Customizing Your Pitch to Resonate with Policymakers

Before any meeting with any policymaker, you MUST compile a basic political/legislative biography that includes information such as political party, committee assignments, leadership positions, and policy priorities. Review their past support for your issues and make a note to acknowledge that during your meeting. If time permits, dig deeper into their personal background, such as schools they attended, community groups they are active in (e.g., religious institutions or professional associations).

The more you know about the policymaker you plan to meet with, the easier it will be to identify personal connections and angles that will tie your policy priorities to theirs. In many cases, the connections are obvious. For example, if the policymaker is assigned to relevant committees. In other cases, you have to look deeper and more creatively to connect what YOU care about to what your Member cares about.

To learn more, watch the video below and read about the information policymakers want their constituents to provide.

Information Policymakers Want Constituents to Provide

When you sit down with a policymaker, they are listening for the answers to the following four questions.

1. What do you want me to do? Most people fail to communicate a specific ask in their meetings with Congress. According to the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF), 93% of congressional staff said it’s helpful when constituents come to their meetings with a specific ask. Yet just 52% of congressional staff said that happens frequently.

2. Why do you want me to do that? To be clear, policymakers are not listening for a flawless recitation of NAA’s policy statement and national data. They want to hear YOUR reasoning – why YOU care enough to bring your issue to their attention. Providing this information is a way to stand out. In a CMF survey of congressional staff, 87% said it’s helpful when constituents communicate their reasoning, yet just 42% say that happens frequently.

3. How does this issue impact my district? Doing this will really stand out. While 99% of staff surveyed by CMF say it’s helpful to provide data about district impacts, only 16% say that happens frequently. Examples of district impact include things like the following:

  • Number of units
  • Number of people (families, students, or veterans, etc.) housed
  • Number of people employed
  • Amount of revenue

4. What is a personal story that humanizes your issue? While 79% of staff surveyed say it’s helpful when constituents tell them relevant personal stories, just 25% say that constituents frequently do so.

One reason for the gap is likely because many constituent advocates tend to confuse personal stories with talking points. Talking points are a policy argument, while stories have a protagonist, a setting or backdrop to provide context, and a challenge to overcome. Good stories also include imagery that taps into the listener’s imagination and sense of empathy.