- Be brief. Remember that time is precious. All letters, phone calls, office visits, etc. to your lawmaker should be "short and sweet." Get to the point soon and focus on your issue.
- Give bill numbers. Include the correct bill number(s) in all communications about specific legislation.
- Explain the impact. Explain in simple, straightforward terms the logic supporting your position. The most effective logic often involves jobs, costs, and how many people the legislation will affect. Be sure to explain any impact on consumers.
- Respect staff members. Remember the lawmaker's staff is just as important to you as the lawmaker. Staff often are the ones who prepare the issue summary, including a vote recommendation, for the lawmaker.
- Think "quantity." Take advantage of "strength in numbers." This is true for letters, faxes, e-mail, phone calls, office visits, financial support, etc. Many issues are decided on the volume of communications received.
- Know your issue. Remember that the more responsibility and involvement you show, the more you can expect vigorous commitment and support from your lawmaker.
- Locate yourself. Include your name, address and phone number (home and office) on all communication. This allows your lawmaker and staff to contact you for follow-up and it also reminds them that you are a constituent.
- Follow up with letters, calls, etc. To be effective, figure on making an ongoing time commitment to work on an issue you care about. By devoting just 30 minutes at a time, once a month, you can be an extremely effective advocate.
- Show strength. Remind your lawmaker how many people (read "votes") in your organization and/or community share your position.
- Always have a "position paper." This should clearly state your position and logic. Leave the position paper behind when you make office visits. (Other effective leave-behind items could include buttons, hats, bumper stickers, T-shirts, agency give-away items, etc. to make your visit more memorable.)
- Reinforce your identity. Include your lawmaker on your agency's mailing list for agency newsletters, consumer brochures, etc. to build identity.
- Be patient. Sometimes neither you nor the lawmaker will know the final outcome for months.
- Be a good winner and a good loser. Your adversary on one issue might be your ally on the next.
- Bring it home. Invite your lawmaker and staff to your office or other appropriate location that will put a human face on the issue you're discussing.
- Be realistic. Understand that you and your lawmaker sometimes will have to compromise. Assess what you can realistically achieve at one time; plan to work on the rest next year.
- Ask lawmakers to state their position. If it agrees with yours, ask what you can do to strengthen that support. If it differs, ask what would change their position. If they are undecided, ask what information or demonstration of public support you can supply to help them decide.
- Support PIANJPAC and your local candidates. PIANJPAC supports lawmakers who support you. Full participation in the political arena gives professional insurance agents credibility and access when presenting their views.
- Use the news media. Letters to the editor, guest editorials, etc. help create public support for your positions. Lawmakers are constantly looking to see what "the people want" on issues.
- Say thank-you. Write a thank-you note to the lawmaker and staff no matter what the outcome (remember item No. 13) of your issue.
- Call on PIANJ for help. PIANJ maintains current position papers and summaries of key legislation and its status. Call PIANJ at (800) 424-4244 whenever you plan to see your lawmakers. We'll provide what you need to make your discussion productive.
- Don't confuse the issues. Two or three issues are about as much as you should cover in one letter, call or visit. Stick to the priorities.
- Don't use form letters. Form letters aren't taken seriously and interpreted as the action of a single person. Use agency letterhead and put the issue in your own words.
- Don't sell yourself short. Never underestimate the weight given to your letters and phone calls. Receiving just five to 10 individualized contacts from the district on any issue will put a legislator on "red alert" that something big is happening.
- Don't use insurance jargon. You're not speaking to a fellow insurance professional. Lawmakers may have little or no knowledge of your issue and its jargon. Say "no-fault insurance," not "PIP."
- Don't drop the ball. Never contact a lawmaker, then drop the issue. Persistence pays off (just like in insurance sales).
- Don't downplay your identity. You should not say you're contacting your lawmaker because your association told you to do so. Lawmakers respond to people (voters), not organizations.
- Don't be crass. Never make campaign contributions in the legislator's office or at the same time you ask for legislative/regulatory support. Make a separate appointment.
- Don't be a stranger. Take advantage of all opportunities to visit with your lawmaker at home. Watch your newspaper; an informal talk in your home town means as much or more than a "state visit" to the Capitol.
- Don't lie. Anything less than full honesty will erode your credibility and affect your whole relationship with your lawmaker. No single issue is worth that. If there are tough aspects or strong opposition to the position you're advocating, acknowledge them early and work on strategy with your lawmaker.
- Don't discount your influence. Never forget that you and your lawmaker need each other.