This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
The resulting questions have lead to putting down some additional “rules for the road.” We live in times of massive change, and the best ideas need to come forward. I hope you will share your ideas with elected officials. Thank you! Works like this need help of good friends. Let me thank three in particular for their support and great thoughts throughout this effort: • Amy Akmal • Lisa Chow • Brian Moura
For Mom & Dad. Thanks for teaching me how valuable and important it is to be an active citizen.
Why You Need To Work With Your Elected Officials
“No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy. Rather, both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime.” – Kofi Annan You have issues you care about. You've taken your passion, and turned it into stewardship. You actually put action to the issues you care about. It is important to understand your ability to champion your cause and achieve results will be directly related to your capability to rally others. So, how do you convince others to join? Do you really want to work with politicians? You will often need their help if you want to reach the finish line. Many well‐meaning, passionate advocates look at the realm of elected officials as a strange place best avoided. As an elected official, I have seen folks with great ideas attempt to engage the political process as a “last resort.” Far too often, better decisions could have been made with participation of folks like you in the process. Everyone is frustrated when this happens and today’s challenging times demand the best ideas come to the front and be implemented. Your passions run deep and have taken time to develop. You have learned the important details your issue and know why it is critical. It is hard to imagine anyone could have the grasp of the issue you do in a few minutes. Extending this thought, you will need to know the effective advocacy of your issues with elected officials will by following a process built over time. Performing advocacy in a few moments or in a one‐time effort is not likely to yield good results. Learning The Process Of Being An Effective Advocate The process of effective advocacy has three primary parts: ● Step 1: Preparation ● Step 2: Lobbying ● Step 3: Building Relationships For The Long Term Your advocacy will be built upon the relationship you establish with elected officials. For this reason and more, you should cultivate governmental relationships:
Elected officials can bring a great number of resources and mindshare to bear for your cause. The more you know about your elected officials, the better you can pitch your case—AND the more likely they are to take action! Some things elected officials may help you with include: ● Changes in laws and regulations ● Amendments to upcoming legislation ● Lobbying on your behalf ● Letters to colleagues or others ● Items in newsletters ● Speeches, questions, motions in elected bodies ● Setting up meetings with their colleagues ● Practical assistance with campaigning To be truly effective, you will need to learn how to lobby.
Get to know officials, especially when you don't need their help on a specific issue. ● Go to informal gatherings officials attend ● Don't hesitate to initiate a conversation. ● Cultivate relationships with their staff.
“So, I’m Supposed To Learn How To Lobby?”
"Ten people who speak make more noise than ten thousand who are silent." Napoleon Bonaparte Following the US Civil War, President Grant used to leave the rigors of the White House to enjoy a brandy and cigars across the street at the Willard Hotel. Many were aware of the president’s habit and took up station in the lobby of the hotel in order to meet Grant and press for consideration of their particular issue. The men became known as lobbyists and the practice became known as lobbying. Today, lobbying is recognized as the practice of private advocacy with the goal of influencing a governing body, in order to ensure you or your organization’s point of view is represented in the government.
Lobbying is not just quiet talks with elected officials. Lobbying is hard work, preparation, finding allies and covering your bases. In short, lobbying is a scramble. Consider most elected officials (and their staff) track a multitude of critical issues. Many factors will be weighed to determine which issue is on the front burner at any moment. Effective lobbying maintains the mindshare of key issues and ensures new, critical information is considered in a timely fashion. A further point to reflect upon; lobbying is done all the time by those representing virtually every interest group. You should always assume those who hold views contrary to yours are lobbying. If you do not lobby, your viewpoint will not be effectively represented.
Understanding Elected Officials
“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” Martin Luther King, Jr. Upon being elected to the city council I had a meeting with the city manager and asked how to move my ideas forward. He replied with the clearest statement of politics, “You can do anything you want if you have the votes.” Moving policy means molding consensus. If you were studying animals in the wild, you would want to know what kind of habitat is needed for the species to survive, what kind of food source is needed, what creatures prey on them, etc. So what drives the political creature? There are two primary instincts in a politician's universe which drive most of their behaviors: Reputation/Influence These are the primary tools enabling politicians to do their job. Strong reputation/influence ensures political success; whereas weakness, essentially, equates to political death. Preservation Of Self Living to see another day is paramount to all species. The political animal is no different displaying a strong instinct of self‐ preservation. You may incorrectly assume the primary motivation is money. You should know money is a means of preservation; it is not the end goal. Votes are what count on Election Day, not the money… So what does this mean in your lobbying efforts? You should establish the two key points important in elected official’s mind to allow a relationship to thrive. Now you are ready to establish the foundation of your advocacy – the preparation work.
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Establishing your credibility
"The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously." Hubert Humphrey We all have folks in our lives we consider trustworthy, smart and outstanding in their fields. We ask these folks for advice, and sometimes even take it! There are some we know who give speeches only to be drowned out by their lack of credibility. You must spend time developing your credibility as a leader for your issues. Your credibility must extend beyond the close community of issue affinity. Your credibility must extend to laypeople who will come to know about this issue through you. Here are several time‐tested ways to do so: ● Letters To The Editor ● An Op‐Ed Piece ● Talk With Reporters Or Editors ● Radio Call‐In Shows ● Distribute Literature/Posters/Flyers/Newsletters/Email Blasts ● Your Civic Engagements In Other Groups ● Blogs/Social Media Letters To The Editor A letter‐to‐the‐editor gives you a chance to inform thousands of people about your issue. When writing a letter to the editor, be certain to note how long the average published letter is, and keep your letter within this length. BE BRIEF. Make your letter concise, avoid rambling and be specific. Focus upon your core message and key points you want people to understand. If you can personalize your view on the issues the better chance you have of “putting a face” on the issue for readers. Check your spelling, names, and facts‐and‐figures. Did you already do that? Great, do it again! Be certain to sign your name and give your address, telephone number and email address although the latter will not be published. Most newspapers do not print anonymous letters, but they may withhold your name if you feel strongly about it. Newspapers often receive more letters than they can print, so if your letter is not published the first time, try again. An Op-Ed Piece Many newspapers feature a section opposite the editorial pages (often called the Op‐Ed page) for citizen opinions from thought leaders and citizens. These are
similar to letters‐to‐the‐editor, but generally longer and published with a byline. If you are comfortable writing, consider submitting an article on a subject you know and care about. Talk With Reporters Or Editors Stop by your local newspaper's office and chat with reporters or editorial page editors. Give them background information, reference materials and, most importantly, contact information. Journalists are deadline driven and may call you at a drop of a hat to comment on a pressing issue. You need to have contact information available for them to find you and get quick responses. To be in their article, call them back early in the day. Before returning a call from a journalist, make an outline or a list of key talking points, before calling back. Develop clear and “quotable” ways to tell your story. During the call, highlight and emphasize your key points to insure they are included in the piece. Radio Call-In Shows In some areas, talk radio is a powerful voice. Calling in and letting others know what you think with well articulated messages will set you apart from most of the callers. Ask questions of those who appear on these shows. As with all other activities you may do, you need to do your homework and be prepared before calling in. Distribute Literature/Posters/Flyers/Newsletters/Email Blasts Distribute information about your issues in your community. Give them to friends and neighbors, or hand them out at your local library or public meeting place. Use your allies to help get your message out. Your Civic Engagements In Other Groups You may belong to the PTA, volunteer for the Scouts, help clean the parks or are in a service organization. Bring your message to these communities of which you are part. Be aware of the decorum of each group – but look for opportunities to share your passion on the issues. Blogs/Social Media Significant attention is being directed by officials and advocates toward social media. The ability to get a message out and have people take action is very effective with tools like Twitter, Facebook and blogs.
There are many publications regarding ways to engage these technologies for advocacy. I will be fairly brief and offer a few starting points: ● Social media is effective and worth doing ● Social media is time consuming ● The Internet is a place where the anonymous are out in force. Civil discussions are often hijacked with hyperbole, vitriol and outright lies. The mask of anonymity fosters greater latitude of behavior which people would not engage in the “real” world. ● Social media is effective and worth doing (yes, it was worth repeating!)
Set Up Your Advocacy and Issue For Success
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” Sun Tzu Do Your Homework! Before you start, you need to do your homework and be thoroughly prepared! Dig beneath the surface of official websites. Use media archives, political literature and blogs. Go to public meetings and don't limit your information gathering to a single source or official. Make phone calls, engage experts and meet with others to clarify facts. Failure to do this preparation work will not help your cause. Be accurate when sharing information with elected officials. You must be a credible source of information to build a working relationship and get action. If you don't know something, just say so. Tell them you will find the answers and get back to them. Overall, keep these points in mind as you prepare: • Know your issue inside‐and‐out to the greatest detail possible. • Know the counter arguments and why they are incorrect • Be prepared to defend statistics and other data with facts • Polls need to be defensible and from reliable sources to be worth sharing Develop Your Message “If the beat gets to the audience, and the message touches them, you've got a hit.” Casey Kasem What songs do you hum? Or think about during the day? Or remember fondly? Songs are stories, compressed into a few verses and performed over a few moments. The impression some songs make last a lifetime or generations. Your message needs to have a similar quality. Be specific and brief. Don’t exaggerate facts. Good messages are often personal stories. Try to speak directly from your own experience, explaining why you feel so strongly and the source of your passion. You and your colleagues need to be able to articulate the message with clarity and purpose. When you do so, your message is powerful and will make others “hum the same tune.”
Don't confuse slogans with a core message. Slogans are a means of encapsulating a bigger message. Once you develop a well‐framed, fact‐based message, stick to it and get everyone working with you to do the same ensuring one consistent message comes across. Write down talking points to hit on the core messages to be shared. Build Alliances “We cannot always assure the future of our friends; we have a better chance of assuring our future if we remember who our friends are.” Henry Kissinger When elected officials meet with you and listen to your story, your allies will serve as strong indication of your reputation and influence. Think about it – if a company you have never heard of is selling a product, you may not pick it up. If someone you know says the product is good, then you may be inclined to try it. If your best friend says it is the greatest thing you will ever purchase – well, you get the idea. Your allies validate your reputation and influence. If you have allies you are a force to be reckoned with. Lone wolves are not ignored, but are not treated with the same attention as a large pack. Be creative when looking for allies, and ask other entities with complementary concerns to reach out to others as well. Even if you think everyone is on the same page, spend time and energy educating all coalition members on the issues and core messages. It is critical to have energetic and focused colleagues who can keep members motivated. Once alliances are formed, you will need to spend time nurturing those relationships. Be prepared to spend time with your friends and help them as you can. Be proactive! When you need them to support actions for your issue, communicate early and follow‐up with your friends.
Understand The Political/Legal Process
“If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing.” W. Edwards Deming You have a challenge and you need to get help from elected officials. So how do you start and how do you drive your issue forward? Government is the most regulated entity you will ever deal with – and the processes by which decisions are made make the Byzantine era seem straightforward. Figure Out The Process Depending on your issue you may have to work with various departments, commissions, and proceedings. Many processes will be straightforward while others may actually require the help of an attorney to interpret. Talking to staff of your elected officials is a good first step to understanding the route your issue may have to navigate. One common mistake folks make is choosing the wrong level of government to push their issue. To determine whether you should target a local, state, or federal official or agency, see where your issue has the most concentrated impact. Then follow the money trail‐‐who collects the revenues, and for what. For example, some regulations which city government enforce are actually mandated by state or federal government. Funds gathered will likely go to the regulating agency and not the one doing the enforcement. Expect to do a little detective work to determine where these items originated and which agency can make changes. Determine Key Staff While elected officials are important, the staff supporting them is critical. Officials rely on staff to help assemble facts and issues so policy decisions may be made. You will need to determine which staff member supports a particular issue. Most of the time you can learn this by simply asking who is the right person with whom to discuss your issue.
Have Meetings With Staff Get face‐to‐face meetings and consider these meetings the critical groundwork needed to effectively lobby elected officials. Just as you would engage a reporter, be certain background information, reference materials, and contact information is up to date and made available to the staff member. You should know this staff member is a critical ally in your drive to move your issue forward.
This step is especially important when dealing with changing laws and proposing legislation at the State and Federal level. At this level, the legislative staff members are the people who draft the legislation (bill sponsor’s staff) and propose amendments to the legislation (policy committee staff). If you want to have an impact on the specifics of the proposed law, this is the place to start. Be persistent. If the staff people you need to speak with are out of the office, leave a message for them with your name and number. If they don't return your call within two to three days, then call again. Keep track of your calls, but remember that they are very busy.
Step 1 Preparation The Checklist:
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Have you taken all actions to establish your credibility? Is your issue and advocacy setup for success? Have you done your homework? Do you have a well‐crafted message? Have you built alliances to support your advocacy? Did you figure out the process you are trying to effect? Have you identified key staff? Have you met with key staff?
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Sharing The Message With Elected Officials
“Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” ‐ Thomas Paine Regardless of how you share your message with officials, you should keep in mind some common points: ● Gauge the official’s interest and match your requests to their initial level of interest. ● Be specific. Make a point to mention legislation by number or designation, give reasons why you do/do not support the issue. If you are a constituent let them know. ● Take advantage of every opportunity to present your case. Community events, award ceremonies, fundraisers are all great opportunities to chat with elected officials. Always have business cards handy. ● Be brief. Elected officials and their staffs are incredibly busy and so are you. They appreciate it when you get to the point and respect their time. Because your meeting or call might be interrupted, get to your request in the first few minutes. ● Be courteous. Always, be courteous. Asking "How are you?" after the initial hello works wonders! Being dour or overly aggressive is almost always counterproductive, and it provides a good excuse to ignore your request. ● Do not let emotions take over the debate. This advice is simple to say and sometimes hard to follow. ● Humanize your story with examples in phone calls, face‐to‐face meetings, or public forums such as rallies or community meetings. You will be surprised how effective a relevant story can be when elected officials share it with their colleagues in the course of their deliberations on the item you are advancing. ● Use props or visual aids to better illustrate facts and figures. ● Bring attention to who is supporting you and make certain your allies are carrying your message as well. ● Research, review, and rehearse. Don't assume your target official or agency "gets" it. You have a lot of ground to cover, so remain persistent and take time to educate them on the issue.
Writing To Elected Officials
“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” – T.S. Elliott We live in a digital world, but humans are analog creatures. Letters actually work. Almost every official will tell you about the letters they have received and what they meant in the discourse of an issue. A well‐ written letter can touch people like very few mediums. So, how are you going to write your letter? First, you're going to pick up an analog device: a pen. It is critical you actually handwrite your letter. It is so novel for an elected official to see somebody actually write a letter, folks will take notice. Second, get into a proactive habit and write to your elected officials at least once a month. If you are consistent and do this, the elected official will start calling you when your issue comes up, and ask, "What do you think?" Here is a simple structure to start off your handwritten letters: 1. Paragraph #1 – Acknowledgement: When addressing an elected official, it is worthwhile to acknowledge their work. Perhaps you feel their work on a particular issue has been helpful, their stance on a point worthwhile. You may disagree with particular politicians, but perhaps you can acknowledge they have a tough job or are facing a tough decision. Simply saying, “I appreciate…” goes a long way in establishing you as a person who understands the rigors of political office and of what it takes to move an issue through the legislative process. 2. Paragraph #2 – Get To The Point: You will be among the few who understand time is precious. Without fanfare or dozens of disclaimers, you state your point. “Your stance on X is the worst decision anyone could ever make.” 3. Paragraph #3 – Question The Logic And Offer A Path Out No one wants to be cornered – so give a plausible escape route: “Who so badly misinformed you?”
4. Paragraph #4 – Offer To Help Establish the fact you are a resource and want to help the elected official to succeed. “If no one is advising you on these issues, let me help” 5. Understand What Your “Signature” Means A Animals make “displays” to accomplish two primary things: attract a mate or warn an adversary. The way you sign your letter will do both. Each month you send your letter, you will use a different signature. I do not mean a different name, but a different signature which represents all the things you do in your community. You may be vice president in your company, you volunteer for various organizations, you are in the PTA, a donor to the local arts group, etc. Here are a few examples you may use in your monthly letters: ● Vice President, ● Gala Coordinator, Yoyodine Propulsion Systems Local School Education Foundation ● Elder, Local House of Worship ● Member, Lakeview Scrabble Club Why is this important? Because this establishes your significance in the two primary criteria for the political creature: • You have a large sphere of influence, and • By helping you, a politician’s preservation can also be helped.
As always, double check correct name spellings and titles and provide sources for all data. Be concrete and specific. Make your communication personalized. Finally, always try to keep your letters to one page and never more than two. You should always feel free to include background materials, research, papers, etc. to supplement your points ‐ but keep your letter brief. Obviously, your circumstances will determine if you should use a template like this. Try to keep the following points in mind as you write: ● Handwritten notes are impactful ● Write consistently ● Be brief
Preparing For A Meeting/Appearing Before An Elected Body
“An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.” Mohandas Gandhi You may recall an old joke where a passerby asks another “How does one get to Carnegie Hall?” The reply comes, “ Practice, practice, practice.” Getting ready for a meeting or appearing before an elected body can cause anxiety for anyone. You will have a very limited period of time to make your points – and the time you have will fly by in the blink of an eye. The advice for Carnegie Hall is appropriate here – you need to practice your presentation. The following is general advice as you prepare for either meeting with elected official/staff or appearing before an elected body. Write Your Remarks Writing your remarks will help you be clear and concise in your presentation of core issues. It is unlikely you will be reading your remarks verbatim, but the discipline of writing them down will sharpen your focus and ensure critical points are covered. Practice what you are going to say so you sound natural and not like you are reading straight from a script. Your time will be brief, so rehearse. Be Brief In most meetings you will have a very brief period to get your points across. Everyone will appreciate you are direct and respect their time. Don’t Try To “Wing It” You are probably more of an expert on your topic than any elected official, but your preparation projects a professional and legitimate demeanor. Pick specific topics to discuss (i.e. how this issue affects you personally) and plan what facts you would like to share. Be Upbeat! Put any feelings of pessimism and cynicism aside. They will never serve you. Expect to be treated courteously. Your issues are serious and you are dedicated to your
cause, but anger directed at officials and staff is not the way to start building a relationship. Keep calm, smile and avoid being shrill or argumentative. Set the right tone from the beginning. Your first 10 seconds of interaction will provide the foundation for the rest of the dialogue. Be friendly, courteous and direct. Be assertive and avoid even the appearance of being rude. Make people feel empowered. Start with “I really need your help and you seem just like the person who can help me.” Be Direct And To The Point You are friendly, straightforward and strive to eliminate any guesswork about what you want as the result of the request. Don’t Exaggerate Your Case Be truthful with your data and your case. You will earn tremendous respect by stating your case plainly and to the point. Be Respectful Of Time You and folks you are meeting with have a busy schedule. Be gracious in your time together and mindful of when the time is up. You will earn respect in keeping everyone’s schedule moving forward. Do Your Homework And Be A Resource Obviously, you have done your homework. Be able to clearly explain the problem or request. Be ready to anticipate objections and counter‐points to your stance in concise, well thought‐out ideas. If you are unsure about how much your Elected Official knows about the subject, establish this early in the conversation so you don’t waste time telling them what they already know. If You Have a Group Going To The Meeting If you are going with a group, decide beforehand who says what. Having a number of people repeat a single point will get tedious, so keep speakers to a minimum rather than try to “get everyone in.” If You Have Elected Officials Presenting With You At a State or Federal legislative hearing, it is often effective to have one or two speakers make the key points and then have other elected officials or speakers in
attendance quickly indicate their support for the previously made statements in support or opposition to the proposed legislation. At this level, it is also important to: ● bring elected officials whenever possible to speak (they endorse the legislators at election time) and ● bring elected officials and people to speak who are from the district of members of the legislative committee hearing the proposal.
Meeting Elected Officials and Staff
“If I am to speak for ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now” – Woodrow Wilson Getting meetings with most officials and their staff are pretty easy. Since their job is public service, you will find the scheduling relatively straightforward. In some cases you may be able to get a meeting with the official directly. Typically, you will meet with staff supporting the official on your issue. Over time as you work your advocacy, you will find meetings with the elected official easier to schedule. Be patient and be persistent, good things are on the way for you! So here is how you get ready for your meeting: Make An Appointment Pick up the phone and request a meeting. If you are a constituent for the official, be certain to make the person scheduling the appointment aware of this important fact. If your official is not available, ask to meet with the staff handling your issue. When the meeting time is set, ask for an email address for you to follow‐up. Immediately send a confirmation of your appointment letting them know: ● Time and Date ● Where the meeting will take place ● Name of the organization you represent ● What issue you wish to discuss ● Name and title of people attending It is always a good idea to reconfirm a few days ahead of time. Make certain you have directions, and any special information you may need. For example, you would want to know how much time to allow if you need to clear security checkpoints, a passport or special ID, etc. What To Bring To The Meeting Bring a few concise documents and background information to support your position. Also remember to bring business cards or contact information for all members in your party. Arrive On Time It is funny how many folks make great efforts to get an appointment and show up late. Be on time, and if you can, be early so you can take a little time to review your points and relax.
Now You’re In The Meeting! Be courteous. Always be courteous. A pleasant "How are you?" after the initial handshake means the world to folks in public service. Obviously, being abrasive is counterproductive, and provides a good excuse to put you in the category of “annoying crank.” Relax, and try to stay on track. Your opinion matters and your story is an important one to tell. Speak from your heart and personalize your issues. Always be polite, respectful, and truthful. Your job is educating and helping folks who do not know your issue to become the newest champions of your cause. Keep questions short, specific and to the point. You actually want to hear the folks answer! Your meeting time will be brief – usually 5 or 10 minutes – but you are well prepared and able to convey all important information smoothly. Be conscious of the time and be mindful everyone is busy. Take notes so you can follow up. What if you don’t know an answer? No problem! You don’t have to have all the answers – say, “I don’t know, but I can find out.” This is a terrific opportunity to follow‐up and prove to the elected official and their staff you are a great resource on the issue. Not knowing is perfectly fine, not following up is a disaster.
Appearing before an Elected Body
Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” Vince Lombardi A common error many commit is to make their first contact with elected officials at a public meeting when a decision is imminent and try to lobby at the last moment. Decisions are usually made at the end of a deliberate process with many meetings and significant staff time. Appearing “out of the blue” will result in an uphill struggle as elected officials try to come up to speed on both you and your viewpoint in the span of a few moments. Your issues are best served with preparation before this event. . This is especially true if you ● Are raising one or more technical issues or ● Have a large number of points to make These often can’t be covered in the brief time you will be given to speak before the elected officials at their meeting. Before you appear before an elected group to state your case, did you do your groundwork? Doing so will ensure your discussion before the group is received with appropriate context. Have you: ● Worked to establish your credibility? ● Written to the elected officials you will appear before? ● Had a meeting with the elected official or their staff? Go back and review the previous pages. Your issues presented before elected officials in a meeting will be well served if you have done the appropriate preparation. You’ve completed the checklist? Now you are ready to get in front of the group. There are some preparations you should make to ensure smooth sailing your presentation to the elected body. Contact The Clerk Or Chief Administrator Appearing before an elected body has a few additional “moving parts” when compared to a meeting with officials or staff in their office. Being prepared to work with the system helps ensure your presentation is received well. Meeting materials are distributed to officials in advance. Getting your remarks distributed with the meeting materials will ensure a reasonable opportunity for the officials to review them before your appearance.
Contact the clerk for the elected body (commission, council, committee, panel, etc.) and ask when materials are distributed for the meeting where you wish to appear. Ask for the procedures to distribute your materials to the officials. You may be asked to provide a number of copies of your materials, etc. There will be specific protocols concerning how speakers will be called upon. Ask the clerk how speakers will be accommodated and verify the process. Do not assume you will be allowed to use Powerpoint presentations, videos or other audiovisual materials for your presentation. Once again, the clerk is your best source of information regarding the use of props and visual aids. Since your time is limited, be ready to go with little more than your speaking notes. Get the meeting agenda and a copy of the staff report on the item you are speaking on as soon as these documents are available and be prepared to speak on your issue when the agenda item is called in the meeting. Arrive On Time Be aware most public meetings are recorded and broadcast, so dress appropriately. Avoid clothing with blatant political messages, advertisements or garish logos. This goes without saying, but if you come in late you may lose your opportunity to speak. Come early and be prepared to wait as other meeting business is conducted. In many circumstances, like public hearings and regular meetings, you may need to fill out a “speaker slip” to be recognized. You’re already familiar with this procedure, because you previously checked with the clerk. This paperwork is usually filled in at the meeting and is handed to the clerk or other designated person. Now, just relax and be ready when your name is called. When You Appear Before The Officials Because most meetings will be recorded and broadcast, you need to use the microphone. People in the auditorium, officials on the dais, and people watching at home on TV or via the web have no idea you are sharing pearls of wisdom if you are not speaking into the microphone. Your time and preparations will be for naught – so speak into the microphone.
You need to be aware the chairperson runs the meeting. The authority of the chair is significant and will dictate the pace and flow of the meeting. When your name is called, place yourself before the microphone and speak clearly. You will usually have to state your name and town of residence (or affiliation) for the record. Address the chair and use their correct title: Chairman, Madam President, Mayor, etc. This is an appropriate courtesy extended to the chair. Be courteous and acknowledge the elected officials. You should be aware your remarks are made to the chair and not to members of the public or staff. An example of coming before a city council: “Madam Mayor and honorable members of the council, good evening. My name is Mr. Al E. Gator of San Carlos.” You have just a few minutes ‐ since you have rehearsed, you’ll do just fine! “I want to voice my opposition to the proposed agenda item and the impact it will have on our children’s ability to get to school and home safely. “ Allude to remarks you have put in their materials – but don’t read them. “Our group has submitted several letters of concern as well as photographs of the intersections in question.” Relax, and try to stay on track. Your time will be over before you know it and your preparation is coming in handy. By the way, you are using the microphone, aren’t you? “Madam Mayor, we ask the council to reject the proposal before you and recommend the alternative of forming a working committee to address the needs of all the parties in a constructive manner.” You’ve done a great job! You’re no stranger to the folks on the dais because you have established your credibility and delivered a powerful, well‐constructed argument. But you’re not done yet!
“It ain't over till it's over.” – Yogi Berra After any meeting or appearance: ● Follow‐up on any action items and deliver the answers you committed to share. ● Verify you understand what the official and staff will do as next steps and how they will support your issue. ● Get the name of the staff person you spoke with and try to deal with the same person each time and be certain to praise them in letters to the officials. Provide information as needed. Expect to mail or email a lot of information. Offer to mail or email information as many times as necessary. If you do send something, do a follow‐up later to make sure it was received.
Step 2 Lobbying The Checklist
1. Have you reviewed the points of “Sharing The Message With Elected Officials” in detail before communicating with elected officials? 2. Have you written to the elected officials? 3. Have you written to elected officials consistently? 4. Have you set up a meeting with the officials? 5. Have you confimed the meeting appointment? 6. Have you determined your transit time to the meeting location so you will arrive on time (and maybe a little early?) 7. If you’re appearing before an elected body, have you made contact with the clerk to verify procedures 8. Did you follow up on open items or answers you were going to provide following the meeting?
You Do Know This is Politics – Right?
The ultimate goal is to build a positive, long‐term relationship. You can make great strides by remembering the 3”C”’s: • Consideration • Contributions • Campaign Consideration Goodness is the only investment that never fails. Henry David Thoreau Most people in service industries will relate the vast majority of communications they receive are complaints. When a positive communication is received, it is copied, shared, posted and proudly held high. Positive reinforcement is a wonderful thing, so when you have the opportunity to praise good work, a good decision or an act of political courage by an official – saying thank you means a great deal. It says to an official you are paying attention and know the rigors of the job. Thank your elected officials for listening to your concerns, especially if they take action. (Be sure those kudos are shared with their staff.) There are several methods of showing consideration to elected officials which will mean a great deal: ● Emails, cards and letters are always welcome ● Invite them to your next meeting ● Mention their good work in your newsletter, emails and other communications to your allies ● Mention them in letters to the editor ● Tell the press. Remember, if your elected officials are helpful and you praise them publicly, next time they may be inclined to help with greater enthusiasm. Contributions “Nothing will work unless you do.” Maya Angelou Elections are part of the elected official’s lifecycle. If elected officials are doing good work and helping your cause – help keep them in office! Contributions make a huge difference. You may think only big contributions count, but every dollar and donor are priceless. Contributing to a campaign immediately puts you into a “friend” category for the elected official and changes the tenor of your dialogue.
Telling your friends and allies to contribute is a huge boost for an elected official. The ability to have your friends contribute and support a politician is critical in the ongoing effort to keep your issues in the forefront. Campaign “There are so many similarities between a startup venture and a political campaign the rhythm, the tempo, the hours, the intensity.” Mike McCurry For every election, there is a campaign. Helping with lawn signs, door knocking, mailings, phone banking, hosting a coffee or reception – all of this is the lifeblood of a political campaign. Again, if politicians are doing good work, support them! Sometimes You Get A “Yes”, Sometimes You Get A “No”…. “Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” St. Francis of Assisi I love mountain climbing. I have enjoyed the sport for many years and have been fortunate to climb some magnificent peaks all over the world. When climbing big mountains, you quickly learn to take steady, sure steps. There will be times you stumble and have to make up lost ground, but persistent, steady steps will take you to the summit of the highest mountains. In dealing with elected officials, your goal is to build a positive, long‐term relationship. There will be times when your issue may take a stumble. You would be completely correct to assume things are sometimes unfair, unjust and unwarranted. Stick to your goals and make consistent steps forward. You will have points of disagreement with elected officials. Your job will be to disagree without being disagreeable. While today there may be a stumble and hurt feelings, tomorrow there may be a new peak for you to discover together. Keep your focus on the long run and the bigger picture.
Step 3 Follow Through… The Checklist
Setup the 3 C’s for helpful politicians: ● Consideration ● Contributions ● Campaign
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead We are all in a party, and political officials are the piñatas. Politicians are harangued, lectured to, campaigned against, marketed, and analyzed. Few people, if any, really take time to build relationships and have dialogue. You have issues you care about. You've taken your passion, and turned it into stewardship. You actually put action to the issues you care about. Your efforts have now become an opportunity for real dialogue. If you have the passion, are willing to work and want to communicate, your dialogue will be incredibly powerful. So get to work and I wish you the very best!
"We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It's easy to say ‘It's not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes." – Fred Rogers
Omar Ahmad is a respected Silicon Valley technology visionary and seasoned entrepreneur with a diverse portfolio of successful startups. Mr. Ahmad founded three startups: SynCH Energy, TrustedID and Logictier, and served in key leadership positions for companies including Grand Central Communications, Napster, Netscape, @Home Network, and Discovery Channel Online. Elected the San Carlos City Council in 2007, Ahmad proudly serves as the current Vice‐Mayor. His primary policy focus is centered on budget reform and fiscal sustainability. He is also active on several boards and commissions, and in 2009 was elected by the Council of Cities to serve as a director for SamTrans and the Joint Powers Board (CalTrain). He is a frequent speaker on innovation, leadership and entrepreneurship. Some selected speaking engagements include: • TiECon • TED • Cambridge University • London School of Economics • UCLA School of Business • Kellogg School of Business Northwestern University
Friends of Omar Ahmad FPPC# 1300734 PO Box 871 San Carlos, CA 94070 650.479.OMAR
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Photo Credits: ● President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the White House Cabinet Room Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum. Image Serial Number: A2134‐2A – Public Domain ● President Grant: Official White House portrait of President U.S. Grant done by Henry Ulke (Public Domain) ● Rosa Parks, three‐quarter length portrait, seated toward front of bus, facing right, Montgomery, Alabama. Library of Congress, New York World‐ Telegram & the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection. (Public Domain) ● Carnegie Hall – Public Domain ● “Climbing 5.13 in Jackson, WY” © Omar Ahmad ● “Teton Gateway” © Omar Ahmad ● “Omar” Logo is ©Friends of Omar Ahmad ● All other images ©iStockPhoto.com and used under license. This work was produced privately by Friends of Omar Ahmad and not produced at taxpayer expense. The views expressed are the views of Omar Ahmad as an individual and should not be considered the views of the City of San Carlos, the City Council of the City of San Carlos or any other agency or group. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution‐NonCommercial‐ ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.