As our Congressmen, state legislators, and local politicians continue to do the work of running our government, it is of utmost importance that the views and priorities of the fire fighters are understood at every level. It is incumbent upon the leadership of our Locals to ensure that all of our politicians are knowledgeable when acting on any legislation that impacts fire fighters. The following are Tips for Successful Lobbying, as suggested by the IAFF:
Get Down to Business: Elected members of our government have hectic schedules and may only be able to meet with you for a few minutes. Don’t spend too much time chatting about things that are not on your agenda. After brief introductory comments, raise the issues you want to talk about.
Briefly Describe Your Issue: Do not assume the politician knows your issue, even if you have discussed it with them in the past. Always begin by describing the legislation or issue in the most basic of terms.
Target Your Audience: All politicians are different and you should tailor you message to the person whom you are meeting. What you think are the best arguments for a position may not be the most persuasive for that politician.
Personalize and Localize the Issue: Every politician wants to know how an issue affects their district, whether it is a Congressional District or local precinct. Use personal and local examples to make your points.
Listen and Respond: Give the politician a chance to express their views and respond to any questions or concerns they may have. If you don’t know the answer to a question, promise to get back to them, and make sure that you do. If you do all the talking, you’ll never find out what the politician needs to know to support our position.
Ask for a Specific Commitment: Don’t settle for a vague promise to “consider” our views or a pledge to “try to be helpful”. Urge the politician to commit to something specific, like sponsoring a bill or voting a certain way on an issue.
Reiterate Commitments and Next Steps: Conclude the meeting by repeating what the politician agreed to do, or clarify what the next steps will be. Be sure to leave behind any information on the issues that would be useful to the politician or their staff.
Never Threaten: Even the most persuasive lobbyist gets told “No”. If the politician firmly disagrees with our position, end the meeting on pleasant terms and promise to work together in the future. Never threaten retaliation.