Communicating with Members of Congress
While standard letters and faxes are still used on Capitol Hill, email has become a much more readily used form of communication. This is due in part to the extensive screening process that standard mail must undergo. For that reason, it is better to email your message instead of using standard letters sent through the mail.
NASSP's Principal's Legislative Action Center (PLAC) allows members and non-members to send messages directly to members of Congress. PLAC allows advocates to send pre-written letters to your members on issues of importance to school leaders across the country. You can also draft your own message as well.
Here are some helpful hints for communicating via email especially when you are drafting your own message:
- Always put your name and address at the top of your message (unless there is a web form that provides for it elsewhere). The most important thing is to establish yourself as a constituent because non-constituent email rarely gets a response.
- Be brief. While one or two pages are acceptable for a letter, you should use only a few paragraphs by email to make your strongest points.
- State your position clearly. Make a concrete request, such as asking for a yes or no vote or asking them to cosponsor legislation.
- Send no attachments. Do not attach files or images to your email. Embed all information.
- Do not copy others on the email. Do not send a copy to everyone. Legislators want to know that you are sincere in appealing to them specifically.
- Remember to proofread before sending. This is essential to making a credible argument.
All congressional offices have staff who are responsible for greeting and taking calls and messages from constituents. If you are planning on calling a congressional office, keep your message simple. Here are some helpful hints for communicating via phone.
- Prepare ahead of time. It is imperative that you plan for your phone conversation. If you do not have talking points prepared, jot down a few notes before making the call. Be prepared to leave a message, as lawmakers and their aides often have busy schedules and do not answer calls.
- Contact the right person. When calling a lawmaker’s office, ask to speak with the aide responsible for education issues. If this person is not available, leave your name and contact information, the issue you are calling about, and the specific action you want the legislator to take.
- Follow up. Always follow up with a letter or email thanking the legislator and the staff for their time. Also use this opportunity to reiterate your position and provide any additional materials.
Many members of Congress now have Facebook pages and use twitter to communicate with their constituents. As an advocate, you should like the Facebook pages of your members of Congress and follow them on twitter.
If you decide to share your thoughts to a member of Congress on a social media platform remember to keep it short and appropriate.