#EdTalk: They’re Back!

Bay­lor Bone Swindell is a Nashville lob­by­ist help­ing to bridge orga­ni­za­tions and gov­ern­ments.

They’re back! The 2nd ses­sion of the 110th Gen­er­al Assem­bly in under way in Nashville. Leg­is­la­tors and lob­by­ists are still try­ing to find their foot­ing in the the new­ly ren­o­vat­ed Cordell Hull Build­ing. Those that have spent years in Leg­isla­tive Plaza may spend a lit­tle more time wan­der­ing strange hall­ways but will be pleased to breathe fresh air in the for­mer state office build­ing.

A new ses­sion brings again new oppor­tu­ni­ties to engage with pol­i­cy mak­ers. One ben­e­fit of engag­ing with your state law­mak­ers is find­ing them all under one roof for pre­dictable lengthy peri­ods of time…a chal­lenge on the local polit­i­cal scene.

So now that they’re back in Nashville, what’s next?ENGAGE!

There’s an issue on the table, how do I engage? There are sev­er­al ways to engage — in-per­son meet­ings, phone calls, emails or snail mail. The­se are ALL effec­tive avenues. Choose the medi­um that fits you best.

What first? Iden­ti­fy your elect­ed offi­cials. Down­load the TN Sec­re­tary of State’s GoV­oteTN app. Enter your name and zip code and you will see: Your U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, your State Sen­a­tor and State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, your local Coun­cilmem­ber, and your school board mem­ber.

But does my voice mat­ter? YES! A moti­vat­ed con­stituent is more effec­tive than a paid lob­by­ist. They want to hear from you…the voter! Iden­ti­fy your elect­ed offi­cials and intro­duce your­self to the­se folks when you see them out in the com­mu­ni­ty. They want to know you!

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Tips. No mat­ter which medi­um you choose, the rules are the same:

Be kind. Every­one you speak to that works with an elect­ed offi­cial is an influ­encer. In pol­i­tics, first impres­sions mat­ter.

Be pos­i­tive. This isn’t the time to sub­tly attack your rep­re­sen­ta­tive on an issue on which you dis­agree. You’d be sur­prised the com­mon ground you may find with some­one with whom you don’t think you have any­thing in com­mon. Keep your eye on the ball, or rather the issue at hand. Thank them for some­thing. Being an elect­ed offi­cial is a thank­less job. You can be broad and thank them for their ser­vice or be speci­fic and thank them for a speci­fic vote. 

Intro­duce your­self. Tell them: 1. Where you live — Give them your address. Being able to be iden­ti­fied as a con­stituent will give you more cred­i­bil­i­ty. 2. What orga­ni­za­tions you’re a part of. 3. Where you work and where that busi­ness is locat­ed. The key point is to help them iden­ti­fy you as a con­stituent.

Be brief. Assume you don’t have much time. Most inter­ac­tions with elect­ed offi­cials are brief because they serve many con­stituents like you. At the leg­is­la­ture, most meet­ings are sched­uled in 15 min­ute incre­ments. You can cov­er a lot of ground in that time­frame. With that in mind, Have your 2 or 3 speci­fic points ready and be ready to con­vey them.

If in per­son, be alert and read your audi­ence. Put your phone away. Lis­ten to your representative’s and their staff’s respons­es and read their body lan­guage. Notice what mes­sage is or is not res­onat­ing.

Group meet­ings. Some­times you will be going in a group to see an elect­ed offi­cial. Coor­di­nate who will speak and what each par­tic­i­pant will cov­er. Sup­port your col­leagues and fill in gaps if they miss a crit­i­cal point. Allow time for every­one to speak.

End on a pos­i­tive note. Thank them for their pub­lic ser­vice no mat­ter how you feel about them. Invite them to vis­it your orga­ni­za­tion or busi­ness. Leave your card and con­tact infor­ma­tion.

Fol­low up. Send a thank you note or email. Restate your mes­sage.


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