How to Tell Your Story
Your voice matters. Your story can be a powerful tool in getting your legislators attention and moving them to action.
Use Social Media
Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools are great ways to connect with legislators, engage your friends and family-- and spread the word.
Share Your Story
From the advocacy perspective, there are things you can do to make your story more effective and have the maximum impact.
- Keep it short. This rule applies whether you are speaking to a legislator in person, sending a letter or email or making a phone call.
- Work on your story--develop it for advocacy purposes. Write it down--time how long it takes to tell your story. Rehearse it, or let someone else read it and react. Edit and revise frequently. You might even want to prepare more than one version for different audiences and different purposes.
- For introduction purposes, about 30 seconds is a good length. For interviews, you can expand depending on the circumstances, but keep responses to questions under two minutes. Think in terms of “sound bites,” short statements that focus on a single important point or key message.
- Keep your language simple and clear, avoid medical jargon. Don’t rely too much on statistics. If you do use data, make sure you have sources to support what you say.
- Make sure you introduce yourself, that you focus on one or two key messages and that you include a clear “ask.” Legislators need to know what you want them to do in order to respond.
- Don’t be argumentative. Stay polite and patient--and listen.
- Be honest and accurate.
- When you are representing ACHA, make sure you are knowledgeable about our positions and state them correctly.
Preparation and practice really make a difference in telling an effective story. If you have questions or would like to share your story, please contact our advocacy department at email@example.com or 215-849-1260.
Respond to our Action Alerts
There are times when ACHA needs you to act urgently to get a message to your legislators. We let you know about these occasions with Action Alerts. To receive updated information on opportunities to take action, join our email list by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tips for Contacting Your Legislator
- Be clear. State your reason for contacting your legislator at the beginning of your letter, email or call.
- If you are uncertain, write out a script in advance. For talking points check out our website or contact email@example.com
- Identify your congressperson or senator by going to House.gov and Senate.gov.
- Use the ACHA Advocacy Section to learn more about key issues and help develop your message.
- Learn more about your legislator and his/her positions on key healthcare issues before you make the contact.
Watch for our new Advocacy Tool Kit. We’re working on an updated version with key issues, talking points and tips for being an effective advocate.
Ways to Contact Your Legislator
- Email--it is often the quickest and most effective way to reach your legislators. You can get contact information from the legislator’s website or by calling the office and requesting it. You may request the direct email for the staffer who handles health care issues.
- You can get the Washington, DC number from the legislator’s website. Leave a message with the staff person who answers the phone, or ask to speak with aide who handles health issues. Don’t hesitate to leave a voicemail.
- Standard mail. It is a good strategy to send personal letters, photos or handwritten messages--but be aware. All mail goes through a strict security screening process and can take a long time to reach the legislator.
- Legislators receive many requests for visits and meetings. The best way to visit “The Hill” is with a group, such as Congenital Heart Lobby Day. You may have more success setting up a meeting with your legislator in the local office in your district. If you can arrange it, a face to face meeting is an excellent way to deliver your message. See above for tips on how to get the maximum impact from your visit. Remember:
- Meetings usually last no more than 15-20 minutes and are tightly scheduled--so be early, be clear and get to the point. Cover your priority issues first.
- You will probably meet with the legislative assistant, not the actual legislator
- Bring handouts and supporting information to leave with the legislator or aide. ACHA can provide a briefing folder.
- Ask the legislator or staff person about their positions on key issues--and listen
- Don’t argue--but be persuasive
- Bring a card or contact information
- Dress appropriately--and if you are meeting with multiple people in DC, wear comfortable walking shoes
- It can be effective to include children in your visit, but use good judgment about the physical and emotional demands of these visits. ACHA Lobby Days are not a place for children under age 13.
- If you are visiting as a group, choose a leader or spokesperson for each visit. That person should be a constituent of the legislator. The leader should open and close every meeting. One group member should also take notes and report back the details of each meeting.
- For each visit you make, we ask that you complete a Visit Report Form. Click here for the form.
- Send a follow up thank you note to each person you see after your visit. Your thank you can be by email or personal note card.
If you do contact your legislator, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org or complete our survey