Reporters listen to the governor speak at a ceremonial bill signing

Five Ways to Break Down Communications Barriers and Champion Change at the Capitol

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. 

Two women take a selfie in the snow in front of the Minnesota state capitol.


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Photo Credit: Minnesota Grown
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