Contacting your members of Congress is a constitutionally protected right that helps to ensure that the elected official’s constituents’ perspectives are heard and understood as policy changes are considered. A phrase that is often repeated on Capitol Hill is “if you are not at the table, you are on the menu.” Professions without actively engaged members have a more difficult time advancing key legislation and defeating harmful bills. On the flipside, professions who can successfully mobilize to educate their members of Congress on key issues are able to win tough legislative battles.
While getting involved may seem complicated, working with the American Academy of Audiology on legislative matters is simple. The Academy advocates on Capitol Hill for issues including childhood hearing initiatives, protecting scope of practice, NIH funding, and many others. Directly contacting your members of Congress allows the Academy to have a more direct line to policymakers as they consider legislation that will impact you and your patients.
Educate Yourself on the Issues
Education is key. Follow the Academy’s Audiology Weekly e-newsletter or visit the Academy’s advocacy website for information on the current issues. The website lists any legislation currently in play that impacts the field of audiology, as well as the Academy’s stance on the issues. Having specific legislation to advocate for or against makes it easier for your member of Congress to know how he or she can address the issues that are impacting you and your profession.
How to Contact Congress
Now that you understand the issues and want to get involved, contacting Congress is easy. E-mails, mailed letters, phone calls, and social media are all effective methods of communicating with elected officials. First, visit the Legislative Action Center under the Get Involved/Advocacy tab on the Academy’s website for assistance. Simply plugging in your address populates the action items with your two Senators and House Representative. From there, sending an e-mail to your members can be done with a few clicks. Be sure to read over the suggested letter and change it into your own language—adding a personal anecdote is a great way to make the message more effective.
You can also call your member of Congress. When making a phone call, be sure to have a rough draft of what you want to say using the Academy’s talking points and be respectful of the staffer’s time when he or she takes your call. It can be helpful to follow up with an email thanking the staff for his or her time and summarizing your discussion.
The impact of directly contacting a member of Congress as a constituent cannot be overstated. Many members of Congress make decisions on whether to support or oppose issues based on constituent feedback. Members of Congress take constituent correspondence so seriously that most offices employ several staffers just for this purpose.
Tips for Contacting Congress
Be confident. You are the expert in these conversations so remain positive throughout the interaction.
Use personal anecdotes and stories to support your argument. Personal stories help connect important public policy discussions to actual impact on constituents.
Stay on track. Staffers have a limited amount of time. Stick to one or two audiology-related issues to allow for a clear response and a positive conversation.
Set political differences aside. You may not agree with the member of Congress on broad political issues, but that member may be in an important position to advance audiology-related legislation.
Follow up after the meeting, phone call, or e-mail to thank the staffer. This helps ensure that the conversation is continued after your initial contact. Effective advocacy does not happen with just one contact. Oftentimes, it takes multiple contacts to help build a rapport with a member of Congress, so reach out in various ways as new information becomes available.
Be up front if you don’t know the answer to a question. If you do not know something, simply say that you will follow up with that information. If you are unable to find the answer on your own, reach out to the Academy’s associate director of government relations Adam Finkel at 703-226-1060 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.