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Inside the Margins: A Cleveland Literature Industry Study


Reference Desk


Tips for Working with a Public Official

Building Effective Relationships with Public Officials
It is extremely helpful to have strong allies among public officials. Get to know where
public officials stand on issues and find those who are sympathetic to your issues.
Public Officials interested in working on these issues often have a personal
connection. Building relationships with public officials opens the door to work more
closely with them when changing public policy through shaping the debate on the
issues, introducing bills and resolutions, and other effective ways to shape public
policy. It is most beneficial to establish and maintain a consistent relationship with
public officials in between your requests, so that when an issue becomes active you
can easily contact your public official for action.

Communicating with Public Officials
Public officials are extremely busy and cover a multitude of policy issues. This makes it
essential that you craft brief, simple and concise messages about issues that matter to
you to increase your chances for success.

Tips for communicating with Public Officials

Share personal stories. Facts, data and figures all help to make the case for your
issue. Family and personal stories are also extremely powerful and are often
remembered. These stories tend to have a deep impact on how a public official
feels about an issue. It is important to keep stories very brief (less than two
minutes) and tied to policy issues. See the section Tips for Using Personal
Stories for more information.

Identify Constituency. Constituents are given top priority by public officials. In all
communications with public officials, advocates should identify themselves as a
constituent whenever applicable. Public officials want to feel like they have a
good handle on what is going on in their community and will be more likely to
focus on a issue if they hear from their constituents on it.

Increase contacts. The more calls, letters, and emails that a public officials
receives on an issue; the more likely they are to act on that issue. To increase
the number of contacts to a public official, advocates often form coalitions with
organizations that have similar interests. Coalitions can provide additional
resources, more constituents, and broader expertise. This may lead public
officials to be confident in supporting the coalition’s cause.

Repetition. The number of times that a public official hears about an issue, from
the time they are elected/appointed to office until they leave office, plays a key
role in whether they favor a cause or issue. Therefore, it is important that
advocates communicate on a consistent basis with their public officials and
keep them updated and informed about an issue. Advocates should craft key
messages and consider asking friends and family to help in contacting public
officials on important issues.

The Day of the Event
• Distribute the News Release at the completion of the event. Fax it to those
members of the press who did not attend.
• Place signage at all the key intersections leading to the facility to ensure that
everyone that is invited arrives AND to give all participants a sense of attending
a very important event. Consider making campaign-style signs and banners to
post around the outside of the facility and in the halls and the meeting room
where the event will be held.
• Supply a sign-in sheet so you can follow up with the attendees after the
meeting. Nametags should be provided for all participants. An information table
by the sign-in could have your organization’s information and other relevant
information available for participants.
• Be sure to acknowledge public officials (and their representatives) during the
• Ensure public officials and guests receive your materials.

Immediately After the Event
• Send personal thank you letters to all those who helped in the preparation for
the event.
• Send thank you letters to all public officials and reiterate your key messages.

Other Ideas
• If your organization has a newsletter, write an article about the event and include
photos. Send a copy of the newsletter to the elected official.
• Send a follow up News Release with a photo of you and your elected official(s)
to the local papers.

Timing Tips:
For an event, you will want to avoid bad days for your invited public officials.
• Federal legislators are often only in town during recesses, but their local office
staff have more flexibility it their schedules.
• Ohio General Assembly members are typically in their districts on Mondays,
Fridays and the weekends.
• Ohio Administration members have busy schedules but do have some flexibility
to travel around the state when given enough notice.
• Remember that even though local public officials are local, they are busy and
have standing meetings that you will want to schedule around.

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