What gets and keeps a lawmaker’s attention? Is it money, power, prestige? What about hundreds of people advocating to right an injustice? In some instances the answer to each question is yes! But what if you don’t have any of those things to offer? Is all hope lost? The answer to that question is definitely no because at the heart of influencing a lawmaker is a strong relationship. But how do you build or strengthen that relationship?
SECRET #1 – YOUR FRIENDSHIP ALWAYS COMES FIRST AND LAST!
When you think about a dear friend, what comes to mind? In many respects, building and maintaining a relationship with lawmakers takes nurturing the same trust, respect over time. And once you’ve developed that friendship, it far outweighs any legislation or issues you will work on.
SECRET #2 – SPEND TIME EXAMINING YOUR RELATIONSHIP STATUS
When I worked for the Florida League of Cities, they had a program to identify relationships between local and state officials. Unfortunately on occasion, those relationships were exaggerated and that eventually backfired. To prevent you from getting caught in this situation, it is always a good idea to spend a few moments examining your relationship status. As you do, I encourage you to think about the acronym I.N.F.L.U.E.N.C.E. It stands for I need to fully list, understand and evaluate the nuances of my relationship and commit to excellence.
SECRET #3 – HOW CAN I HELP YOU?
The first rule of thumb when it comes to building the relationship is you have to offer something before you can ask for something. Sadly, a sincere offer to help is something lawmakers don’t hear as often as they should, so when they do, it means a lot!
SECRET #4 – JUST SAY, “THANK YOU FOR YOUR PUBLIC SERVICE!”
A rarely used strategy, it’s one of the single most effective thing you can do to build a relationship. My son Jonathan Till worked as a legislative aide for Florida State Representative Danny Burgess. He shared with me they have a file containing every handwritten thank you note they have received.
SECRET #5 – FIND OPPORTUNITIES TO WORK TOGETHER
Does influencing a lawmaker always require a face-to-face meeting? Not necessarily. With very busy schedules (yours and theirs) making time can be difficult. But don’t let this hold you back! Here are some tips to help you have that influence at any time. Learn more about each strategy in A Journey To Yes!
1. Find common ground.
2. Support one of their priorities.
3. Treat their staff with the same respect as you do the legislator and take the time necessary to get to know them.
4. Introduce them to your circle of influence.
Want to learn more? I encourage you to check out my new book A Journey To Yes. In it I delve deeper into each one of these strategies and many, many more so you too can #StartYourJourneyToday!
Your Partner in Advocacy…Kathy