This last year is unlike anything most of us have ever experienced. We have adapted our activities in so many ways, and how we now engage in legislative advocacy is no different. Thankfully, there are virtual tools and electronic communication that make this a smoother process. These are a few tips we’ve picked up along the way to engage in virtual advocacy over the last few months.
- Stay in communication: utilize email, phone calls and virtual meetings to connect with policymakers and staff. It’s best to come prepared with talking points on the important issues that you’re the expert on. Be prepared to be flexible with scheduling and who’s in attendance.
- Ensure you’re on the contact lists for the state legislative committee hearings. You can request to be added to committee notification emails by reaching out to the committee chair’s office. This is the quickest, earliest way to be notified about the legislative process.
- Amplify written testimony: in this virtual world, it is likely we will see more written testimony submitted compared to in-person testimony than in the past. While this is limiting in some ways, it also presents opportunities to reach out to the members of committee by sharing testimony through email, connecting directly with staff in their offices and linking directly to testimony through your organization’s social media pages and/or weekly newsletters.
- Utilize social media: many Ohio policymakers are engaged on various social media platforms. While it’s important to be judicious in the way that social media is used, engaging policymakers in this way is a great option while we’re all mostly still functioning in a virtual environment.
- Communicate your issues with media: connecting with members of the media to help amplify the issues that are important to your work is a great way to get the word out. It’s even more impactful if you’re able to connect media with people who have lived experience — who exemplify why the programs and services you’re advocating for are so important.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list. We have seen a lot of ingenuity across the advocacy community this last year in engaging with policymakers and these tips are only partially reflective of the great work we’ve seen and have engaged in. We’re seeking to make the state budget process more accessible. And while we’re disappointed that robust virtual testimony doesn’t look like it will play a large role in the budget process, we’re hopeful that these tips are helpful.