AASV advocacy in action
Amplify your influence: Building relationships with elected officials
Ever notice that it is easier to develop a relationship and establish good rapport with a new client during a routine herd check than during a raging outbreak of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome? The same could be said about building a relationship with an elected official. It's easier to build one before a crisis strikes.
Taking the time to build a relationship with your elected officials before you need them gives you an opportunity to address potential issues in advance. If you are in the middle of a controversial issue and have not taken the time to know your elected official, there's still hope. Following are some ways to build a relationship and get your voice heard!
Elected officials often hold town meetings. Usually, these meetings begin with a short presentation by the elected official and finish with an open forum. Take advantage of the forum to ask the official's stance on an issue, and state your opinion. After the meeting, introduce yourself to the official and any staff members present, and leave your business card with them.
Some officials host weekly get-togethers in Washington, DC, usually breakfasts, for constituents when Congress is in session. Senator Tom Harkin, for example, hosts a weekly breakfast on Wednesdays for Iowans and their guests. Contact your elected official's office to see if similar get-togethers are offered. If so, take advantage of the opportunity.
Offer to serve on any citizen advisory committees that the official may have. Sometimes officials have specific-interest advisory committees, such as agriculture, that meet once or twice a year.
Invite elected officials to speak at your meetings. Ask them to talk about a particular issue or to provide insights regarding the political process. If an elected official isn't available, don't hesitate to invite a staff member, such as the official's chief of staff or legislative director. Whoever speaks should be provided with the meeting's program and background information about your group.
Educate your elected official about the pork industry. Arrange a tour of a swine operation for your official and the official's staff. Plan to offer lunch or brunch afterward. Provide the official with an information sheet about the operation, including descriptions of individuals involved in the tour. Contact the AASV office for details on conducting an effective tour (Tel: 515-465-5255; Fax: 515-465-3832; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Letters to the editor
If you support a stance that your official has taken on a controversial issue, write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Officials and their staffs read the local newspapers of their district or state. Don't hesitate to send the official's office a copy of a letter that was published.
A letter to the editor is also a vehicle to voice your opinion on an issue or clarify misconceptions about an issue. This section is one of the most widely read columns of a newspaper.
Plan a "meet-and-greet" event for a candidate who supports your issues. Host a breakfast for the candidate and invite area veterinarians and friends. Ask the candidate to speak about his or her platform and allow time for questions and answers. Meet-and-greet events are generally not fund-raisers. They are avenues for introducing a candidate or newly elected official.
The political savvy swine veterinarian might consider hosting a small fund-raiser for a candidate or elected official. For guidelines, contact the AASV office. Meet-and-greet events and fund-raisers are two very effective ways to build relationships.
Whatever avenue you choose to build and maintain a relationship, the important point is that you get involved. If you'd like to get involved, but still have some unanswered questions, the AASV office is a great resource for advice and help.