When working with politicians, it’s ideal to meet with them face-to-face. However, during times of crisis, that might not be possible. There are a couple of steps you can take before doing that.
A short letter or email requesting a meeting and a brief outline of why you would like to meet with them is sufficient. If you plan on asking for something (such as signing a pledge or petition), include this in the letter. Recent media briefs that mention you or your cause are also appropriate to send through. Once you confirm a meeting, make sure you include your contact information and a short bio in a follow-up email.
The best first step in parliamentary advocacy is to write to your politician. Depending on their position, you may need to send a letter anywhere from two weeks (local MP) to two months (Minister) in advance of a meeting.
Calling the Office
You may wish to follow up written communication by calling their office to remind them of your previous communication and request a brief meeting. Don’t hesitate to call again if you don’t get a response.
Effective Face-to-Face Advocacy
So you’ve been in contact with a politician and they’re ready to meet you face-to-face. How do you make the most of this opportunity for face-to-face advocacy? Read on to find out.
Who Should I Take?
It is always good to bring someone with you to a meeting. Limit your group to three if possible and assign roles and delegate tasks to each member for clarity. Also ensure that all members are clear on the issue, its framing and your request. Make sure you introduce every member of your group at the beginning of your meeting and always let them know in advance who will be attending. If you are using personal stories to illustrate your case, it can be useful to bring the subject of those stories and let them talk about their experiences.
What Should I Take?
Prepare a one to two-page document in support of your case that you can leave behind. This should include the key points covered in the meeting, as well as more detailed evidentiary data. Make sure you include your contact details. If you are referencing research it is a good idea to bring copies to offer to your politician. However, do not spend large sums of money producing information documents.
You may wish to take a photo with your politician. In this case, feel free to take a prop as politicians are usually open to this (again, they will appreciate forewarning).
How Much Time Will I Have?
Meetings can last anywhere from ten to thirty minutes. It’s important to clarify the length of the meeting in order to prepare your material with a time frame in mind. Always leave time for questions. Don’t linger on niceties; politicians will not be offended if you politely begin your advocacy after your initial introductions. If you are scheduling meetings while parliament is sitting, be aware that there may be unavoidable delays (for example, caused by parliamentary votes). To avoid being impacted, try not to book meetings back-to-back.
What Should I Say?
Begin your meeting by briefly introducing yourselves. Explain who you are, who you represent, what work you do, and why you have asked to meet with them. Make sure you use a mix of evidence (this will be discussed in more detail in section 3). It’s important that you illustrate that your issue exists (by using data) and that it matters (by using case studies). Provide examples and stories, but make sure to stay on track. Don’t let your passion drag you away from your main pitch.
What If I Get A Bad Response?
Ask politicians for feedback if they seem unconvinced. Respect that their opinion is based on experience and beliefs. Remember to view your meeting as the beginning of a relationship. After the meeting, revisit any articulated obstacles and ensure that none are based on misunderstandings.
When Should I Follow Up?
Following your meeting, compile any notes taken and any information requested and send it through to the politician’s office. Remember to thank them for their time and reaffirm any course of action that may have been agreed upon in the meeting. Do not send through unsolicited documents that may distract them from what is important.
This article is from our Y Advocacy Toolkit, a collection of practical tips and advice navigating advocacy in Australia will help you to identify policy areas of particular interest to you, and who you can talk to about creating change. Want to get more involved in advocacy but don’t know where to start? Why not join our Cyber Feminists (CBF)?