How to Lobby Your Elected Official
The Art of Lobbying
Lobbying is the art of influencing government leaders to enact legislation or pursue activities that will benefit a specific organization, movement, or group of people. Lobbying is as old as politics itself and is a legitimate part of our democracy.
Elected officials, as well as their staff and advisors, often have limited knowledge of certain issues and the impact that their policies might have on average, hard-working citizens. For this reason, our elected representatives need to hear from workers and their families. And that is why lobbying is very important.
Decision-makers must be given the opportunity to understand our views. They must come to see union activists as both advocates who represent the best interests of workers, as well as individual citizens, taxpayers, consumers, constituents, and voters. They need to hear alternative views and policy options that serve as a counterbalance to the ideas put forward by corporate lobbyists and the mainstream media.
Our opponents have the resources to buy lobbyists and pay for media influence, but we have “the strength in numbers” that can make a difference for working families.
Your Lobby Team
Before your meeting with an elected official and/or their advisors, make sure your lobbying team decides:
Who will be the lead spokesperson in the meeting?
Which topic(s) will each team member focus on?
Who will be the lobby recorder for the meeting?
The lobby recorder will be responsible for writing the Lobby Report and sending it back to your Local Union or the UFCW Canada Political Action Department.
Planning the Meeting
Prior to the meeting, your lobby team should practice their talking points. Your team should decide what will be said and who will say it. You should also determine the key points that you want to relay and practice discussing them.
Know Your Audience
Most politicians will be interested in what you have to say. Some will be supportive, while others will be preoccupied with their own interests, or may already be predisposed to disagree with your position. Do not let that deter you from making your case.
Know Your Subject
Speak about what you know and how it affects the people around you. If you are asked a question that you do not know the answer to, do not be afraid to say that you will get back to the elected official or advisor with an answer later. Be sure to follow through with your promise.
Be Clear and Stick to the Point
Make sure your comments are concise, and stick to the points at hand. Speak with confidence, and remember that your job is to persuade decision-makers in government to understand and hopefully adopt your point of view.
Determine where there is agreement, and any reasons for disagreement. Never lecture, and never make things personal. If you find that there is support for your position, ask what can be done to achieve action on the issue that you are discussing.
Leave the Door Open
Work to avoid outright rejection of your position. Focus on areas of agreement, not on differences.
Do Not be Discouraged by Failure
Remember that the importance of lobbying is to make your position known. Influencing and changing minds takes time, which is why lobbying is a constant, long-term, and ongoing event.
Lobby Day Checklist
Before the Meeting
Read the issues documents and backgrounders that have been provided to you;
Make sure that you have a “leave behind” card, pamphlet, or brochure with you;
Gather 20 to 30 minutes ahead of time, close to your meeting location;
Make sure that you know which team member will be leading your meeting, and which member will be writing and submitting the lobby report; and
Establish which topic(s) each team member will be discussing.
At the Meeting
Introduce yourself to the staff as well as to the elected official;
Make a short statement on your position. If you have any requests to make of the elected official (such as voting a certain way, presenting a petition, etc.), be sure to make these requests clear before you leave the meeting;
Speak from your own experiences as a worker, or as a representative of workers. Stick to whatyou know and focus on why your opinion matters;
Do not get sidetracked by the elected official or any staff who are in attendance. Stick to the issues at hand;
Try to get a commitment from the elected representative before the end of the meeting. Make sure that any commitments – including follow-up - are mutually understood. Indicate that you’d like to meet again; and
Make sure to say “thank you” to the elected representative. Be sure to thank any staff who are in attendance, as we will need their help in arranging future meetings.
After the Meeting
Immediately sit down and recap the issues and commitments that were discussed in your meeting.
Write your lobby report and send it to your Local Union or the UFCW Canada Political Action Department.