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10 Tips for a Successful SBU Advocacy Meeting

1. Represent SBU professionally.

Be 5 minutes early for your meeting (provide at least 15 min for security). Dress in business formal attire and add something red to represent Stony Brook University. For instance, ask SBU Government Relations for an SBU lapel pin.  Address elected officials by their appropriate title and maintain a respectful engagement regardless of conflicting opinions.

2. Always start with a thank you.

Start the meeting with thanking the elected official or staffer for something he or she has accomplished recently (i.e. Voting “Yes” on a bill that increases research funding or voting “No” on a bill that adversely impacts higher education).

3. Meeting with staff instead of the elected official? Don’t be disappointed!

It’s always exciting to meet an elected official, but it’s typically more productive to meet with the member’s staff who work daily on policy related to your issue area.  Elected officials depend on staffers to provide key guidance on issues and perform the hands-on policy work.

4. The "1-pager" is GOLD! 

Bring a 1 page document (it can be double sided) which: (i) concisely outlines the issue or problem and why it’s important (i.e. NSF needs increased funding and explain why); (ii) provides the local and national impact ( i.e. jobs created in the elected official’s district with the funding or technology developed to help solve a national problem, etc.); (iii) includes your specific ask/solution ( i.e. Congress should fund NSF at $8.2 B in this year’s budget); (iv) includes a concrete action item for the elected official or staff member (i.e. please send a letter to House leadership urging Congress to fund NSF at $8.2 B); and (v) provides your contact information.

Avoid any jargon. This document should be easily comprehended by someone who does not have expertise in your field. Place this 1-pager in a SBU branded folder along with your business card and any supplemental information you would like the elected official or staffer to review.

5. Do your homework.

Don’t be the person who makes a passionate, persuasive argument asking for an elected official to support certain legislation and the elected official responds, “I’m already a co-sponsor on that bill­­­.”  Research the positions of each elected official in advance and any legislation the elected official supported or voted against in relation to your issue area.

6. Time management is key.

A typical Hill meeting is 20 to 30 min. Use your time wisely and focus on ensuring that the elected official or staffer understands the 1-pager you provided. Be prepared with a succinct version of your presentation in case the meeting is cut short.  Be aware that meetings are often in small office spaces or even in hallways.

7. All politics is local.

Live in the elected official’s district? If so, make sure you mention it! Elected officials care most about the constituents they represent. Always incorporate the local impacts of your request upon the elected official’s district. The more local references, the better!

8. Don’t preach, engage.

It’s always best to have a polite conversation rather than lecturing staff on why your position is correct. As with any persuasive discussion, you do not want to attack the other side and put them on the defensive. If so, you risk the staff tossing your nice 1-pager in the garbage after you leave.

9. Balance your pitch. 

The most effective advocacy presentations include a balance of personal, relevant anecdotes and evidenced-based data/examples.  Be prepared to tell a personal, impactful story related to your issue. Additionally, point to specific legislation and/or data to support your position. This data should be included in the supplemental information that you place in your folder for the elected official and staff.

10. End with a thank you and follow-up.

Leave on a positive note. Always thank elected officials and staff for their time and consideration. Remember to ask the staffer for his or her business card at the conclusion of the meeting. Follow-up with a thank you email within the next 24 hours and include the next steps you discussed during the meeting. Expressing gratitude publicly via social media by tagging an elected official and sharing appropriate photos can be effective in the appropriate circumstances (check with your government relations team). Keep abreast of new developments relevant to the topic you discussed.

 

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