer to keep notes in a notebook, but some people prefer to keep notes on their laptops or notepad programs on their phones. These notes are a great resource to you, not only to they help you keep organized with your own letter writing or calling, but they help you when you are reading the news to see if your Representatives have been listening, and they help you eventually decide if those are people you want to vote for again.

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