Good Advice for Capitol Visits in Washington, D.C.

APRO’s 2019 Legislative Conference, scheduled for April 9-11 in Washington, D.C., is fast approaching and we need you to be a part of it! This is an important opportunity to share about the rent-to-own industry with the 100 new members of Congress and new committee chairs at our nation’s capital. Below is some good advice for your visits on The Hill.

Have fun and enjoy participating in the democratic process.

What you are doing is very special. The right to petition your government goes all the way back to the beginning of our great country. Legislators welcome you and value hearing about your concerns. Those who participated in past Legislative Conference visits report back that they felt their voices were heard and it was a rewarding experience.

There is great value to what you are doingand greater value with follow up.

Lending your voice to the efforts of others at the Capitol will make a difference in building an understanding of the problems facing those within your industry and the importance of continued legislative support. There is no question about that. But you can add greater value to your efforts if you follow up your visit with a letter and continue contact with your legislators. Your goal is for your legislator to remember who you are—to have a relationship with you.

Don’t be disappointed if you meet with a staff member instead of your legislator.

Staff members have great influence over legislative decision making. Oftentimes, having a staff member that knows you and your issues is more valuable tha just meeting your legislator.

Have a coordinator/team captain for each visit.

You may be visiting a legislator on your own, but if you are visiting in a group be sure to have a coordinator or team captain who starts and ends the legislative visit. Before your visit, you should also go over your role and the role of others in the group during the visit. If you are new to advocacy on behalf of RTO, we can partner you with a team captain.

You do not have to be an expert.

You are special and you are effective with your legislator because of what you know and have experienced. Do not worry about things you do not know. Just be prepared to say “I do not know that but I will get that information to you.”

Start and stop on time.

Be sure to determine in advance how much time you have for the visit. Watch your time and when your time is up: say “I think that is all the time we have. We want to be respectful of your time and we thank you for the time you have given us.”  Oftentimes, the legislator will say, “I have more time”.

Anatomy of the visit:

  • Everyone should introduce him or herself and state where he/she is from.
  • Thank the legislator for service to the state or nation.
  • Tell why you are there. “We are here to tell you about the rent-to-own industry….”
  • Tell at least one story that describes or illustrates the problem that needs legislation or what will happen if legislation is approved.
  • Leave a handout with everyone’s name, email, address, and phone # on it. Staple your business card if you have one.
  • Thank the legislator/staff member for his/her time.
  • Take a photo of group with legislator or staff member.
  • Sign guest book when leaving, if one is available.

Be sure to follow up

  1. Follow up with a letter to the legislators (or staff members) you met, thanking them for their time, and briefly restate what you are asking their support for. Include a copy of the photo you took and ask the legislator to sign it and send it back.
  2. Send the photo to your local paper with a short letter about the visit and issue. If it is published, send a copy to the legislator.  If you have a Facebook page, post the photo and explanation on it.

Report what you learn and what you are asked. Information is powerful in any lobbying effort.

Be sure to complete a Follow Up On a Legislative Meeting directly on APRO’s webpage for each of your legislative visits and turn it in as instructed. This will be of great help in any follow-up efforts by your organizational leaders.

Do’s and Don’ts during your visit.

  • Watch jargon.
  • Ask about opposition/concerns with your issue.
  • Tell the truth – always.
  • Keep promises-follow up on requests for additional information.

Good luck and see you on The Hill!

©joe gagen. Used with permission.