Either way, you are calling on someone with power to take action. That power can derive from different sources — from an elected or legal mandate, or from popular support and the power of numbers. This is why raising broad public awareness of an issue through the media and grassroots organizing campaigns is often an essential part of effective advocacy.
2. Demonstrate significant community-based support. Constantly demon-strate to elected officials that you represent many groups, institutions and voters in your community.
3. Know who the players are and who to target. You must first determine whether the action you want government to take needs to be taken at the federal, state or city level. It is also important to know which committees and subcom-mittees will need to take action before your policy goal is adopted. Also, get to know not just elected officials, but also their staff members, who often do the “real” work and make major decisions.
4. Identify specific policy goals and a realistic strategy to achieve them. Figure out who, exactly, at what level of government will need to vote for the policy and then develop a person-by-person strategy to get them to take the actions you want. Politics is the art of the possible, so make sure to ask for something that may be difficult but not impossible for a politician to support.
5. Know your facts. Have at your fingertips as much relevant and resonant information as you can get. Then always have a one-page fact sheet with easy-to-understand charts and even photos that describe both the problem you want solved and specifically what actions you want the elected official to take to solve it.
6. Keep it simple. Use language that everyone understands, even if they are not experts on your issue. Every communication you have — in person, by phone, or in writing — should have one basic message, e.g.: “There is a housing crisis; it can and must be solved; here’s what you can do.”
7. Choose real results over confrontation. Nine times out of ten, you will get far better results meeting with elected officials face-to-face rather than picketing against them. In fact, confrontations often turn potential allies against your cause. Remember that opponents today on one issue can be allies tomorrow on another issue.
8. Convince the undecided. Don’t spend all your time “preaching to the converted.“ You will make much more progress focusing your energies on the people who are still uninformed and/or unconvinced.
9. The media is the message. Use the mass media, free cable TV and community newspapers to get your message out and educate people on the issue. Public awareness will help build a constituency for your issue.
10. Repeat your basic message over and over (and over) again. (See rule #6.) Just because you’ve said your message before, don’t be afraid to repeat it until you get the right person’s attention.