March 14, 2019

Get the Most Out of Your Outreach

Using the ABA Grassroots Action Center to connect directly with your elected officials has never been easier. When communicating with Congress, different platforms are more effective at different times, so we have developed tools and tutorials to help you make an impact.

Quick but effective

Social Media:

Social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook have become the easiest way to connect with your congressional members. According to the Congressional Research Service, 100% of House Members and over 94% of Senators are on Facebook while 100% of Congress is on Twitter.

Elected officials also pay attention to social media – some even have dedicated social media managers to stay constantly connected. The Congressional Management Foundation study entitled #SocialCongress 2015 asked congressional offices how many posts it would take to grab your attention on an issue, and 80% of congressional offices said 30 or fewer posts would do the trick.

Just make sure to tag the official you are trying to reach by including their handle in the post, clearly state your perspective and how you would like the official to act, and identify yourself as a constituent by using a hashtag with your state and district (for example #TX-10 for members in the 10th district of Texas).

Check our Social Media Center often to see if the ABA Governmental Affairs Office is currently running a social media campaign. There we will provide suggested posts, images/infographics you can use, and a tool where you can enter your address and automatically get a tweet generated to your elected federal officials.

Emails:

Emails have become the platform of choice by most congressional offices. You can easily and effectively get your message across. The only problem is that each office receives hundreds to thousands of emails a day. So the key is writing in a way the congressional staff will know where to look for the important information.

The good news: the ABA Grassroots Action Center has a tool that automatically populates an email directly to your federal officials, when you simply enter your address. These emails are written by our policy team to make sure they are in a form the congressional staff can digest. If you want you can simply enter your information and click send to make a genuine impact in Washington, but that same CMF study found that if you take the extra minute to personalize the message and enter your unique perspective, the email can be 36% more effective. This is best done by changing the Subject Line, adding your own words to the first paragraph, and adding your own story or perspective. Just make sure and immediately identify yourself as a constituent and legal expert, and address the issue by name in the first paragraph.

A Little More Time Involved, But A World of Difference

Phone Calls:

Phone Calls are the easiest way to make a large impact with the option for two-way communication. They allow you to talk with the congressional office instead of at them. This is also a great way to get your message across directly. Phone calls can help immensely in the time leading up to a legislative vote, so timing can be critical. Just remember that the staff person you are talking to is very busy, so try to keep your conversation to less than three or four minutes.

To make an effective phone call:

  • Remember that a staff member, not the legislator or Member of Congress, takes telephone calls. Ask to speak with the staff member who handles the issue about which you wish to comment; this will typically be the Judicial Legislative Aid.
  • After identifying yourself as a constituent and legal professional, tell the staff member you would like to leave a brief message, such as: "Please tell Senator/Representative (last name) that I support/oppose (issue or bill number) for (this reason)."
  • Ask for your Senator's or Representative's position on the issue or bill. You may also request a written response to your call.
  • Always be polite and courteous.
  • Thank them for their time, and offer to be a resource for the office should they ever want to hear your perspective on another legal policy issue.
  • VERY IMPORTANT: Ask for the staffer's email address to send them a thank you. In this message, briefly restate your viewpoint and thank them again.

To make this process as easy for you as possible, the ABA Grassroots Action Center has a patch-through tool in our individual issue toolkits that will automatically connect you with you elected official’s offices along with a script or talking points. If you want to call about an issue outside current ABA issue campaigns, you can find the phone number for your state legislator or member(s) of Congress by visiting the Find Your Legislator section of the website. You may also call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard (202-224-3121) and ask them to connect you with your Senator's or Representative's office.

Take the Time to Make the Most Impact

Op-Eds and Letters to the Editor:

Op-Eds and Letters to the Editor seem like a roundabout way to speak directly to your elected officials, but think of it like this: every congressional office has a dedicated staff member to monitor when the official is in the news. That means they have Google Alerts and other notification services that will deliver your message directly to the office, not to mention the added weight of having the public read your perspective. The congressional office will notice and, in most cases, will reach out with a direct reply. With 87% of congressional offices saying these local editorials have “Some” or “A Lot” of “positive influence” according to the CMF study mentioned earlier, these are an extremely effective way of getting your message to your elected officials as well as the public. If you would like help writing a local editorial on a legal matter, please feel free to contact our Governmental Affairs Office.

In-District Meetings and Fly-In’s:

Meeting with your congressional members is by far the best way to advance an issue. If you have never met with an elected official for a policy visit, it may seem a bit daunting. But, remember, they do this all the time; it is part of their job. Not to mention they actually want to hear from constituents and subject matter experts to help formulate their opinions about complex issues.

Just remember, elected officials are extremely busy. Meeting with a staff member in charge of the issue area you are discussing is just as valuable, and sometimes even more so if the elected official is not familiar with the intricacies of the issue you are discussing.

The ABA Grassroots Action Center has compiled a series of tools to give you an idea of what you can expect and how to have the perfect visit. See our Congressional Meetings page for sample request letters, tutorials, and more.