Toolkit - Do's and Don'ts When Dealing with Legislators or Key Decision Makers

While it may sound like common sense, there are a few key rules to follow when engaging a decision maker or their staff.

DO

  1. Be or bring a constituent(s).
  2. Know your subject.
  3. Think before speaking.   Don’t try to fill awkward silences with chatter!  Be strategic about every word, and bring in notes to keep yourself on track with the message.
  4. Give the gist of your arguments as early in the conversation as possible - keep it short.   This is your “elevator speech;” relay your message in three minutes or less.
  5. Be clear, concise and, more importantly, honest.  
  6. Assume your listener knows nothing about court reporting and simplify complex issues.   Try not to use industry lingo that may get lost in translation.
  7. Describe personal impact.   Personal stories are the most effective.
  8. Anticipate questions and be ready with your responses.
  9. Leave or send written material, following your meeting.
  10. Dress appropriately if meeting with legislator.
  11. Leave your business card.
  12. Request commitment: “Will you support XYZ?” (Always!)
  13. Follow up with a written communication of thank you.


DON'T

  1. Use form letters.
  2. Confuse the issue by discussing multiple issues.
  3. Guess or exaggerate the impact of your issue.
  4. Be afraid to say "I don't know. I'll get back to you."  This creates a great opportunity for follow-up, continuing your dialogue after your meeting.  
  5. Use words that are terms of art or acronyms.
  6. Become confrontational.
  7. Argue.
  8. Threaten.
  9. Use inappropriate language.
  10. Lie.