From understanding the issue to knowing the background of the public official you are meeting with, preparation is the most important part before the lobbying visit. Going to a meeting ill-prepared is worse than not lobbying at all. You will have wasted the public official’s time, come across as unprofessional, and left a negative impression not only in relation to the issue but also of the issue community.
Setting Up a Meeting
Citizen lobbying is all about the face-to-face meeting with your public official. The meeting provides you, the citizen lobbyist, the opportunity to connect with his or her public official; the public official gets the opportunity (or is forced) to listen to what you, the constituent, wants. The process begins with the citizen lobbyist making the first contact by phone or email.
Once you decide whether to call or email, keep a record–especially if you are contacting more than one public official–so you don’t forget who you contacted (the official, the scheduler, the assistant, etc.), when you called or sent the email, and, if you called, whether you left a message. If you don’t receive a response after 2-3 business days, call or e-mail again and gently state this is your second attempt to schedule a meeting–writing or reciting back the details about the first attempt. As you follow-up, be persistent but not annoying. Remember, public officials and their staff get sick, go on vacation, take maternity and paternity leave, quite, and get fired. There may be good reasons why someone doesn’t get back to you immediately. If you get demanding and rude, whoever does finally get your message will be much less likely to help you.