Examining the myth about using email to an effective grassroots lobbying tool


Matt King
June 19, 2007, 09:13 PM

Examining the myth about using email to an effective grassroots lobbying tool

By H. Paul Payne,

While traveling from meeting to meeting, spreading the NRA message that we all must join together in support of our Second Amendment freedoms, I have been frequently asked which medium has the best effect on persuading legislators to vote in support of the Second Amendment. My answer has been simple and consistent: “Whichever one that you will use!”

Experience has shown me that all methods (phone calls, faxes, email, personal visits, hand-written letters, etc.) are effective as long as we take the time to make contact. If we fail to let our representatives know our views, then we are doomed to failure. So, when prompted by an NRA alert, use whatever method you have available so that your voice will be heard in our fight for freedom.

But for years I have heard that sending email to legislators is a complete waste of time. I could not disagree more! This myth has been spread by many sources and has seemed to achieve varying degrees of believability among our members. I hope to dispel this myth right now.

As you can probably tell, I strongly support the use of email as a lobbying tool. That is because it works! It doesn’t make sense to waste time and effort on something that doesn’t work! But ask yourself, “Why would someone tell you that using email doesn’t work?” Maybe they have a reason.

Some of the advantages of electronic mail are that it is:

* Free, easy, and fast
* Leaves a record that is verifiable
* Allows almost anyone at any distance to contact their legislators
* It is a commonly acceptable form of communication in today’s modern world

Some of the dis-advantages (as viewed by others) of electronic mail are that:

* Legislative staff must deal with people that would not otherwise be able to contact them
* Political consultants and mail houses do not make money in the same way that they would if “direct mail” campaigns and lobbying were done
* Groups with email systems and technology inferior to that of the NRA might feel that NRA has an advantage in the defense of our freedoms

While it is true the NRA in California has developed some of the most effective email technologies, we are continuing to benefit from new and more effective strategic uses of this technology. Our “focused effort method” has proven to be an extremely effective tactic when used by our dedicated membership.

Some tips to make your email efforts more effective by multiplying your efforts:

* Send your email to all legislators that are suggested in the NRA alert

If they complain that they are not your legislator, inform them that you will continue to contact them as long as they continue to vote on Second Amendment issues that affect you

When prompted by an NRA alert, use the NRA Members’ Council “One Click” email system

After writing your email (but before sending it), print it out and sign it, then send your email.

If you have a fax machine, fax a signed copy

In either case, mail the printed and signed copies to the targeted legislators

In conclusion, don’t hesitate to make phone calls, send faxes, write letters, and visit your representatives about pending Second Amendment legislation. But if you subscribe to the NRA’s alerts and contact the legislators when prompted, your emails will continue to have a tremendous affect in the legislature and the NRA will be successful in the defense of our Second Amendment freedoms. The most current NRA legislative efforts in California can be found at: http://www.nramemberscouncils.com/legs.shtml .

1999/2006 H. Paul Payne, All Rights Reserved.

From: http://calnra.com/tip-email.shtml

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June 19, 2007, 11:01 PM
In my experience, a hand-typed email is more effective than any form letter. I saw lots of form letters being chunked when I paged for the Alabama House of Reps. But all the reps I knew read their emails.

June 20, 2007, 12:14 PM
As with anything it depends on how its used, but in my experience with VCDL it can be VERY effective. They use it 2 ways. First, to maintain contact with membership and keep them informed of what going on. Second, when the General Assembly is in session VCDL has been quite capable of getting messages from its membership and supporters to delegates and senators.

June 20, 2007, 12:33 PM
Whether the critter reads the communique directly is a crapshoot.

What WILL happen is that the staffers will spend a few moments figuring out what you're for or against, and enter it into his tally sheet.

Therefore, the most important thing is to make it easy for the staffer to classify your communique in an actionable way. Don't make them work for it.


Re: NO on S1234 and related bills!


Re: YES on A1245 and related bills!

June 20, 2007, 12:54 PM
I've been over this before and I do it again.

Pick up the freakin' phone and call your targeted congressional representative and politely ask the staffer at the other end how that office would prefer to receive communication from the little people. I can tell you it varies by rep and by office location. For example,some reps hide behind email. It wasn't until 2 years into her term that Liddy Dole put out an email address. She preferred the printed letter IIRC.

Some offices like faxes. A fax is already printed and hence there is no need for a staffer to print up a copy. Where do you fax your communication? Depends upon the office. Chances are the head shed fax in DC will be busy during office hours. So wait until off hours or send it to an outlying office. I was told my multiple offices that faxes to district offices and pouched to DC if the are sent. Otherwise they will be tallied locally and the results sent to DC.

Phone calls are answered (generally) and the nature of the conversation is tallied.

Communications as a result of an advocacy groups organized effort is considered but not given the same credence as individual efforts. Seems reps would much rather have crafted letters from thinking voters. They want to see some work put into it.

But the one consistent response I've received is a caution to not duplicate communications. For example, don't send a fax or email then follow it up with written snail mail. I was told that under the best of circumstances it will be ignored. Worst circumstance is it pisses off the staffer who has to handle the duplicate communications.

Old Fuff
June 20, 2007, 03:10 PM
Keep in mind that most computers now have a FAX utility that can send a message generated within the computer (as opposed to being fed a piece of paper). If you write a message using your word processor you can cut & paste it to an e-mail format, or send it as a FAX. There is no reason you can't do both. :evil:

June 20, 2007, 08:33 PM
If you are going to use e-mail, be sure to put the crux of your message in the Subject of the e-mail, such as, "Please support HB 123," or, "Vote no on the immigration bill." That way, even if your mail isn't read, whoever tallies the mail will know what position you want the legislator to take.

Keep the body of the e-mail succinct, civil, and confined to the issue at hand. Long political or historical screeds about the BOR, 2A, FF, etc., won't impress them and won't be read. You want to come off as mainstream as possible. And, make sure grammar, spelling, and punctuation are perfect.


June 20, 2007, 09:27 PM
I have been very pleasantly surprised by the responses from my Senators and Congressman when I emailed them regarding the immigration bill.

Within just a few days I got messages back with their positions on the issue.

It was much faster than snail mail.

I think they get the information much faster by email. Otherwise your letter gets hung up in Congressional mail that has to get irradiated before the congress person can receive it.

June 21, 2007, 01:44 AM
Keep it simple, and easy for the minions to count.

If you don't get to the point until halfway through the third paragraph, you're wasting your time, because the guy has already hit the delete key.

June 24, 2007, 07:58 PM
Legislators can no longer ignore electronic communications like emails and text messages. These are the way the younger crowd prefer to communicate (and some of us older folks too). Any politician that ignores electronic communications is begging to be replaced at the very next election by someone a little more savvy.

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