Management

NSTA Advocacy in Action — How to Be an Effective Advocate

Ronna Weber
Posted on June 3, 2016
Pretend that your elected official is supporting a provision that would drastically increase processing time for CDLs. If you have already developed a relationship, you can contact or meet with the official or their staff and explain the effect this provision would have.
Pretend that your elected official is supporting a provision that would drastically increase processing time for CDLs. If you have already developed a relationship, you can contact or meet with the official or their staff and explain the effect this provision would have.

Advocating for your company and your interests with the elected officials representing your area, district, or state is something everyone can and should do.

For the heavily regulated school bus industry, it is imperative that your elected officials know who you are, the services you provide, how many employees you have, and your role in the community. Elected officials are there to represent you and your interests, and if they are unfamiliar with you, they cannot take your opinion or your business into consideration in their official actions.

Building a relationship with an elected official — regardless of the office the official holds — rests on a foundation of education. In order to be effective, you should understand the area the official represents, their positions on issues, and how they may perceive you and your business.

There are many ways to develop and grow these relationships:

•    Social media: Facebook and Twitter present many opportunities to follow officials’ positions on issues and become informed about events they attend. Most elected officials also have newsletters you can sign up to receive electronically.
•    Town halls: Many officials hold town halls or regular meetings with their constituents. Your presence at those meetings says a lot to an elected official about your priorities and is a great opportunity for you to introduce yourself to the official and their staff.
•    Meetings: Scheduling a meeting with the elected official allows a great opportunity for a one-on-one conversation about the issues of greatest importance to you. Be prepared to tell the official about your business and discuss issues of concern to you. Officials usually want to help, so it is important to ask for their support on an issue. At the end of the meeting, invite the elected official to tour your facility and meet your employees. Having them see your business is one of the best ways for them to begin to understand and appreciate your business.

Once you have developed a relationship with an elected official, you will want to cultivate that relationship. Cultivation is easily done by staying in touch with staff and the official on the issues you have brought to their attention; trying to see the official and their staff at public events; communicating with the official by letters, email, phone calls, etc.; and scheduling additional meetings as issues progress or new issues arise that could benefit from discussion and an explanation of your views.

Ronna Weber is executive director of the National School Transportation Association.
Ronna Weber is executive director of the National School Transportation Association.
So why are these relationships so important? For a moment, pretend that your elected official is supporting a provision that would drastically increase processing time for commercial driver’s licenses. If you have already developed a relationship, you can contact or meet with the official or their staff and explain the effect this provision would have on your business.

Given that the official is familiar with your role in the industry and the community, the official might be interested to see the other side of the issue and support a compromise — especially if the official simply didn’t understand the effect the provision would actually have.

The time you spent developing this relationship is an investment in the future of your business, and it is much easier done on your time and when you don’t need help.

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