What's Your Story?
Share Your Story and Impact the Industry
Advocacy is all about telling your personal story. How does any piece of proposed legislation stand to impact you? Why should someone care? Phone calls and emails can demonstrate the sheer number of concerned citizens, but a truly personal story is remembered and recounted on the House or Senate floor.
Scenario*: Imagine you are a legislator and you need to vote on a hypothetical bill, which includes changes to the HUD Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program, or HUD-VASH, which provides subsidies for housing homeless vets. Which story line sounds best to you?
Story Line 1:
I am a community owner and Bill 12345 contains language that would change subsidies for homeless veterans. This will have a negative economic impact on me and our overall community. Please vote “no” on HB 12345 and keep the HUD-VASH voucher program intact.
Story Line 2:
I am an apartment community owner who is proud to say that more than 10 percent of my units are dedicated to providing homes to some of the greatest men and women I know – America’s military veterans and their families. In fact, several are entering their golden years after having served their time defending our freedoms. Since it was enacted, this program has benefited thousands of homeless veterans, including Joe, my friend and a resident in our apartment community. Joe served as helicopter pilot in Vietnam who flew more than 250 rescue missions.
As our Congressman, you know first-hand the toll that the high cost of living in our region can take on so many. Because of the subsidy for homeless veterans, I have been able provide housing to our nation’s heroes and also maintain a profitable business that employs more than 20 people. All of them support their own families and give back to their own communities. If HB 12345 is enacted and the subsidy is removed, I will be forced to choose between laying off employees or raising rents, and potentially having to evict several residents. Please vote “no” on HB 12345 and keep the subsidy. Don’t turn your back on our community, especially Joe.
If you have questions about why this subsidy matters, please feel free to contact either Joe or myself. In fact, we would love to host you for a short visit to our apartment community so that you can personally see the impact that you can have on so many of your constituents’ lives.
I think we can all agree that the second story line is preferable, it has a personal touch and clearly conveys why this legislation matters.
So what are the steps to create a compelling narrative? The following tips will help you keep your story concise and leading clearly to the point, all while not straying too far from home.
1. Choose one story to tell. Advocacy visits are short and you may only have a few minutes to tell your story. Pick one story, free of tangents, that is clear and concise.
2. Focus on the personal aspects of your story by sharing one to two details to make it unique and memorable. Elected officials and their staff hear countless stories during a day and details will help them remember you.
3. Connect your individual story to your larger ask by sharing a piece of data about the bigger issue it represents. But, this is the icing on the cake. The real purpose of your story is to make your audience care about your issue as much as you do.
4. Be yourself and speak from the heart.
So, what’s your story? Why are you in the apartment housing industry and why do you care? How do you stand to be impacted by a piece of legislation that is being considered at the federal, state or local level?
NAA wants to know! Put on your writing cap and let’s see it. Submit your story to be featured at NAA’s 2017 Capitol Conference and Lobby Day issue briefing.
Your “letter to the legislator” must be submitted to Peter Fromknecht no later than Feb. 10, 2017. Questions? Contact Peter Fromknecht, Manager, Grassroots Advocacy at (703) 797-0618.
*Although the HUD-VASH program is real, this is scenario is purely hypothetical and solely used as an example.