Meaningful Conversations

New Congress, New Relationships

Now that the elections are over and the dust is settling, it’s time to begin thinking about making new connections or reconnecting with your members of Congress.

In today’s world, there are many options for reaching out to your elected officials.  Traditionally, the recommended order has been write (via email or a web-submission), call and then meet.  Depending on the issue, you may need to communicate “out of order.”  Social media can be an effective way to reach members of Congress and to connect with legislative staff members who are tech savvy.  Find your member of Congress on Facebook or Twitter in order to share information.

It can seem daunting to find the right person to speak with an about an issue, but in reality it only takes a few steps.  Call the elected officials office and ask the receptionist for the name of the legislative assistant (LA) who handles your issue.  Later you can call and ask to speak directly with that person.  Be sure to let them know you are a constituent and your role with your affiliate or employer.  In some situations meeting with the member of Congress is not possible, but don’t be discouraged.  The legislative staff is a great place to start the conversation and relationship.  If you want to meet with your member of Congress personally, consider attending a fundraising event sponsored by ANDPAC and tell your story.  After the event, reach out again to the legislative staff to complete the circle of communication.

It only takes a few conversations to establish trust and respect with elected officials and the payoff is more credibility for the profession and nutrition policy issues. 


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How to Have More Meaningful Conversations with Elected Officials

Flattery gets you everywhere.  It’s human nature to be impressed when someone you meet has done his or her homework and knows your background or highlights of your career.  Members of Congress are no different!  Last week we gave you tips for making a connection – this week we want you to consider taking it a step further.

The easiest way to learn more about your elected officials is to visit their websites and read their biographies.  Look for things that would provide a natural connection between you and the official.  Did you go to the same school?  Do you live in the same geographical area?  Is there an issue on which you share similar philosophy?  Think about the way that you gather information about a new client or patient (or even a new boss) and the manner in which you use that “intel” to develop rapport.   Transfer that skill to policy and advocacy!

Similarly, if a member of Congress is a health care professional, you may be able to build upon their commitment to health and wellness.  These members are often the “champions” of nutrition issues regardless of party lines.  Your communication with these fellow health care professionals can strengthen the Academy’s relationship and just as important, brings credibility to the profession of dietetics across all disciples. 

A little research on the front end can make the difference between good and great communication with your members of Congress.  Give it a try!