Some of the key considerations when communicating with legislators or other decision-makers in writing:
Decision-makers appreciate hearing real-life stories that illustrate key points. Share your experience, but keep the message simple. Be organized in your letter and present your points in clear and concise terms. Do not assume the decision-maker is familiar with your industry or the issue at hand.
Personal, well thought-out letters from individual constituents can be a very effective means of communicating with decision-makers. A large quantity of constituent mail about a specific issue always catches a legislator’s attention. Identify yourself as a constituent because politicians are more likely to respond to constituent mail.
Be brief and simple and try to keep the letter to one page or two at the most. Always state your position in your opening paragraph and again in the closing paragraph. It is important to personalize your letter because form letters generally carry less weight. Virtually all communications are viewed first by staff and, given the volume, if they find something too cumbersome, they are more likely to put it aside.
It is invaluable to be professional and courteous, even if you intensely disagree with the politics of your elected official. Express disappointment in a calm, professional way and always include what reasonable action would be necessary or helpful to win back your support.
It is important that your letter open strong with language that addresses the key points and demands the attention of the reader. Focus on your key messages and top priorities so that you have a better chance of enacting changes.
Address the letter to the bill’s author with copies to the members of the committee hearing the bill, as well as your local elected representatives in the Assembly and Senate. Indicate the bill you are writing about by bill number and author, as well as a short phrase describing the bill, and whether you support or oppose the bill. This will help identify the proper staff person to review your letter.
Act promptly on writing and sending your letter so that it arrives before a vote is taken. Later, if the legislator responds to your request, be sure to send a thank you as well.
Chris Micheli serves as an Advisor to Abstract. He is an attorney and registered lobbyist with the Sacramento governmental relations firm of Aprea & Micheli, Inc. He also is an Adjunct Professor at McGeorge School of Law in their Capital Lawyering Program.