How to Take Your Advocacy Message to Congress
What do I have to do with Public Policy?
The ASM believes that science must serve the public interest and that associated policies must be based upon sound science, both efforts obviously dependent upon informed government policymakers. When advocating for science, it is particularly important that the messages be clearly presented, compelling to nonscientists and based on scientific evidence. The following guidance will assist ASM members in their individual communications with Congress.
How do I communicate with Congress?
First, know who your elected officials are. You can search by zip code here.
Once you know who you are communicating with, determine what you want to say. The most influential way to communicate with your senator or representative is through a personalized message that outlines who you are, and what you are hoping to accomplish by writing. Express your views in a way that is easy to understand, but emphasizes that you possess specialized knowledge that gives you an important perspective on the issue.
Things to remember:
- Your message should be short, clear and to the point. Members of Congress and their staff are inundated with hundreds, even thousands of messages each day.
- Stay on topic and ideally, only discuss one issue per message.
- Identify yourself and include your contact information with an invitation for the member of Congress or their staff to follow up with you.
- Do not simply demand action or use your message to only criticize Congress, instead, offer a course of action supported with personal and professional evidence and opinion. Be polite, professional and courteous.
- Do not over complicate your message or utilize highly technical “science speak.” Think of your audience as intelligent students and adjust your message accordingly.
- Connect your message to your congressional district, state or to the nation as a whole. Highlight for example, how increased funding for research would benefit the district, state, nation or all of humankind rather than individual scientists. Do not request personal entitlements
Social Medial is increasingly getting the attention of legislators. It is a timely, fast form of communication on issues that legislative staff monitors for messages from constituents. Follow your representatives and other policy makers on social media. When using social media be sure to use the hashtag #microsciences or #ASMAdvocacy. Follow ASM on social media for updates on important policy issues. The links are at the bottom of this page.
Meeting with Congress:
Scheduling a meeting with your representative, senator or their staff is another effective way of communicating your message. Remember, your elected officials have offices in their home state or district; you do not have to travel to Washington D.C. to meet with your member of Congress.
Things to remember:
- Schedule the appointment at least three to four weeks in advance and be prepared to provide an overview of what you want to discuss during the meeting Familiarize yourself with individual office procedures; some require a faxed or e-mailed formal letter of request. Call the office directly for instructions and guidelines.
- Know your issue and be prepared to discuss your concerns in a clear, concise and professional manner. Have a basic understanding of what, if any, legislation exist that might affect your issue and where the legislation stands (i.e. is it in committee, has it passed, is it on the floor for debate etc.)
- Conduct background research on the member of Congress who you are meeting with; read their biography, and know their voting history on bills similar to, or directly impacting your issue.
- Be punctual. Arrive and leave on time. Members of Congress and their staff are busy and delays may occur. Be prepared with a clear and concise message. It is not unusual for meetings to last no longer than 10 or 15 minutes.
- Do not be concerned or disappointed if you meet with a staff member instead of your member of Congress directly. Congressional staffers are knowledgeable and competent advisors who brief the member, their boss, on meetings. Assume that your message will reach your member, but do not forget to follow up with a thank you e-mail or letter outlining the details of your visit.
- Be flexible, it is not unusual for meetings to last no longer than 15 minutes or to take place in a non-traditional location like a hallway or waiting area.
- Leave behind your contact information (e.g. a business card) and encourage your member of Congress or their staff to get in touch with you for any follow up or questions they may have.
- Thank the member of Congress or staffer for their time.
After the Meeting:
Send a thank-you e-mail or letter. Be sure to include details of your meeting and invite the member and their staff to visit you, your lab or university (be sure to secure appropriate permissions from your institution.)
Let us know about your meeting: firstname.lastname@example.org
Keep in touch with the Office of Public Affairs; visit the website for legislative and other policy updates. E-mail email@example.com if you have questions or would like to report contact with your congressional delegation.
Tell others about your experience - you may inspire colleagues or friends to also get involved.
The ASM Office of Public Affairs is available as a resource for you regarding issues and legislation that impact microbiologists. Public Affairs staff can assist you with information and in scheduling a meeting with your member of Congress. If you have any questions about communicating with Congress please contact us.
Thank You for Being an ASM Research and Public Health Advocate!