While the pandemic once again will not allow us to gather in Washington for this year’s ABA Day, we are excited to continue to build on the success of last year’s digital event by empowering participants to use a variety of powerful digital platforms to advocate from home. Last year, more than 15,000 legal professionals joined our call for Congress to act on select issues, and we look forward to growing that number this year. So, to make things as clear as possible, we would like to introduce you to some of the tools and strategies we will be using during this upcoming advocacy event on April 20th and 21st.
First things first, does this type of advocacy even work?
The answer is yes, and more than you might expect. The Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) recently conducted a study and found that the most influential form of interaction with a Member of Congress is a face-to-face meeting with a constituent and that an email from a constituent is among the top three ways to move the needle on an issue, with 92% of congressional offices reporting an email has “some or a lot” of influence on their boss’s position on legislation. (For reference, a visit from a lobbyist ranked seventh!) Informed by this research, we are going to focus this ABA Day on providing you with the digital tools to make it easy for you to hold virtual “in-person” meetings and communicate effectively with your congressional members. Now, for the game plan:
Virtual Meetings with Member of Congress and Their Staff
Nothing replaces an in-person interaction, but virtual meetings are the next best thing. So, the ABA is working with state captains from every state to set up meetings with Members of Congress and their staff where the group’s designated speakers can clearly and concisely discuss the issue of concern, how it affects their Members’ constituents, and how we want them to address it -- the so-called “ask.” Never participated in an advocacy meeting before? No problem. In many cases, there will be an opportunity to support your colleagues and lend your support to the issue by attending the meeting and adding to the faces of legal professional constituents in support of legal aid. If you would like to join one of these meetings, let us know when you register for the event, and we will get you in contact with your state captains.
Emails have become the communication and advocacy platform of choice in most congressional offices. The only problem is that each office receives hundreds to thousands of emails a day. So, the key is writing in a way that will grab the attention of congressional staff. The good news— the ABA Grassroots Action Center has a tool that automatically populates an email with the names of the members of your congressional delegation when you simply enter your own address. These emails are written by our policy team to make sure they are in a form congressional staff can best digest. Equally important, emails sent through the Action Center are guaranteed to make it through any congressional firewalls.
If you want, you can simply enter your information and click “send” to make a genuine impact in Washington, but that same CMF study cited earlier 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 explaining how the issue affects the Member’s constituents.
The best part: you don’t have to wait for ABA Day. Just go to our ABA Grassroots Advocacy Center, send your message now, and we will release all of the messages received, at once, on April 20th at 10:00 am ET. So why wait -- act now by going to the Center here!
Social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook have become the easiest way to connect with your congressional members. Every representative and over 94% of senators are on Facebook, and every single Member of Congress has a Twitter account.
Elected officials pay close attention to social media – some even have dedicated social media managers to stay constantly connected. The same CMF study asked congressional offices how many posts to social media accounts it would take to grab their attention on an issue, and 80% of congressional offices said 30 or fewer posts would do the trick. We can do that.
So, to make advocating on social media as easy and readily available as possible, you will be able to access a social media toolkit for ABA Day, complete with suggested posts, images, infographics, and more. You will also be able to use the same link and tools you used to send emails to gain access to pre-formatted posts that already have the Twitter handle for your specific Senators and Representative already plugged in.
Want to take it to the next level?
This year, we want to bring your face to Congress one way or another, so we are asking everyone to record themselves talking about the importance of LSC, and post that on Twitter along with your Members’ handle. This may sound difficult, but it is easy, and easy to follow instructions will be included on the ABA Day toolkit.
While we are focusing on emails, virtual meetings, and social media for ABA Day, we want to give you the opportunity to advocate in any way that is comfortable for you. Phone Calls can be one of the easiest ways to make a large impact with the option for two-way communication. They allow you to talk directly with congressional staffers instead of at them. 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 using this option easy, the ABA Grassroots Action Center has a patch-through tool that will automatically connect you with you elected official’s offices. 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 our grassroots website.
Op-Eds and Letters to the Editor:
Op-Eds and Letters to the Editor seem like a roundabout way to speak directly to your Member of Congress, but think of it like this: every congressional office has a dedicated staff member to monitor when the official is in the news. Offices have Google Alerts and other notification services that deliver your message directly to the office. The congressional office will read what you have written and, in most cases, will reach out with a direct reply. With 87% of congressional offices saying these forms of communications have “some” or “a lot” of “positive influence,” they are an extremely effective way of making sure your message is heard by your representative or senator as well as by fellow constituents.
Even though digital communications have several advantages over utilizing traditional mail services, there is still something to be said about advocating the “old-fashioned way.” So, we will have postcards, sample letters, and one-pagers available for you to print and send. Let’s show Congress we can communicate our message across every platform.
Digital Advocacy Training
Many people do not use digital tools like Twitter or our Grassroots Action Center often or know the best practices to make the most impact. So, we have planned a full tutorial that will teach you how to take action during ABA Day, please join us on April 15th.
ABA Day is right around the corner, and we could not be more excited at the idea of thousands of legal professionals poised to act across the country. Let’s take advantage of every opportunity we have to represent equal justice under the law.
For more information about ABA Day, the tools, the issues, the list of speakers, or more, please visit ambar.org/abaday.