9 ways to sharpen your lobbying skills

It’s time to start thinking about scheduling August recess meetings with your legislators. Here are some dos and don’ts for making your meetings count.

Do

  • Identify yourself as a constituent. Say that you are representing yourself and other community bankers in your district.
  • Be patient and courteous. Sometimes legislators’ schedules change at the last minute and you meet only with staff. Fear not: These meetings often last longer than legislator meetings, and staff are often pivotal in determining their boss’s position on a bill.
  • Be concise. Stick to the two or three major issues at hand. If you run out of time, it’s a great reason for a follow-up visit or phone call.
  • Go local. Connect the specific legislation to your mutual district.
  • Remind legislators that your customers are their constituents. Whenever possible, focus on your customers’ experience.
  • Be prepared. Do your homework on the issues and be prepared to talk about how they affect your customers and business.
  • Make a clear ask of the legislator. A specific request for cosponsorship of a particular bill or a yes/no vote is key.
  • Say thank you. Leave behind a lobbying card with the staff member for them to reference. Follow up with a thank-you note, and feel free to extend an offer for the legislator to visit your bank.
  • Tell ICBA how it went. Summarize your meeting with ICBA congressional relations staff.

Everything you need

Access issue briefings, informative videos and ICBA’s comprehensive Advocacy Toolbox at icba.org/advocacy

Don’t

  • Be late. Traffic in Washington can be unpredictable and security lines are often long. Leave plenty of time to get to your meeting.
  • Make small talk. Get straight to the issues at hand. Introduce yourself and jump right into the substance.
  • Be overly negative. When possible, focus on your customers and not your bank’s bottom line.
  • Discuss political contributions. It is illegal to discuss PAC contributions in government offices.

Three good reasons you should get involved in grassroots lobbying

  1. No type of industry advocacy is more effective than a community banker relationship with a legislator. By building a relationship with your senators and representative, you are a key component of ICBA’s legislative and regulatory efforts. When a lawmaker has a question about the financial services industry, you or someone at your bank should be their first call.
  2. Facetime is effective. By setting up in-district meetings, attending town halls or inviting your lawmaker to your bank, you will build a relationship. Be a good corporate citizen in your community and consider hosting a fundraiser for a legislator or contributing directly to his or her campaign.
  3. You can communicate the Main Street perspective to your legislator. Nobody knows your customers and business better than you. Personal visits in-district or in Washington, particularly during ICBA’s Capital Summit, personal phone calls with legislators and their staff, emails and ICBA calls to action are all great ways to make sure your lawmaker knows how policy issues affect you and your customers.
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