Four Advocacy Tips From a Former Lobbyist
Tip #1: Get to know your elected officials.
If you don't take the time to form genuine and authentic relationships with your elected officials before you actually need something, then it will be that much harder to ask them for their vote when something important comes up. Thus, take the time to get to know your elected officials. There are many ways to do this: set up a practice visit with them, go to a town hall, or meet them in their office (either in your district or the state capitol). Forming this personal connection can take as few as 15-20 minutes and pays exponential dividends down the road. The College's State Legislative team led by Frank Ryan (firstname.lastname@example.org) would be happy to help facilitate a meeting with your state legislator. And don't forget to use the other members in your state as a resource; some of them may already have ties with their state legislators but you will never know until you ask!
Tip #2: Aim high and shoot low.
In other words, talk to the legislative staff and treat them just as you would treat your Representative or Senator. They are the eyes and ears of the members and they have very good memories. Staff oftentimes work in Congressional offices because they want to run for office themselves one day. And when they do get elected to office, they will likely remember how you treated them when they were legislative staff. As Mr. Carstensen mentioned at our meeting "I am another lobe of the Congresswoman's brain."
Tip #3: Tell your story.
As you know legislators love hearing real world examples of how an issue impacted your patients or your practice as they use these examples when discussing legislation. President Obama did this repeatedly throughout his presidency, often invoking the names of the example patients in his speeches.
Tip #4: Work with the lobbyists and legislative leadership within the College.
Mr. Carstensen's last tip was perhaps the most poignant. He mentioned that we are surrounded by experts within our professional organizations who deal with Representatives and Senators on a daily basis and can help us get what we need. We should get to know our College advocacy staff well and be available to them in case they need us but also remember to use them as a resource as well. They work hard throughout the year to make sure we achieve our advocacy priorities and they too may know someone that can help you achieve your state advocacy goals.
Advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint, so don't forget to play the long-term game. Participating in the state legislative process is important because if you don't get a seat at the table, you and your chapter will be on the menu! All in all, remember to have fun and focus on building relationships.
Sandeep Krishnan, MD, RPVI
Complex Coronary and Structural Heart Disease Fellow
University of Washington