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Action Tips


Tips for Visiting your Legislators

Tips for Writing your Legislators

Tips for Calling a member of Congress

Tips for Writing a "Letter to the Editor" or an "Op-Ed"

Tips for Speaking with the Media

Golden Rules of Messaging



Tips For Visiting Your Legislators


The most effective way to influence your Member of Congress is to pay them a visit. In person visits show just how engaged you are in the issue, and can’t be thrown in the shredder. Here are some tips to keep in mind when preparing for and visiting a Member of Congress:


Always Make an Appointment

If you take the time to make the trip, you want to be sure your Member of Congress, or one of their staff, will be there to meet with you! To do this, contact the office of the Member of Congress, and explain who you are and the purpose of your visit.

Prepare in Advance

Don’t walk into the meeting blind. Know what you want to talk about and the specific issues and points you want to make. Also, know your legislator – what issues they are particularly engaged in and what their voting record is on the issue you are discussing.

Be On Time

If you are late, there is a good chance you will lose your meeting time. Members of Congress keep a tightly packed schedule, so if anything be a little early!

Connect the Issue Locally

Show the Member of Congress how this particular issue impacts their district or state. This is the main reason why they will care.

Listen and Respond

Take the time to enter into dialogue with the staff person or Member of Congress. Show you are listening to what they are saying, and respond to get your point across.

Know Your Stuff and Stay Focused

Don’t let your meeting slip off topic. This will cause the original intent to get lost in the shuffle. The more focused you are, and the more detailed your information, the more likely you will be remembered.

Follow Up

Send your the Member of Congress or staff person a thank you note for taking the time to meet, and continue to press them on the issue from home, via letters, emails, and phone calls. A visit to a Member of Congress doesn’t end when you leave the office!


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Tips For Writing Your Legislators


One effective way to contact your local Senator or Representative, especially if you do not have the opportunity to come to Washington, is to write that Member of Congress a letter. Members of Congress read their mail, and respond to keep their constituents abreast of their stance on issues. There are several good tips when it comes to writing a member of Congress:


Identify Yourself as a Constituent

Make sure the Member of Congress knows that they represent you directly, and do this in the beginning of the letter.

Make your letter personal

If a letter appears to be a form letter, it will carry less weight than a letter that a constituent has written him or herself.

Keep your letter concise

Pick one issue and stick to it. Members of Congress and their staff get piles of mail each day, and the more focused your letter is the more likely that it will get read in detail.

Do Your Research

While it is important to keep the letter short and to the point, it is also key to demonstrate that you know what you are talking about. Show your knowledge of the issue that you are talking about by referencing specific bills and situations.

Keep the Dialogue Going

When you hear back from your Member of Congress, don’t stop there. Keep writing, and show them you are truly engaged in the issue, not just another one time letter writer. Also, let them know you appreciate their response.



Letter Templates


Letter to U.S. Senator Jon Tester - download

Letter to U.S. Senator Max Baucus - download

Letter to Representative Steve Daines - download


Contact Information


U.S. Senator Jon Tester / Office Locations - contact info

U.S. Senator Max Baucus / Office Locations - contact info

Representative Steve Daines / Office Locations - contact info


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Tips For Calling a Member of Congress


Another great and personal way to contact your Member of Congress is by phone. It is also a great way to make a quick contact when a vote is fast approaching. Typically, when contacting your Member of Congress on the phone, the person you will end up speaking with will be a member of their staff. This is not a bad thing. This will often be the person who shapes the Member of Congress’ view, and who will brief them on your issue. Moreover, they often have more time to spend with you, giving you the best chance to make your case. While talking to the Member of Congress directly assures you of getting your message to them, talking to the staff member may be the best way to ensure action is taken. To best make sure your voice is heard, we offer these tips:


Know the staff person who deals with your issue

This is the easiest way to make sure you get heard. If you know who to ask for, the person answering the phones will see you know your stuff, and is more likely to put you through. If you don’t know, ask the receptionist who answers the phone who the appropriate person to speak to is.

Identify Yourself

Let the staff person know who you are and that you are a constituent.

Be Brief and to the Point

If you are calling about a specific bill, just state that you would like to let the Member of Congress know your position (for or against) bill X. If this is a more informational phone call, identify the issue that concerns you and why.

Follow Up

One key way to make sure your voice was heard is to request a written follow up to the phone call, and do the same thing yourself. Keep in touch with the Member of Congress and their staff to let them know you are paying attention.


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Tips For Writing a "Letter to the Editor"
or an "Op-Ed"


If you want to call attention to a particular issue or situation, one of the best ways to do this is through writing either a letter to the editor or an op-ed. However, it can be challenging to get these actually in print! Here are some key suggestions to help you out in the process:


Writing a Letter to the Editor


Grab Peoples Attention

Begin with something that will make people, especially the editor, want to read the rest of the letter.

Keep it Brief

A letter to the editor shouldn’t exceed 200 words, and should remain focused on one issue.

Respond to Something

Whether it be a particular news story, or a local event, connect your letter to something the readers will know something about.

Show You Know the Topic

Demonstrate why you are a good person to listen to on this issue by showing the research you have done, and what you know.

Make it Personal

Let people know who you are, by signing your name, and possibly giving your congressional district, or church affiliation.


Writing an Op-Ed


Time it Well

Time your Op-Ed for a situation when interest in your topic will be at its peak – some local event, an anniversary of an event, a pop-culture happening, or current happenings on Capitol Hill. Whatever it may be, make sure your Op-Ed is relevant to the current climate.

Make A Local Connection

Begin by connecting the issue you are writing about to the community – through a story, or through local statistics, or in whatever way possible, let the reader know how this issue impacts them.

Know Your Stuff

Even more than in a letter to the editor, this is your time to show you know what you are talking about. Lay your research out there so people know you know the issue.

Know the Requirements

Make sure you know the different submission requirements of the paper in which you want to submit.

Consider all Your Options

Sometimes a free weekly may be better than your big national paper for a particular story. Also, consider adding an influential co-signer, such as academic or religious leaders. This greatly increases your chances of getting published, and brings instant credibility.


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Tips For Speaking With the Media


When getting ready to talk to reporter or other media representative, it is important to prepare beforehand. Know what the reporter is looking for, and what methods can best help you get your point across. Here are some tips for communicating with our friends in the press.


Be Brief and Attention Getting

Remember that most reporters are looking mainly for a sound bite or great quote. This being the case, try your best to give them an informative one!

Don’t Use Worn out Rhetoric - Be Specific –

Don’t settle into broad generalizations of issues, but rather be as specific as possible to the issue you are addressing. Don’t say: Congress needs to do more about ………... Do say: The (Your organization name here)is calling on Congress to support the (name of specific bill) bill for ……….

Let Them Know Who You Represent, and Connect Locally –

Even if you are representing a national organization, make sure you bring it back to the local community; note the local group you are working with as well. Stay on Message, and Repeat, Repeat, Repeat – Don’t let yourself get off topic, but rather keep repeating what it is you are trying to get across to the press.

Be Prepared, and Practice

Have all your information ready to go, and make sure this isn’t the first time you have said what you are planning to say. Give it a few practice runs, so that it is almost second nature.

Use Statistics, but Make it Personal

State the statistics on the issue, but also be sure to make it as personal as possible. Putting faces on the issue is key, and gets peoples attention just as much, if not more, than a good statistic.

Use Strong Language, and Stay Upbeat

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Golden Rules of Messaging


Whenever trying to get your message across – whether to a group of supporters, the media, or a negative audience, there are some key rules to remember that will help get you through. We call these the golden rules of messaging.


The spoken word is but a small component of communication

It is important to remember that your body language, your tone, and your appearance are all communicating as well. Make sure they match the message you are trying to put across.

Repeat, Repeat, and Repeat Again

Never assume that saying something once is enough. The more often you repeat something the more likely it is to be remembered. Keep emphasizing the point you are trying to make.

People Cannot Read Your Mind

Don’t think that people know something, or understand what you are trying to say. Assume that they don’t, and work from there.

Walk the Talk

Make sure the actions you take match what you are saying. Be able to walk out of the room practicing what you are preaching.

Don’t Wing It

Come prepared for anything. Always do your research beforehand, and practice the situation.

Be Simple, and Brief

This goes along the same line as the repetition. As much as it is possible, stick to one message, and emphasize it.

Ask and You Shall Receive

Remember that unless you ask, people aren’t going to act. If you are raising money, ask for what you want. If you are pushing people to action, ask them to do something specific.

Don’t Volunteer Negative Information

Wait until negative questions, or situations, are put before you. Don’t try to anticipate them and address them before someone else brings them up. They may not.

Maintain, Your Composure

Always keep the appearance of being confident and credible, no matter how you may feel inside.

Choose Your Words Wisely

Remember words often carry different meanings than the one you intend. Make sure your word choice can’t be taken incorrectly, and choose the words most appropriate for what you are trying to say.


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