Effective Communications

Getting to Know Your Elected Officials

Knowing your elected officials is relatively easy, and being acquainted is a big help when you need to communicate with them. Talking or writing to someone you know personally is almost always easier than dealing with a stranger, particularly a busy stranger.

Whether or not you know the official with whom you want to communicate, some simple but important points should be kept in mind:

    • be brief
    • be clear
    • be accurate
    • be civil
    • be persuasive
    • be timely
    • be persistent
    • be grateful

 

These points apply whether you are using the telephone, are testifying to a committee or just writing a letter or an email.

Some other common sense rules are obvious to most of us:

    • Don’t promise rewards, offer deals or make threats.
    • Don’t attack your opposition. Attacks on your opponents weaken your message.

 

Meeting with Your Elected Officials

  • Make an appointment by letter or phone.
  • Briefly outline the issues you wish to discuss in your letter or in your call. If you’ve had prior discussions about these issues, mention them.
  • Don’t insist on setting up the appointment through the official; he or she has competent helpers.
  • Be as courteous with staff as you are with your elected officials.
  • Arrive on time.
  • Limit the issues you discuss to not more than three.
  • Organize your presentation.
  • Be brief, friendly, and to the point.
  • Plan on not more than 15 minutes.
  • Prepare a brief summary of your comments to leave with him or her, and documentation which confirms your message. The written message should restate exactly what you’re asking of your elected official.
  • Offer to provide additional information and assistance.
  • Bring a second person to help present the message, but don’t bring a crowd.
  • If you’re asked a question you can’t answer, say so and ask for a chance to do some checking and provide the answer later.
  • Send a thank you letter, whether the official has been able to help you or not.

 

When You Write

  • Keep your letter to a single page. If you must exceed one page, make the second page an attachment which elaborates on your one-page summary.
  • Be absolutely sure you spell the official’s name correctly and have the right address.
  • If you’re writing to several officials on the same subject, individualize the letters.
  • Use your own words, not form letters.
  • Clearly identify the issue (or bill) you are writing about, and only discuss one issue or bill per letter.
  • Give definite and concise reasons for your position.
  • Be specific. A few facts and figures supporting your position will be more effective than just stating your opinion.
  • Explain the impact of the legislation or issue on you and other constituents. What needs are being met or unmet? Provide facts.
  • Suggest, don’t demand, a course of action. Be constructive.
  • If you have expert knowledge or wide experience on the subject or your letter, let the legislator know of your expertise. Don’t be condescending – be forthright and helpful.
  • Ask, tactfully, for a response, and provide a return address.
  • Express your appreciation – say thanks.

 

Appropriate forms of address and salutation

US President

President (full name)
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr./Ms./Mrs. President:

US Senator

The Honorable (full name)
US Senator
Washington DC address
OR Oregon address (look up on the web through each Senator’s page)
(Use DC address when Congress is in session; otherwise use Oregon address)

Dear Senator (last name):

US Representative

The Honorable (full name)
US Representative
Washington DC address
OR Oregon address (look up on the web through each Representative’s page)
(Use DC address when Congress is in session; otherwise use Oregon address)

Dear Congressman/Congresswoman (last name):

Governor

The Honorable (full name)
Governor, State of Oregon
254 State Capitol
Salem, OR 97310

Dear Governor (last name):

State Senator

The Honorable (full name)
State Senator (if to President, use President of the Senate)
Interim address
OR State Capitol address
(Use State Capitol address when Legislature is in session; otherwise use interim address)

Dear Senator (last name):

State Representative

The Honorable (full name)
State Representative (if to Speaker, use Speaker of the House)
Interim address
OR State Capitol address
(Use State Capitol address when Legislature is in session; otherwise use interim address)

Dear Representative (last name):

Superintendent of Public Instruction

The Honorable (full name)
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Oregon Department of Education
255 Capitol Street NE
Salem, OR 97310-0203

Dear Superintendent (last name):

State Treasurer

The Honorable (full name)
State Treasurer
900 Court Se. NE, Rm 159
Salem OR 97301-4043

Dear Treasurer (last name):


Commissioner of Labor and Industries

The Honorable (full name)
Commissioner of Labor and Industries
800 NE Oregon St. #32
Portland, OR 97232

Dear Commissioner (last name):

Attorney General

The Honorable (full name)
Attorney General
Justice Building
Salem, OR 97310

Attorney General (last name):

Secretary of State

The Honorable (full name)
Secretary of State
136 State Capitol
Salem, OR 97310-0722

Dear Secretary (last name):

County Commissioner

The Honorable (full name)
County Commissioner
Address
City, State Zip

Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms. (last name):

Mayor

The Honorable (full name)
Mayor of (place name)
Address
City, State Zip

Dear Mayor (last name):

City Council Member

Council Member (full name)
(place name) City Council
Address
City, State Zip

Dear Council Member (last name):