Communicating with Congress
There are lots of ways to communicate with elected officials, from writing a letter or email and calling their offices to sending a message on social media or attending an in-person meeting. Below we outline some tips for how to communicate with Members of Congress and their staff.
- Writing emails and letters. Always be respectful and polite and include the specific reason you are writing (and generally focus on one issue if possible), make the email or letter as personal as possible, and let the legislator know that you live in their state or district (if that is the case). It is also a good idea to offer to meet with the legislator or their staff to discuss the issue further and thank them for considering your thoughts.
- Making a phone call. When calling a legislator’s office, you are unlikely to actually get a chance to talk to the legislator. In this case, ask to speak to the staff member who handles the issue about which you are calling or if you can leave a message for the legislator (or both). As with writing a letter, always be respectful and polite, make sure to say that you live in the legislator’s state or district (if that is the case), specify the issue about which you are calling, and thank the legislator or staff member for taking the time to consider your thoughts. Before the call, prepare some notes so you know (and remember) what you want to say.
- Meeting with legislators. To set up a meeting with a legislator, contact his or her office and ask for a time to meet well in advance of when you’d like to discuss an issue—it will likely take quite a bit of time to lock down a date. Once the meeting is set up, be sure to prepare for the meeting by making notes regarding what you want to say, and always be polite and respectful during the meeting. Be sure to send a note or email after the meeting to thank the legislator for his or her time and for considering your thoughts.
- Using social media. Social media can be a great way to connect with legislators. When you do, as always, be polite and respectful and make it as personal as you can. Once posted, ask people in your network to share and comment to help broaden your audience and increase the impact of your post or tweet.
- Speaking at a townhall meeting. Legislators often host townhall-style meetings with constituents when they are in their home state or district, providing an excellent opportunity to communicate your thoughts to an elected official (and your fellow citizens). Think through what you want to say before the event, and if you are called on to ask a question, be calm and respectful and discuss why what you are talking about is important to you and your community.