Staying Alive: Why Your Advocacy Efforts Should Extend Beyond Session

Sarah Criser

The 2015 Florida Legislative session abruptly ended with only 231 bills passed by the Florida Legislature. With more than 1,500 bills filed this year, many are wondering how to keep their issues alive and at the forefront of lawmakers’ minds. Here are five ways to continue your advocacy efforts over the next eight months: 

1) Implement Lessons Learned from the 2015 Legislative Session

Were concerns raised by lawmakers? Did your messaging fall flat? You probably learned a lot about your approach, as well as what worked or didn’t work, this session. Take the feedback you received, address any concerns and fine tune your message to increase the odds your issue is heard during the 2016 Legislative Session.

2) Continue to Interact with Lawmakers Outside of Session

What is passed – or not passed for that matter – doesn’t solely depend on what happens in Tallahassee during the 60 days of session. Much of a bill’s success depends on how familiar lawmakers are with the issue, whether it has a direct impact on their district and who is leading the charge. Through phone calls, district meetings and events, letters, and e-newsletters, you can continue to educate lawmakers about your issue and keep them engaged in any developments or work to secure additional support. 

3) Identify Additional Advocates 

Does a particular resident, business or industry support your issue? Incorporate them into your outreach efforts. Third party advocates, who can serve as spokespeople and reinforce your messaging with a personal story, can be especially valuable. Even better… an advocate who lives in a particular senator or representatives’ district. Utilizing individuals or businesses to tell your story will further legitimize your messaging and increase the chances that lawmakers’ pay attention to and support the issue you are trying to resolve.

4) Take Advantage of Pre-Existing Events or Create Your Own

Is there a month or pre-existing event already dedicated to bringing awareness to your issue?  Utilize these opportunities to further your outreach efforts. If not, consider hosting an event and inviting local lawmakers, advocates, and media to attend. Create social media accounts dedicated to your issue or the event to further community engagement. Or, make sure you are tapping the social media vehicles that your champions own. Post photos and tag attendees (especially any lawmakers), thanking them for their help in bringing awareness to your issue. You can also utilize social media to tell advocates’ personal stories or drive community attendance.

5) Utilize Media to Spread the Word

Now is the time to build relationships with the media – not the final days of Session. It is important to understand that unless your issue is garnering national attention, you will likely need a local tie to secure media coverage. Pitch interviews with local advocates and highlight area events to demonstrate why your issue matters to the readership. In addition, make sure to circulate any media coverage to lawmakers and their staff, as well as through your social media channels, to maximize exposure. 

If you take these proactive steps now, you can help your issue stay alive, so it isn’t just a bill during the 2016 Legislative Session. 

Sarah Criser

Sarah is MCG South Florida’s resident Olivia Pope – having served for more than five years as the spokeswoman for elected officials in Florida and Washington, D.C. Her experience developing campaigns to promote key issues at the local, state and federal level and ability to navigate under tight deadlines and crises (big or small) are unmatched.

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