Getting the Most out of Advocacy
These basic strategies will help you get the most out of your advocacy efforts.
- Get to know the issues – Truly understanding an issue enables you to communicate an informed and persuasive opinion. You will also be more prepared to answer questions about the issues.
- Keep it focused on Virginia REALTOR® issues – Our focus is to be the leading business advocate for the real estate industry, consumers and private property rights. While you may have interests in other policy issues, keeping a focus on Virginia REALTOR® issues increases your effectiveness.
- Get to know your elected official – Understanding your elected official’s personal interest, committee assignments and voting records help you gauge how to best communicate with them.
- Get to know their staff – By developing a relationship with the staff, you will find yourself in a much better position to reach the elected official if the need arises. They are the eyes and ears of the legislator and should not be ignored.
- Communicate your personal connection – Your message as an advocate is strengthened when you describe how an issue affects you personally and how it affects other people in the district.
- Coordinate your grassroots activities – While all grassroots communications promoting VAR priorities are beneficial, coordinated activities with other VAR advocates help raise the volume and impact of VAR’s message.
- Respond to Calls For Action – When REALTORS® speak with a unified voice, it makes a major impact on policy makers. Responding to Calls For Action are an easy and effective way for us to make our voices heard.
- Attend events with elected officials – Whether it’s a town hall meeting or a neighborhood BBQ, participating in events with policy makers helps make the connection that you’re part of the community and want to make it better.
Do’s and Don’ts of Meeting with a Policy Maker
Before the Meeting:
- Keep these three meeting goals in mind regarding the purpose of the meeting:
- To learn more about your elected official;
- To convey VAR’s position on relevant issues;
- To find out how your elected official feels about an issue.
- Plan ahead of time and do your homework. Research the elected officials voting record, issue statements, and know what committees he/she serve on and what bills those committees review. Be aware of bills in play that affect the real estate industry and their status.
- Make a list of talking points you’d like to cover. Bullet the 3 to 5 most important points, and use real examples. Include questions you’d like to ask your elected official.
- Connect the dots. Elected Officials want to represent their constituents, so draw are clear connections between what you are requesting and how it impacts the people of the district.
- If more than one person is meeting with the elected official, decide before the meeting who will say what and in what order. If possible, assign a particular area of knowledge to each team member who can answer questions on that topic.
- Be organized and concise. Dress and act like you are taking the meeting seriously.
During the Meeting:
If you find that you’re meeting with a staff person instead of the elected official, treat them the same and take advantage of the time. It is an opportunity for you to get to know the staff. An elected official’s staff often are the “eyes and ears” of the member and regularly advise the member on what constituents are saying about the issues. They can be a valuable asset in your relationship building efforts with your elected official. Do not make the mistake of turning down this opportunity.
- Arrive on time and be polite and friendly, but be prepared to wait. Elected officials have hectic schedules and you need to be flexible.
- Be sensitive to the amount of time allotted to you for the meeting.
- State your issue, use facts and examples, and ask the elected official if they have thoughts or a position on the matter.
- Listen. Don’t be discouraged if they don’t support your position.
- Thank them for their time and leave any handouts or materials.
- Leave your business card so the elected official or staff can contact you if they need to. Be sure to offer your assistance/expertise on real estate issues.
- Don’t fail to show up on time for your scheduled meeting. Call if you’re running late.
- Don’t confuse your message by asking for too many things at once or talking about non-real estate related issues.
- Don’t assume the elected official or their staff knows anything about your issue.
- Don’t’ be afraid to say “I don’t know.” If you’re asked a question to which you do not know the answer, simply say you don’t know and let them know you will find out the answer and get back to them. (Don’t forget to get back to them!)
- Don’t threaten an elected official if he/she doesn’t agree with your views on the issue.
- Don’t underestimate your importance. Elected officials do want to know how their constituents feel about issues. Building the relationship positions you as an opinion leader the elected official will go to for information.
- Don’t bring up the issue of political campaign contributions for the candidate when discussing policy or legislative matters.
After the Meeting:
- Send a thank you note and use the opportunity to highlight points covered during the meeting. It’s preferable to send the note physical mail, but e-mail will work in right circumstances.
- Follow through on any commitments you made to the elected official or staff – i.e. sending them more information on an issue.
- Send the elected official a thank you note when he/she does or says something in favor of your issue. This is especially important if the elected official was on your side of the issue, but the position was unfavorable to the general public.
- Support the candidate with a personal contribution to their campaign or volunteer to help in their next re-election. Remember this is a topic that should be discussed separately from any specific policy or legislative matters.
- Send VAR Policy and Advocacy staff a report and let us know how things went. Feedback is important and helps us stay on top of issues.