Legislative Advocacy 101:
Tools and Tactics for Communicators
September 26, 2002
665 McNamara Alumni Center
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 http://www.alumni.umn.edu/legnetwork.
For more information about how to be an advocate for the U, legislative
updates, and more, go to the Government Relations Web site at http://www.umn.edu/govrel.
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.