If you are planning a trip to Washington, D.C. and you are interested in meeting with your member of congress or a congressional staff member while in D.C., keep these simple steps in mind to ensure a successful visit. If you would like to have the assistance of the APS Washington representative, you may contact any of the PPB members.
Clarify the Reason for Your Visit
Maintaining a simple message when visiting D.C. will be key to the success of your efforts. In order to ensure that your message is clear, be sure to identify prior to your arrival who you are representing with your visit.
- Representing APS? If you are planning a visit to represent APS, only APS issues should be discussed. Make sure that your employer has no problems with you making visits with elected officials as an APS member to discuss what APS is trying to accomplish.
- Representing Yourself or Your Organization? If representing yourself or your organization, then it may be better to not discuss APS issues directly. Many organizations have a lobbyist in D.C. Therefore, if you are going through your organization you will need to follow your organization's policies.
Make an Appointment
Setting up an appointment is as simple as contacting the Representative or Senator from your state or other states.
- To find contact information, go to www.senate.gov and www.house.gov. Whenever possible, connect with your home state Senators and Representatives as they will pay far more attention to constituents than to other visitors unless you have a personal relationship with the member or the staff member working for a member from another state.
- If you know your Representative or Senator personally, request the member's scheduler to set up an appointment. If you do not know your member of congress personally, request to meet with the staff member that is handling the specific issues about which you wish to discuss.
- When you initiate your call, be prepared to explain the purpose of the meeting, who you will be representing, and the amount of time needed for the appointment. A good estimate of time is 10 to 15 minutes for a meeting with a member of congress or 30 minutes for a meeting with a legislative aide.
- Under almost all circumstances, you will be meeting with a Legislative Assistant (LA) or staff assistant who specializes in agricultural, environmental, or appropriations issues. In some instances, multiple LAs will be handling a particular issue, such as appropriations or homeland security issues. Being as precise as possible in articulating the purpose of your visit is essential to ensuring that you meet with the appropriate staff member.
Before You Go on Your Visit
Preparation is very important to a successful experience. Prior to your meetings, consider the following:
- Notify PPB regarding the specifics of your visit and to request additional information, input, or assistance.
- Plan 2-3 key points to address. These key points should be consistent with APS efforts, if you are representing APS or if you wish to support an APS position.
- If at all possible, try to find out your legislator's position on the issue.
- Think about potential questions that you might receive and be prepared to answer the question you least want to be asked.
- For additional input, contact APS's Washington representative, Kellye Eversole, to indicate your plans, review APS initiatives, outline key points to reference, and even ask for directions to buildings and offices. Kellye is happy to provide pointers and assistance for a successful visit.
- Confirm the meeting by sending a confirmation letter via e-mail or fax and reiterate the issue that you will be discussing.
At the Meeting
- Be prompt and patient. Remember that anything can happen at any time while Congress is in session and that your meeting may be delayed or cancelled at the last minute. If interruptions occur, be flexible and polite. If the meeting is cancelled or interrupted, ask if you may provide written materials (such as APS handouts) for the staff member and member of congress.
- Plan on meeting with very young, extremely bright, politically savvy staff members. The average age of a staffer is in the low twenties. If Congress is out of session on a Friday afternoon, they may be dressed in blue jeans and t-shirts. This is not a sign of disrespect; rather, it is an acknowledgement that they are working 50 to 65 hours or more a week in a very high stress job and if they do not need to be in business dress attire, they likely will not be. Members of congress rely heavily on their staff members for guidance and the staff member will want to hear your thoughts and concerns about your issue so they can properly brief their members of congress. In all cases, it is the staff members who follow-up on all action items for the members of congress. Thus, maintaining a good relationship with the congressional staff is essential to your issue.
- Be prepared. Keep your thoughts short and to the point. Use examples to support your position, and, if possible, use examples that are pertinent to the district or state that the member of congress represents. If representing APS, clearly indicate the key initiatives that the APS is working on. Have appropriate APS handouts to support these initiatives and identify the impact and benefits associated with these initiatives. Be ready to answer questions regarding the issues you present. If you do not know the answer, indicate that you will find out the answer and get back to the staff member or the legislator.
- Show a connection. Demonstrate the connection between what you are requesting and the interests of the legislator's constituency. Indicate how APS can help with this issue.
- Provide an opportunity for follow-up. Make sure you leave behind a business card or complete contact information and indicate your willingness to answer any questions they may have subsequent to the meeting.
After the Meeting
- Be responsive. If questions were raised that need additional follow-up, contact the APS Public Policy Board so that an answer, report, or information can be sent to them.
- Follow-up with a letter expressing your appreciation for the opportunity to be heard and repeat therein the key issues that were discussed.
Your efforts have helped raise the awareness of plant pathology and the APS. Please tell PPB about your efforts and how your meetings went, if you had the information you needed, and your feeling on whether it is worth trying again.