The 2023 legislative session is underway, and it’s been a busy one in Saint Paul! Clients across our practice groups are meeting with legislators, supporting bills, testifying and more to inspire political change.
Our Professional Services and Public Affairs Group is poised with the knowledge and expertise to help break down communication barriers and help you get your message out loud and clear at the Capitol. Here are five of their top tips:
1. Hone your messaging
Tight messaging, with strong qualitative and quantitative support is the key to legislative success. Anytime you can connect those back to the legislator’s district is even better.
Unsure where to start? Problem-solution type messaging can be the most simple and effective way to communicate legislative issues. Another method is identifying the three most important points you want to make and then breaking out some support for each. While you’re narrowing in on what to communicate, don’t forget to ask yourself the question legislators will inevitably ask: so what?
2. Think of ways to communicate visually
Visuals have a powerful way of simplifying complex issues. Whenever possible, think of ways to reduce copy and make something visual instead. Turn a stat into an infographic, express ideas using icons, share someone’s story with their photo, etc.
3. Know your audience
Knowing your audience is always a critical part of good communication, but even more so amongst legislators. Keep your ear to the ground with what’s going on at the Capitol so you know the climate you’re communicating in. You’ll also want to be cognizant of how much time legislators will have with each of your communication touchpoints. Sending something to staffers? That can be a little more robust. Passing out one-pagers during a hearing? Make that skimmable. Are you a lesser-known name? Consider beefing up your materials with quotes, logos and support shared from more well-known partners.
Finally, know who will be listening to your message (if it’s in a hearing) and consider what will be important to them. For example, this year, we have a democratic majority in both the House and Senate and 1/3 of the legislators are freshmen. That’s important to take into account as you develop collateral.
4. Don’t be afraid to shake things up
The legislative process might be the same, but the way you communicate with legislators doesn’t have to be. Change up the tactics you’re using and look at how you can break down complex pieces of info into different formats – videos, infographics, mailers, letters, emails, etc.
5. The basics are still the basics
In the midst of the last-minute chaos that inevitably ensues each year during session, don’t forget the basics. Representatives are at the capitol to represent. The most important messages and meetings will be from their hometowns. It might mean doing more background work to find an individual to meet with them from home, pitching their local papers, pulling specific data from their area, etc., but it is always worth it.
Finally, if you’re new to advocacy work, the Minnesota League of Cities has put out a very helpful logistics guide for navigating the Capitol.
At the end of the day, advocacy work can feel complex and overwhelming, but with the right resources, and more importantly, the right team behind you, it can be some of the most rewarding.