Legislative Day 2014

Any Scandal fans out there?  Or better yet fans of Olivia Pope?  I like to think that recently, I had an Olivia Pope moment.  More like I channeled the aura of Ms. Pope.  If you know anything about Kerry Washington’s character, Olivia then you might be reading this with a raised eyebrow!  But, trust me there’s NO scandal going down with this RD2BE.

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 (Photo Source) 

Why am I in awe of Olivia Pope?  She is a strong, smart, and beautiful woman that struts her stuff in these impeccable clothes with ease.  She’s usually in a shade of white and she always looks sophisticated!  She’s dubbed as the fixer.  As the boss of Olivia Pope & Associates, she is a crisis manager, guarding public images and reputations.  She also solves crimes in her clients’ interests.  Clients call on her when they want to get things done.  Period!

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(Photo Source) 

But, then Olivia Pope is also a AWE-NO!!! 

The imperfect part about Olivia Pope is she’s an adulterer!  She’s having an affair with the President of the United States.

Well, let’s focus on her former qualities rather than the latter.

My Grassroots Lobbying Experience 

Channeling Olivia’s good qualities … Sadly, minus the wardrobe, I went to Missouri’s capitol, Jefferson City to be the fixer, i.e. engage in grass roots lobbying.   I’ve had an interest in this area of dietetics for a while.  I took an Advocacy for Professional Practice class that got me pretty pumped.  I can now say I put some of what I learned into practice.  It was an empowering day!  So, here’s what went down…

On April 29th, Missouri Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (MOAND) members trekked to Jefferson City to lobby, grassroots style.  Lobbying is basically communicating your interest, knowledge, or belief about a subject or cause in attempt to sway or influence the decisions made by governmental officials.  On this particular day we went to seek support for Senate Bill 769/House Bill 1493, which will allow registered dietitians to receive reimbursement for their critical role in the treatment of eating disorders.

Lobbying is not hard to do, but it is an activity in which you need to be prepared.  Overall, its just a conversation.  I felt semi-prepared prior to making it to the capitol.  However, it didn’t quite click with me until we were in the swing of things bouncing from government official to official exactly how to make the pitch?  If that makes sense??

After a few visits, and this process went quick, I realized that we were presenting the components of an advocacy kit.  I learned about an advocacy kit in the class mentioned above.  An advocacy kit is pretty much a set of resources to make sure that your advocacy efforts are effective.  Its kinda like a script.  But, this script may not be limited to your eyes only.  An advocacy kit can be left with your legislator or the individual that you’re trying to persuade for support of your cause.  And leaving it behind is a good move because typically you’re only in the presence of this person for maybe 5 minutes?  So, make plenty of copies and leave it behind, you want this individual to have plenty of time to soak this information in.

If you’re lobbying with an organization, typically a non-profit, an advocacy kit is available to you.  If not or if you’re considering going it alone then consider making one.  An advocacy kit can be made using your favorite word processing or publishing software.

Advocacy Kit Basics

There are 3 pieces to an Advocacy Kit:

1. Talking Points.  This document explains the existence of and importance of an issue.  It can be formatted as causes and effects or a question and answer format to prove why this matter is a problem.  Think of the 5 W’s (who, what, where, when why and how) when formatting to give the complete story in a limited amount of space.

2. Key Facts.  This document gives detailed evidence.  To compile this, you want to use credible sources.  So find peer reviewed journal articles, case studies, and statistics that support your cause.

3. Action Alert.  An action alert encourages supporters to do a specific task to impact the decision made on the proposed legislation.  Typically supporters are asked to contact their legislator by phone or in writing.

Now that you have your Advocacy Kit in hand, prepare yourself with these tips.

 Lobby Like a Boss: 5 Easy Tips

1. Do your homework.  Before you get too fired up, its a good idea to get to know your legislator. Find out what type of legislation  their typically in favor of.  You can also find out things such as education, which could be something that the two to you have in common, i.e. a conversation starter and possibly will help them remember you.  To find your legislator its as easy as a Google search.  You just have to input your address and zip code to find your constituent.

2. Prepare your dialogue.  Get your introduction together, i.e. who you are (titles), organization, why you’re a credible source. Define your communication objectives.  More than likely, the communication objectives will come from your talking points. Last, personalize your message.  Perhaps you’ve worked with a client or had a family member that has been a victim of the problem, telling the legislator about your experience my compel them to support the cause.

3. Prepare your correspondence materials.  This is where the advocacy kit comes into play. Make sure that it is concise, neat, and attractive.  Also, be sure that you have plenty copies.  Along with the advocacy kit, make sure you have business cards to leave with your legislator.

4. Practice.  Get in front of the mirror or practice with a friend.  As I said, you have limited time with this person or their staff so make sure that you can communicate all of your points clearly and in a concise manner.

5. Follow up.  Send a letter thanking them for their time.  You may want to reiterate a line or two from your key facts sheet.  Then close and ask for their support.

For more tips and to gain insight on the importance of RDs in public policy, please check out MOAND member and dietetic intern @CtheRD2be’s blog post about her attendance to the 2014 Public Policy Workshop in Washington, DC.

I hope that this post has taken the fear out of lobbying and encourages you to participate in your Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics affiliate’s Legislative Day next year.  And if you’re an RD2BE with plenty of time before you have to tackle dietetic internship applications, this is great experience that can set you apart from other applicants.

So tell me…

What issue or who are you an a advocate for? 

What nutrition policy are you currently working to reshape?  

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