By Laura Walling, Senior Director of Government Affairs, Goodwill Industries International
“Congressman, you have to unmute.”
“We’re hearing some background noise, Senator.”
These are the most common phrases I’ve heard while streaming congressional hearings recently. Just like us, lawmakers working from nearly empty hearing rooms on Capitol Hill or from their homes or offices are getting used to working remotely and via different technology platforms. Office closures and social distancing has not stopped Congress from their ability to conduct their business, and it should not prevent advocates from engaging with lawmakers and staff. In fact, it’s more important now that constituents be able to contact elected officials and share the impact that the pandemic is having on individuals, families, communities and employers.
Below are some helpful tips on conducting remote advocacy.
Leverage Social Media
Be sure to follow your local lawmakers on their Facebook and/or Twitter channels. They may also have newsletters to which you can subscribe via their websites. Many lawmakers use these platforms as a way to share their positions on legislation, post upcoming events and amplify community outreach efforts. The platforms also include a way for you to provide comments and questions.
Organizations engaging in advocacy may also ask their advocates to utilize the same social media messages, infographics, hashtags, and/or profile pictures and banners to help amplify their messages and show solidarity.
While some are away from their physical offices or their district offices are closed, email has become the preferable way for Hill staffers to hear from advocates. GII’s legislative action center allows advocates to send emails that will reach their lawmakers based on the advocate’s zip code.
Many organizations host Capitol Hill days, during which advocates fly in to meet with lawmakers in D.C. (some also hold these events in state capitals as well). These events can also take place virtually. Organizations may schedule meetings as they normally would, but request either a conference call or video chat appointment.
Telephone Town Halls
In lieu of in-person community forums, many lawmakers are hosting regular Town Hall calls with constituents on a wide variety of topics. Callers can typically ask questions in a moderated forum.
Letters to the Editor
This advocacy tactic should not be overlooked. Letters to the editor provide an opportunity to raise awareness of an issue and there are many ways you can then share the letter, hence amplifying the exposure.
Virtual Site Tours and 360-Degree Videos
Local Goodwill organizations can utilize virtual site tours as an alternative to inviting a member of Congress, their staff or other officials to visit their facility and see the mission in action.
Advocate video testimonials are a great way to capture stories of impact. Recorded messages can then be shared on social media (be sure to tag lawmakers).
If you have utilized any of these virtual or remote tactics successfully or are planning to give them a try over the next few months, please add your feedback in the comments section below. We’d also welcome other virtual advocacy ideas that groups can adapt.
We hope that these tactics are helpful. Much of our grassroots advocacy has taken place virtually over the last several years, and we hope that our advocates will continue to help Goodwill strengthen our public policy influence for years to come.