You’re only limited by your imagination. This is a phrase I’ve used often to talk about advocacy. And while I’ll discuss many more strategies, below are some final thoughts and ideas about building a relationship with those you’re trying to influence.
Publicly show your support. If you chosen to support one or more of their priorities and your colleagues concur, consider adopting a resolution or writing a letter of support and publicly presenting it to the lawmaker. This demonstrates you are ready to work together for the benefit of the people you serve.
Find common ground and work together on issues of shared interests. It’s quite possible the foundation for a successful relationships with a politician will be built on topics that have nothing to do with politics! You can build this foundation by understanding what’s important to the person you’re trying to influence and if any of their personal, professional or political interests align with your own.
Many times some of the closest and most trusted friends and allies of legislators became thus because they knew each other before politics, or they came together as advocates to create legislation to address a shared interest.
If you’re working with politicians, court their staff almost as much as the legislator. When it comes to their boss, legislative aides are like a protective parent before a first date! If they don’t know you, access to the lawmaker can be a challenge. Concentrate on building that relationships so they know they are respected and appreciated as much as their boss. I’ll talk more about this in a future issues.
A rarely used strategy, (which is what makes it so effective) is a handwritten note. Sending them a note just to say “Thank you for your service” or “Thank you for your support”, goes a very long way in building a relationship.
I hope you’ve noticed two common themes in all of these strategies (and those shared in my last blog).
- Not one of them talks about you asking for anything. Remember, the relationship has to come first before you can make the “ask”. If it doesn’t, you’ll never succeed nor stand out from the hundreds of other lobbyists and advocates they see every year.
- They take very little time to initiate, so even the busiest advocates can make time in their schedule for one or more strategy.
So what’s the purpose of spending all this time and effort building a relationship? Besides becoming friends, it’s so when the time is right you can ask for and get access to your legislator back in the district or during their busiest days during the legislative session.
Like you, they want to work with and more importantly, HELP people they know and trust. YOU can become that person by building a sincere and lasting relationship that goes beyond politics and becomes a valued friendship.
Your Partner in Advocacy…Kathy