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Emily Ellsworth Coleman
I worked for Congress for 6 years, and here's what I learned about how they listen to constituents.
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Emily Ellsworth Coleman 11 Nov 16
Replying to @editoremilye
First, tweeting or writing on Facebook is largely ineffective. I never looked at those comments except to remove the harassing ones.
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Emily Ellsworth Coleman 11 Nov 16
Replying to @editoremilye
Second, writing a letter to the district office (state) is better than sending an email or writing a letter to DC.
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Emily Ellsworth Coleman 11 Nov 16
Replying to @editoremilye
But, the most effective thing is to actually call them on the phone. At their district (state) office. They have to talk to you there.
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Emily Ellsworth Coleman 11 Nov 16
Replying to @editoremilye
We repped half a million people, it was impossible to read and respond personally to all letters. Impossible.
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Emily Ellsworth Coleman 11 Nov 16
Replying to @editoremilye
This was something in particular that I cared about as a staffer and worked very hard on, but the sheer volume of emails is overwhelming
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Emily Ellsworth Coleman 11 Nov 16
Replying to @editoremilye
So, we batched them with computer algorithms and sent out form letters based on topic and position. Regardless of method received.
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Emily Ellsworth Coleman 11 Nov 16
Replying to @editoremilye
But, phone calls! That was a thing that shook up our office from time. One time, a radio host gave out our district office phone # on air.
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Emily Ellsworth Coleman 11 Nov 16
Replying to @editoremilye
He was against our immigration policy and told our constituents to call. And they did. All. Day. Long. All I did all day was answer phones.
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Emily Ellsworth Coleman 11 Nov 16
Replying to @editoremilye
It was exhausting and you can bet my bosses heard about it. We had discussions because of that call to action.
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Emily Ellsworth Coleman 11 Nov 16
Replying to @editoremilye
If we started getting a pattern of calls, I called up our DC office and asked if they were getting the same calls and we talked.
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Emily Ellsworth Coleman 11 Nov 16
Replying to @editoremilye
Also, recognize that your letters and your emails get seen by staffers, just like your phone calls get answered. That's the way of it.
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Emily Ellsworth Coleman 11 Nov 16
Replying to @editoremilye
If you want to talk to your rep, show up at town hall meetings. Get a huge group that they can't ignore. Pack that place and ask questions.
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Emily Ellsworth Coleman 11 Nov 16
Replying to @editoremilye
We held town halls consistently that fewer than 50 people showed up for. And it was always the same people. So, shake it up.
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Emily Ellsworth Coleman 11 Nov 16
Replying to @editoremilye
As always, please be kind but firm with those staffers. They will listen and talk to you. I always, always did.
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Emily Ellsworth Coleman 11 Nov 16
Replying to @editoremilye
If you run an advocacy group, invite local staffers to show up to your events. Let them talk to people you work with and set up meetings.
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Emily Ellsworth Coleman 11 Nov 16
Replying to @editoremilye
I loved getting out of my office and meeting with advocates in immigration, healthcare, education, science, and every type of work.
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Emily Ellsworth Coleman 11 Nov 16
Replying to @editoremilye
Invite staffers on "field trips" and show them what it's like in your communities. Show them the work you are doing. It works.
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Emily Ellsworth Coleman 11 Nov 16
Replying to @editoremilye
Are you noticing a pattern here? The staff are the ones who run the ground game for Congress. Work on helping them understand and learn.
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Emily Ellsworth Coleman 11 Nov 16
Replying to @editoremilye
Because, if the staff knows you, when they have a question about a piece of legislation or amendment, they will be the one you call.
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Emily Ellsworth Coleman 11 Nov 16
Replying to @editoremilye
And, that's the best I've got for you now. I hope it helps. Use your resources the best way you can and get their attention.
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Emily Ellsworth Coleman 11 Nov 16
Replying to @editoremilye
Here's a Storify of my thread if you'd like to share:
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Emily Ellsworth Coleman 12 Nov 16
Replying to @editoremilye
I've been called out a few times for my suggestions being ableist, and I'm listening to that feedback, but I have suggestions.
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Emily Ellsworth Coleman 12 Nov 16
Replying to @editoremilye
Sending a personal letter to your congressman's state office is absolutely effective. If you can't call on the phone, try to do that.
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Emily Ellsworth Coleman 12 Nov 16
Replying to @editoremilye
Also, if you can get involved in local advocacy groups that have people who can do the in-person meetings or phone calls, that's good too.
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Emily Ellsworth Coleman 12 Nov 16
Replying to @editoremilye
But, ultimately, no matter what you do, if you communicate with your member of congress at all, you are ahead of most people.
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Emily Ellsworth Coleman 12 Nov 16
Replying to @editoremilye
Another FAQ: how do I know if my representative is having a town hall meeting? Sign up for their email list and you'll get notifications.
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