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Guidelines to Grassroots Advocacy

On Behalf of the AIA

“The Ten Commandments of Lobbying”

1. Be honest. Be prepared to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

2. Be brief.

3. Be polite.

4. Know your message and stick to it; take time to rehearse what you plan to say.

5. Avoid disparaging other constituencies or interest groups when making your points.

6. Relate legislation to your personal experiences whenever possible.

7. Steer clear of argument or of taking a hostile tone with a legislator or staff member; you are trying to form alliances.

8. Ask specifically for support of the AIA position on key bills.

9. Thank the representative for his/her time – particularly if you are his/her constituent.

10. Stay in touch with your legislator; at the least write a thank you note for this meeting, reminding the legislator/staff of the issues you discussed.

Additional suggestions

    • Prepare. Do homework on the lawmakers and comment on it to the legislator. For example, if they supported or sponsored green legislation, for example, mention it and thank them for it. Everyone loves to be acknowledged for their efforts – even if they failed…this time.

    • Practice. Run through your meeting ahead of time; not that you need to memorize a script, but knowing that Fred is going to lead off, and then Diane is going to speak about topic A, followed by Karen who can add details regarding Point B, is just very comforting once you get to the venue. Also, hold a briefing before going to the Capitol to go over logistics, answer questions ,and detail why you’re addressing the issues at hand at that time. At the briefing, seat everyone by their legislative district so if there are multiple from the same legislator, they can work as a team, assign a spokesperson, etc.

    Ensure that everyone in your group has your talking points before your visit.

    • Tell them about your practice (e.g., number of people you employ, how long you’ve been in business, examples of projects completed, activities in the community, etc.).

    • Group previous attendees with new attendees.

    • Appoint one or more persons to be your “leader(s)” before your meeting. Leaders should be amiable and comfortable making introductions and the necessary small talk to set a good tone for your meeting. You may very well be meeting with cynical staffers who “know it all” or have “heard it all,” so someone who can make a good first impression is vital.

    • Be opportunistic. When you make your visit, most legislators will be in committee, so you may meet with staff or have to grab your lawmakers in the hallway. Meeting with staff can be an effective way to develop a relationship with your lawmakers. Staff will take your materials and relay the conversation to the legislators.

    • Keep it simple; try to limit your talking points to three or fewer.

    • Be confident in your messaging. By an order of magnitude, your expertise in architecture far surpasses that of the average legislator or legislative staffer.

    • Ask directly how you can help them do their work and ask how you can follow up (e.g., “You said you could use some help on some graphic materials for your green legislation, may I put it together for you?”; “When can we get together on those materials you said you needed?”; “Who on your staff should I work with on those materials you requested?”). In doing this, you are building the relationship. You are making it apparent that your offer was meaningful and sincere. You are becoming a part of the lawmaker’s team and, potentially, a sounding board or adviser.

    • Report the results of your meeting(s) to your AIA state component.

    • Relax. Remember, they want to see you as much as you want to see them.

 

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