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How To Be A Citizen Lobbyist

Effective communication techniques for concerned citizens

Duane Lester of Americans for Prosperity spoke the attendees at the Resurgent Gathering about how to engage your legislators and become a citizen lobbyist.

Lester said that citizens who want to impact their legislators should start by building relationships. This includes not only with the legislators themselves but also with staff members and family members such as spouses. It adds credibility when concerned voters are known by aides and have a history, rather than making a call out of the blue.

An out-of-the-box method is contacting donors. Lester said that writing essays, articles or letters about the official’s activities and sending it to donors is a good technique for getting attention.

“I’m here to tell you it works,” Lester said.

Citizens should also practice effective communication techniques. Lester recommended telling stories rather than giving out a series of seemingly random facts and points. Without engaging the audience with a consistent and interesting narrative, a speaker can lose the audience as they become distracted.

“Telling stories breaks the squirrel effect,” he said, minimizing the tendency of listeners to become distracted.

Concerned citizens should also be polite. No one likes to be yelled at or insulted and that includes legislators and their staff members. You lose credibility and interest when you attack your audience.

Another way to lose credibility is to give facts that are untrue. In this political climate, voters should check their facts and be leery of fake news or stories that are untrue. Conspiracy theories should not be the basis for contact with your elected officials.

Voters should also personalize the issue. Tell the official how the problem affects you and why you care about it. Don’t just spout off a pre-written form letter or talking points.

Finally, be prepared to give a solution. Lester pointed out that citizens can write and propose their own bills but not everyone needs to go that far. They can also present ideas that the officials could adopt and form into a bill.

Lester also stressed that citizens should not just complain. They should also give support and show gratitude when politicians make good decisions and vote in a good way. This positive reinforcement could also help to build relationships with the official and their staff over time.

Lester closed by stressing that citizens can be their own lobbyists. With practice and building relationships, they improve their effectiveness.

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