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Legislative Advocacy 101: Tools and Tactics for Communicators
September 26, 2002
665 McNamara Alumni Center


Program Summary:
Do you talk to legislators or legislative candidates in your district about the University? Do you encourage Minnesotans to vote in your mass communications? After attending this session, you just might!

Donna Peterson and Nicole Bennett empowered participants with basic knowledge of the upcoming election, including the University's relations with state policymakers, how to get involved as communicators, and the timeliness of the biennial budget.

Peterson indicated that 25-40 percent of the legislature would be comprised of newly elected officials this November, so this is a very important year to share positive University experiences with candidates. She discussed how college deans often establish relations with elected commissioners in parallel offices in the State..If colleges and their deans make positive impressions on State officials, they're more likely to be supported by elected officials in the biennial budget. As communicators, we can help.

To sell or pitch the University, Peterson reported that the University will be focusing on accountability, good news stories (that's where we come in), facts, rankings, relationship between the University economy and quality of life, and personal stories (the most powerful, says Peterson). Where possible, put the message in our communications that citizens should get involved, and talk to candidates and their legislators asking their position on University funding. Also, write good news stories about the University whenever possible.

And it doesn't end there. Peterson outlined the legislative timeline, demonstrating the importance of continuing conversations with elected officials in the new year. In January 2003, legislators "go into session" and begin working on the biennial budget for the next two years (July 2003 to June 2005), and that's where the real work begins.

Confirming this message, Nicole Bennett in her work with the UMN Legislative Network is asking Minnesotans to phase their involvement in the legislative process: speak positively about the University to candidates, family members, and friends (now); keep in touch with elected officials (December/January); and motivate them to support the University in the biennial budget (Spring 2003). More specifically, she encouraged us to be advocates for the University by Communicating with our legislators and legislative candidates, Volunteering our time or money to support a candidate's campaign, Telling candidates that we expect them to support the U, and Joining the Legislative Network. For more information, go to For more information about how to be an advocate for the U, legislative updates, and more, go to the Government Relations Web site at

Q&A Summary:
Which candidates support the University? Speakers indicated that there is little track record for candidates in terms of supporting postsecondary institutions, so communicators were asked to talk with legislators about the University and share their positive stories.

How effective are mass mailings or e-mailings? Not very. The more personalized the correspondence can be, the better. Unfortunately, due to the overload of information, emails do not have the impact they once did. Speaking directly with candidates is most effective.

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