Most my constituents know the best way to contact me…. through Nathan’s News (click Connect) . But what if you’re representative doesn’t have a blog/website (or doesn’t update/check it often)?
What should you do?
After five years in office, here’s what I can share from first-hand experience and by talking with several of my colleagues.
1) Mass emails are ineffective.
Let’s be honest. As state officials we serve the state but only our constituents can vote for us. Anytime you blast an email to the entire House or Senate delegation, you can be sure your effectiveness just went down several notches. Even the chance of being read goes down dramatically. Just email your House member or Senator or (at most) your county delegation. Now…if a bill is in committee or sub-committee, by all means email those members…but not all 170 officials in the state.
2) Phone calls at our paying jobs fall lower in the stack than those at our home or State House phones.
January through June (usually) most of us have very little time to make a living at our “paying jobs”. When we’re out of session, messages at work often have much less priority than those related to what pays the bills for our family. I know, most folks think “I don’t want to bother them at home” but if a home number is listed, it’s “fair game”.
3) Try emailing your opinions BEFORE votes instead of only sharing disappointment AFTER votes.
Most times you may not actually know when a vote is coming up – we understand that. But the media usually does and will have articles about “hot topics” usually the day before or the day of most votes. Sharing your concerns upfront gives more credence to your messages than simply complaining you didn’t like a vote AFTER the fact.
To be clear, there’s nothing “wrong” with doing any of those items above. If the choice was ‘do nothing’ or do those above…choose the latter. My reason for posting tonight is to make your communication MORE EFFECTIVE.
Alright, how about some “do’s”?
1) If you’d like a return phone call or return email, it’s best to let your official know.
Granted, most officials will return almost all messages/emails; however, I’ve found many times that folks just really wanted to have their voice heard and didn’t really require a return email/phone call. With as many as 30 messages a day or 100 emails, it does take time to reply and you can free up your official to return those that urgently wanted to hear from him/her if you simply say “no need to call or reply”.
2) If you really want your elected official to attend an event – call or email him/her individually.
We can get literally fifty invitations in a month and while we’re out of session, they often hold mail for a few days or longer before mailing to our home addresses. I’ve actually got invitations to events AFTER they have been held. With so many invitations (and limited time), officials will usually prioritize events they were personally called to attend.
3) Reply to constituent surveys. Show up at constituent service nights, office hours, etc. Take time to introduce yourself to your elected official.
While I may “know” many constituents through email, Twitter and Facebook . The ones that I personally meet obviously stand out and can be remembered better. (Note: officials represent 30,000+ folks so even though we may meet folks 5 times, we still might need some help with names). If you see your official in the grocery store or ball field, it’s ok to come up and say hello or introduce yourself. We are sent to serve you and we need to know you. The least-preferred time for an introduction would be if you see an official on “family time”…a dad watching his son’s ball game…a grandmother taking her grandkids for ice cream, etc. Sure, we’ll still smile and make time but we do like to keep politics out of personal family time. If not for us, for our family.
I want to give you some links that can help you be more effective communicating with your officials. If you’re not familiar with them already. Please go explore and save as your favorites.
Find your Legislator
You may be new to your community or may have never heard of your official. Click on “Find your 9-digit zip code” and type your home address. Seconds later, you’ll see your Zip+4. Put those digits into the computer and find out your elected officials.
This site has Bios on all South Carolina House/Senate members as well as links to legislation
Calendars (what could be debated on the floor on a given day) House Senate
Senate Caucuses: Republican Democrat
House Caucuses: Republican Democrat
Again….reaching out ANYTIME is preferred over never hearing from you but to truly make the most of your communication, I wanted to give you advice from me and other officials.
Elected officials who stay in touch constantly (and not just at election time) have a much better chance of doing a better job for you! We need to stay in touch and we ask that YOU do too!
We return in January and have much work to do – let us hear from you.