It’s relentless. The 4 a.m. Twitter blast from the White House, your mobile just buzzed with an emergency warning to take cover, Congress just passed an amazingly favorable (or unfavorable to you) bill.
The process of government is going on, with or without our input. With the advent of social media, viral video and 24 hour “fake news”, many Americans are observing the political process on a daily basis.
Sharing links, online funding campaigns and signing petitions is not enough. To successfully register your opinions, you need to make contact with your Representatives and Senators. Do you storm the office? Fax, email or Facebook? Send postcards to state reps, write letters to Congress, phone your Senator?
Read ahead for a quick guide to getting your opinion heard.
Pick Your Pain Points
We know, it ALL makes you itch, but for clarity, you should communicate one issue at a time. Your member of Congress is perfectly human and is going to filter their messages through radio station WIFM (What’s in it for me?). In this case, re-election!
Every sitting Senator or Representative wants good press in their local district and for their constituents to think positively of them. They do not want to be considered weak, unlikable, or vulnerable.
Get to know the legislative schedule and the issues important to you. Make sure your elected representative knows how you would vote!
Craft Your Message
Three points you need to make your message heard:
- You are a constituent
- The specific issue and how it affects you and others
- The action you want your rep to take
The most effective communication is short, direct and has supporting information or photos. Remember that Congress members have many items on their agendas, so it’s best to address a particular bill or piece of legislation. These tips apply whether you call, fax or send postcards to your state reps.
Points to Remember
- Be respectful
- State the purpose of your communication
- Identify the legislation by number
- Identify yourself correctly, with address if a constituent
- State your credentials or personal experience with the issue
- State what you want to be done
- Give thanks to representative for their time
Devil is in the Delivery
You have a message, now it is time to get it into the head and heart of your Congressional rep. Remember, their number one priority is to look good to their constituents. They want to avoid anything that makes them look weak or unlikable.
The #1 most influential way to express yourself is to deliver your information in person. That’s right, march to the door of your representative’s local office and make an appointment to see him or her. A local Town Hall is another alternative.
In person delivery, while effective, is the most time consuming and expensive. Most reps also have a great experience in dodging unwanted contact. You may find yourself barred.
How About Going Social?
Mediums like Facebook, Twitter, and other social media are fast, easy, and satisfying. But are they effective? According to Emily Ellesworth, a former Congressional staffer, the answer is “no.” Social media is less frequently scanned for opinion than other forms of contact, and often by younger, low-level staffers.
An exception? Following the idea that no Congress member wants to look bad in front of their constituents, use social media in combination with other means of contact. So Tweet AND send postcards to your reps.
Call the Office
Phone calls are highly effective for attention. They interrupt the day to day work of the staff and must be dealt with immediately. A large volume of calls can’t be ignored. However, phone lines are limited and again, the method is time-consuming and costly.
Reaching a live person may take hours, only to have your call answered with a simple yes or no question. Staffers and interns may be simply tallying “for or against” in an attempt to make it through the call backlog. Expect little or no follow-up.
Most reps maintain local offices and a Washington, D.C. base. Local offices are better, but phone both to register your opinion.
Use the Written Word
Send postcards to your state reps, or even one-page faxes and letters for results. This includes email, contact forms, texts, too. The written word is classically effective.
As noted above, craft a careful message, and keep it short. Some special tips:
- Absolutely do not use profanity or vulgarity
- Threats will get you a Secret Service or FBI visit. Don’t do it
- Identify yourself as a constituent with full name and address
- Do not use boilerplate or copypasta text. State your issues in your own words
- Do not enclose anything other than a single page in an envelope
The written word allows for a longer record of your opinion, at least more than a simple “yes or no. ” Delivery methods matter, though.
Electronic Media Matters (Until it Doesn’t)
All your careful messaging to get your points in order may be in vain. Email, contact forms, and texts are fast and make it easy to send your thoughts to your rep. Unfortunately, they are largely ignored.
Many reps have automated scripts to answer any correspondence that arrives by those mediums. Automated scripts also exist to sort the information into “buckets” by simple checkmarks. Constituent or not? Yes or no? Believe it or not, a human being may or may not see your full message.
Fax letters and send postcards to your state reps attract more attention.
Fax, Letter, Postcard, Which One?
Using the good old-fashioned U.S. Post is fairly common, but letters can take a few days to a few weeks to arrive at the right office. With anywhere up to 465,674 people per state representative (in 2010), letters can spend lots of time in the postal annex being carefully screened and sorted.
Anything with an envelope is scrutinized for contaminants or other threats.
Time is of the essence if your issue is up for a vote. What about a faxed letter? They are instant like e-mail, they allow for long-form thought and they pose no security risk to your reps’ staffers.
Fax letters hold an advantage over the U.S. Post letter as far as the delay. Fax letters, however, also are limited the same way the telephone calls are limited. There are only so many lines in, and only so many fax machines.
Newer technology means many offices have abandoned the old fax machine and now use an email-based system. Meaning your fax is now being scanned and answered automatically.
Send Postcards to Your State Rep for Impact
Want the advantage of paragraph-form thought in a low security-risk medium? Send postcards to your state rep. No phone lines to tie up, no electronic scan and answer, no security hold to open the envelope and test for anthrax.
Best case? Combine your media. Use Instagram, Twitter or Facebook to share your message in photo form, then use a postcard print service like MyPostcard to quickly and automatically send a postcard to your state reps. Print just one issue per card and fill their mailbox!
A well-designed card can be shared many times on social media, then printed and sent on demand for maximum impact. 10,000 postcards make quite an impression (as well as quite a stack), especially if they are personalized, signed and sent by individuals.
If you choose to send postcards to your state reps, remember:
One paragraph, one issue per postcard.
- State who you are
- State your issue and cite the legislation number
- Support your position and what you want done (this is a great use of the space for a photo)
- Thank the rep for their time
Sign your card with your name and address and that’s it! You can even download the MyPostcard app to your mobile phone so you can send a note whenever and wherever the spirit strikes you.
Send Postcards to Your State Rep Right Now
Ready to make your impact on the government today? We have their addresses ready. Send a MyPostcard today and bring on the change! There are all kinds of design and layout options to fit your needs.
Choose from 8,000 different designs available, including some patriotic eye-cachers, we’re sure to have something that reflects your point of view. Pick a design, upload an original image – or choose a card without pictures – and then send your postcard on its way.
Sending a note to your state rep has never been easier. Send a personalized postcard now. No matter what the issue, let your voice be heard. There are many pending issues before Congress today. Let your rep actually represent YOU!
Your opinion matters and you have a voice. Let MyPostcard get the message into your state reps hands today. Questions or comments? Feel free to comment below!