Lobbying 101: How to Talk to Legislators and Other Key People about Your Cause

One of the overarching themes of my introductory US Politics course freshman year was that my generation is not interested or involved in politics. Although there may be some truth to this, I think the fact that we can access information immediately online or download news articles straight to our iPhones is incredibly valuable. Let’s use that power to effect action.

As a follow-up to my reflection on my experience speaking with state legislators at the Day of Action, I wanted to offer some tips on talking and interacting with legislators or any other influential stakeholders about important social causes.

1. Know Your Legislators

This may seem obvious, but you really should know who is making some of the decisions for your district. If you don’t know who your legislators are, then you won’t know their personal stance on the issues you want to discuss which will determine your strategy for making a change.

For example, when we were lobbying at the state capital for the Day of Action, it was important for us to know that Senator O’Mara, our districts senator, was not in support of women’s access to abortion care which is a main component to the Women’s Equality Agenda. Knowing this, we were able to build our case around it and get straight to the point about what we want.

If you don’t know who your legislators are, look them up!

2. Research, Research, Research

Whenever you are presenting your case to someone or trying to convince someone that your movement is important, you should have facts, statistics, and personal narratives to back up what you have to say.

3. Don’t Overlook the Value of Personal Narratives

As valuable as doing your research is, do not underestimate how valuable your own personal story is. When speaking to legislators or other important stakeholders in your cause, it will be hard for them to refute a real, live person standing in front of them who is directly affected by these issues.

During the Day of Action, many women shared their abortion stories. Older women stood up and talked about pre-Roe v. Wade times when women they knew died from unsafe abortions. Mothers talked about their children and their desire to have their daughters live in a world where they have the right to choose. Your voice is powerful, use it!

4. Remember Why You’re There

If you need inspiration for coming up with talking points or personal narratives, try reflecting back on what motivated you to participate in activism in the first place. What are you fighting for? What change to you want to see in the world? Think about it and use that energy to your advantage.

5. Be Polite

There are always going to people who don’t understand why you care about your cause. If you’re advocating for things like reproductive justice, LGBTQIA equality, disability rights, etc. then there are going to be people who refute what you have to say. Don’t let that stop you. Keep your cool even if someone disagrees with you.

6. Stand Strong, Fill the Room, and Make a Statement

One of the most moving parts of the Day of Action was the fact that when we met with Senator O’Mara’s assistant, we filled up the entire room. We were organized. We all knew exactly what we wanted to say and why we were there. We were all decked out in bright pink scarfs, ties and bows and together we demanded change.

7. Work Together

When doing work in any activist movement, find support from other activists. If you’re at a rally, start up a conversation with the person next to you. Maybe keep an eye out for conferences or local events related to the causes you care about. One person cannot change the world, it takes collective action to really get things done.

8. Have Fun!

When I came to college and started getting involved with as many activist projects as possible, I had no idea that it could be so much fun. Rallying with a group of people who are just as passionate as I am is really what keeps me going. It makes me feel hopeful and inspired.

A Fight for Freedom: A Reflection on the Day of Action

One week ago at exactly this time, I would have just braced a massive snow storm driving back to Ithaca College after attending Planned Parenthood’s annual Day of Action in Albany, NY to lobby for women’s reproductive healthcare and the Women’s Equality Agenda. I spent the day listening to state legislators make speeches on choice and equality and the future of women’s healthcare. I rode on a bus with over seventy other activists. There were ten year olds, college students, and retired men and women. We were all fighting for the same thing: to create a world where everyone has access to quality reproductive healthcare, where everyone has the right to make their own decisions about their bodies, and legislators support survivors and fund services for their recovery. Unfortunately, we do not live in this world right now. But speaking up and talking to political figures about real, tangible polices surrounding these issues made me feel like we’re getting a little bit closer.

Prior to starting college, I was always shy and reserved. My teachers always told me to speak louder. It took until my freshman year of college before I really started to speak up. On the bus ride up, the organizers asked people to come up to the front of the bus and talk about why they are participating in the Day of Action. I listened to people share the stories that brought them to the reproductive justice movement. Two years ago, I would have stayed in my seat. But I stood up and I walked to the front of the bus and grabbed hold of that microphone.

I stood up and said: “I’m here because barriers to healthcare are barriers to equality. Everyone has the right to control their own bodies and fight back against injustices. It doesn’t matter that I’m young and only a college student, I have a voice and I’m allowed to use it.”

And that’s exactly what I did.

I stood in a room full of activists and spoke with Senator O’Mara’s assistant about the importance of allowing women to have autonomy over their reproductive and sexual health.

Here in America, we claim to be the land of the free. Freedom is being able to make personal decisions, freedom is being able to choose to have children. But here is the scary truth: we have fewer rights and less access to these healthcare needs than we did 5-10 years ago.

Scary, right?

It’s 2015 and we’re facing an attack on sex education, access to contraception, and the right to have an abortion. And these decisions affect real people, real lives.

We can’t go backwards. We can’t stay silent.

During the speeches, someone said, “If one generation plants a tree, the next generation will get the shade.”

So let’s keep fighting. 1509785_10206211901605141_6128529525598160500_n (1)