Governmental and Community Relations

Fostering and Maintaining Lobbying Relationships

Follow-up is essential in the advocacy process. It is important to remember that the initial meeting with your representative is just the first step. Phone calls, letters, e-mail and faxes are effective methods of keeping legislators and their staff up to speed with your issue. Follow-up also offers the opportunity for you to answer any questions posed during your first meeting as well as furthering your relationship with the legislator and their staff. The most successful lobbying relationships are those that have been built over time.

It is important to follow up with the office staff in order to keep the issue alive in the legislator's office. They are the people who will be doing much of the work and communicating with the legislator on your behalf. These relationships should be developed early in the lobbying process. The following elements outline the keys to fostering and maintaining relationships:

Do not overlook staff; often they can be effective advocates on your behalf. Building relationships with staff helps to ensure that you and your issue are not forgotten. It is important to remember that a legislator is often busy and may not have the time to take your call personally. They can have enormous influence with legislators who rely on their judgment and understanding of the member's philosophy. Staff members serve as a legislator's eyes and ears, bringing issues to his or her attention and relaying constituent concerns. This is especially true for federal legislative staff; however, at the state level staff are becoming more numerous and important.

In a sense, a staff member is a legislator's alter ego. After you meet with a staff member, he or she is likely to summarize the meeting in a memorandum to the legislator. And if you present your legislator with a complex problem, he or she will probably ask staff for a recommendation before taking any action. By developing relationships with staff members you will have several contacts in the office to speak with regarding your issue.

Remember to be polite; the staff can become your ally. The biggest complaint of staff members is rude advocates.

Identify a staff member who will handle the issue with which you are concerned. Building a one-on-one relationship with a staffer will be critical in developing your rapport with your representative. They will be more willing to fight for your interest if they feel they have a relationship with you. Ongoing contact will help make them more likely to be proactive on your behalf.

Keep the staff up to speed regarding new information in the area of your issue articles, new developments, timely information. This follow-up will prove more productive if you have already established a one-on-one relationship with a staff member.

Identify common interests between you and the individual. Based on your common interests, make an attempt to become involved with the staff member or elected official. This may be with professional or personal issues depending on your relationship.

Reciprocity is essential. Establishing a two-way road is essential in developing your relationship with staff. Remember they are helping you and you need to make an effort to return the favor when possible. Ask the staff if there are ways in which you can serve their office, as since they are helping you with your issues.

Your follow-up efforts should be consistent in order to make yourself known in the legislator's office. The frequency of follow-up will vary from office to office. As an advocate, you must be aware of their individual preferences and communication style.

On the whole, legislative staffs emphasize that being persistent will lead to increased responsiveness on their part. If you are concerned that you are pestering the staff, ask to set an appointment time for your next conversation.

· When would be a convenient time for us to speak?
· When can we schedule our next meeting?
· Is there any information you would like for our next meeting?

Schedule a conference time. By scheduling a conference time, you know exactly when to call and, in the process, have had the office set aside some time to discuss your issue. Also, be aware of the time constraints on your staff member and the office. Ask the staff and the elected official what you can do in return for their time and effort. How can you help the process along: making calls, getting petitions signed, talking to community groups, etc.? Let them know that your concern is genuine and you are planning to follow your issue to the end.

The key to becoming important to your elected official is the ability to activate other people who share your goals. Alumni, staff, students, or other interest parties, when combined and coordinated, provide a potent political force. Organize your support in a way that will make your issue politically relevant. How will an issue affect a legislator's district and his/her constituents? Remember, a legislator's number one concern is constituents, so the more constituents rallying behind you, the more weight you carry with your legislator.

In forming alliances an advocate's effort must focus not only on those people in their immediate circle, but on individuals or groups that have influence over the legislator. Encourage your allies to branch out and join other groups and organizations that might help support your cause. By forming alliances with alumni, university officials, research beneficiaries, donors, political allies, and friends, an advocate can effectively "surround" the legislator, ensuring that the issue of interest will be taken seriously and given adequate attention.

More Information

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Career OpportunitiesUCR Libraries
Campus StatusDirections to UCR

Department Information

Governmental and Community Relations
4148 Hinderaker Hall
Tel: (951) 827-5184
Fax: (951) 827-5485
E-mail: community@ucr.edu