In the debate over whether we should confront racism by changing hearts and minds or changing policy, I definitely fall in the changing policy camp, when I’m not dreaming about pressuring Hollywood to normalize race in the same way it normalized gay (Thanks, Ellen Degeneres!). Assuming you’re trying to win a specific policy change at some level of government from a specific person, which you should be doing, here are five things you can say to get your target policymakers closer to saying yes to you.
1) Poll numbers show that voters care enough about this issue to vote against you if you don’t give us what we want.
Policymakers want to keep their jobs. Your job is to pressure your target policymakers—the people who can give you what you want—into saying yes to you if they otherwise would say no. You do this by threatening their jobs. Elected policymakers lose their jobs when voters who care enough about an issue go to the polls and fire them.
2) I have a resolution here in support of my campaign that was signed by 200 congregations, parent organizations and business associations in your district.
Enlist the networks of organizations and congregations by getting them to sign on to a non-binding resolution, which alerts a policymaker that a whole lot of voters could hear about how he or she voted the wrong way on your issue. See #1.
3) We have to rent another bus to bring all the people who want to speak at the public comment hearing on our issue. But the TV crews are coming in their own van.
If there is a public hearing on your issue be sure to pack the room. And if you are able to pack the room, make sure all of your supporters are easily identifiable as supportive (think T-shirts, hats, pins). Then use the local media as your megaphone to reach potential voters. See #1.
4) What’s the best email address for my member of Congress/state legislator/mayor to send you letter in support of my campaign?
Policymakers are influenced by other policymakers both up and down the food chain, particularly from their own party. It helps them keep their jobs and get promoted to higher office.
5) Thanks, Close Associate of My Target Policymaker, for agreeing to make a call or write a letter to the policymaker in support of my campaign, using the talking points I provided you.
Grassroots are important, and so are grasstops—the people who already influence your target decision-makers. Get people who your target trusts to deliver your message. I have an online course on how to engage grasstops in your campaign, how to find them, and what to ask them to do for you.
Got any others? I’d love to hear them so please post them below.
And if you haven’t already downloaded these free guides, you can get them at the links below. If you can think of other tools that would be helpful, please let me know.
One of the biggest challenges organizations have is the campaign planning process. To help serve them, I’ve created a guide of the 11 essential points that I use with organizations, as well as with my grad students at Johns Hopkins. In it you’ll find the critical elements your campaign must have. Use this as an easy reference guide for staff, volunteers & trainers.
- The 10 steps of power mapping
· The questions to ask and where to find answers
· Easy reference guide for staff, volunteers & trainers
- What coalitions do
· Who to recruit
· How to pick the best coalition name
· Attracting diverse coalition partners
· Leadership & structure of coalitions