Advocacy and Communication Tips
As an arts leader in your community and region, your organization may be
called upon to send advocacy alerts to members and others concerning local
arts and cultural development issues. Use this checklist to respond
successfully to advocacy alerts with elected officials of local, state and
federal government, businesses and individuals, economic and community
development agencies, and school boards.
DETERMINE PRIORITY TIMING
GET THE FACTS
- Is the issue critical?
- Does it need community response?
- Is there time to call or write people to request help?
- Set the timeline.
SET THE STRATEGY
- Gather and send out accurate information.
STATE THE CASE FOR YOUR ADVOCATES
- Who do you want it reach?
- Who does the contacting?
- Are there multiple strategies i.e., letters, calling, attending, and
testifying at meetings?
WHAT IS THE ACTION
- Be clear and concise no matter what the strategy.
- Try to keep everything on one page.
MEET THE DEADLINE
- What are you asking people to do?
- By when?
OFFER A SOLUTION
WHO SHOULD THEY CONTACT?
- Provide names, addresses, phone numbers of those to be contacted
- Make it easy for people to contribute their time and energy!
KEEP IN MIND AT ALL TIMES
- In a letter-writing campaign, ask your advocates to send you a copy of
everything they are sending to decision makers.
- Ask them for a list of the people they have contacted.
- We seek the support and endorsement of individuals, businesses, and
- We believe the arts are an integral part of the well-being of our
- We believe the arts play an important role in tourism and economic
- We believe artists need an environment that nurtures and sustains their
TIPS ON LETTER WRITING
TIPS ON PHONE CALLS
- Be brief and concise. A hand-written letter is fine.
- Introduce yourself (mention the county and town or city you live in).
- State your reason for writing.
- Indicate the action you want taken and explain how that action will specifically benefit your and your community.
- Don’t overlook any opportunity to send personal congratulatory messages or thank you notes for work an elected official has performed.
TIPS ON PERSONAL VISITS
- Write down the points you wish to make and use these notations as a reference as the phone call progresses.
- If the elected official is unavailable, ask to speak with the aide who works on the issue you want to discuss. Aides can often be extremely influential in the legislative decision-making process.
- Introduce yourself and mention the county and town or city you live in—especially if you live in the elected official’s district.
- Be brief and concise. Limit your call to one or two minutes. Preparing a loose script helps.
- State your reason for calling, what action you wish taken, and what this action will accomplish.
TIPS ON OP-ED PIECES OR LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
- Call first to make an appointment. Be punctual.
- Be specific, brief and to the point.
- Ask the elected official or aide what his or her position is and how they will vote.
- Give brief reasons why you believe the elected official should adopt the position you are recommending. To be most effective, the framework for these reasons should be the legislator’s own viewpoint, interests and concerns (i.e., legislative committees serving on).
- State why your position will benefit the elected official and his or her constituents.
- Leave the elected official or aide with an issues briefing paper, along with your business card.
- Follow up with a thank you note and very briefly restate your position or request.
Before writing your letter or guest column, study the editorial pages published in the publication over the preceding 3 or 4 months. Try to put yourself in the editor’s shoes. What do they like to publish; what are the biases of the periodical; what are the interests? For your piece to get published, you must either have something new to say, or a unique perspective to offer on something old.
- If possible, visit with the editor(s) or your local publication(s) to discuss writing an op-ed piece or to see if the paper wishes to write an editorial on the issue you are concerned about.
- If you don’t visit the editor, do not hesitate to phone the publication desk to ask questions. In any event, it is wise to make at least one phone call before mailing your letter. Ask to speak to the editor assigned to handle letters. Let him/her know that you will be submitting a letter. Use this phone call to get acquainted with the editor; to let him/her know who you are and what your organization does in the community; to find out if there are any special requirements for the letter; and to briefly outline the issue you plan to address in your letter.
- Keep your piece short and sharply focused on the issue you wish to discuss. Letters should be no more than 450 words.
- Letters should be individually addressed to the publication. Dont send form letters. It is most desirable to address your letter to the person in charge of letters to the editor. Look on the page of the publication containing letters to the editor for the editors name, or phone the publication and ask for the name of the person to whom letters should be sent.
- To be published, the writers handwritten signature, printed name, affiliation (if any), street address and phone number must be included. The writers identity will be withheld only when requested and only under rare circumstances.
- Carefully read the editorial page of the publication for submission instructions and other valuable information. Some publications limit the number of published pieces by the same individual in a given time. If you are the author of a letter to be published over someone else’s signature, check with the publication about their policy regarding signatures. Many publications insist on an original signature of the person whose name appears at the close of the letter.
ADVOCACY and COMMUNICATION TIPS
Prepared and published by
New York State Arts & Cultural Coalition
|CHECK the ACTION ALERTS page regularly for calls to action and developments in advocacy for folk and traditional arts in New York State and at the national level.|
TIPS TO FOSTER COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS
- Send a poster of any arts event, past or present, to your elected official.
- Send elected officials your calendar of events.
- Put elected officials on your mailing list. Invite them to opening nights by sending a personalized letter. If you’re holding a benefit, ask them to attend as your guest. Be sure they understand they are being invited as your guest and are not being asked to pay.
- State officials send out newsletters. Call their office and make sure your organization is on their mailing list. If the newsletter contains information pertinent to your audience and/or artists, call the representative and ask them if you can reprint the article in your publications. Be sure to send the elected official a copy with the reprint highlighted.
- Use a letter writing campaign for all those involved in your cultural programming to send messages to your elected officials. Audience members should send letters on their personal stationery. Board members, corporate representatives and foundations should send letters on their business stationery. Keep the message simple and use a positive tone.
- Send a tear sheet from an arts program you recently attended to your local official, thanking him/her for making the event possible through NYSCA funding. Write the note directly on the program or on a "post-it" note. There is no need to write a special letter. Ask your audience and visitors to do the same with your programs.
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