Write a Letter to Your MP(source: Environment East Gippsland)
The below ‘five tips on how to lobby an MP and not be ignored’ comes from an MP who was bombarded about an issue. It makes a lot of sense.
“This morning I awoke to find 43 unread emails about the issue of access to homebirth for Australian women on my blackberry. By the time I was on the train into the office this had grown to nearly 100 and continues to grow.” The campaign, although worthy, was a text book example of what not to do to get the attention of an MP and expect them to take some positive action on your behalf.
“Having spoken to a number of my colleagues this morning who have also received these exact same emails, here are 5 tips on how to lobby MPs and not be ignored”
Tip #1: If you are going to send emails, include where you live.
MPs are elected geographically. They have a democratic responsibility to respond to those that live in the area they represent. If you send a form letter that does not include the postcode or even the state that you live in, MPs can and will ignore it.
Tip #2: If you want your email read and responded to – original is better.
When my blackberry filled up this morning with exactly the same email I did two things. I set up a rule so the emails are diverted into a folder that I won’t look at again. I then drafted a standard response for automatic reply. For many MPs they will simply delete.
Send an original email, in most cases you will get a considered response in reply.
Tip #3: Be clear about what action you want the MP to take in response to your contact.
A general call to do the right thing lets the MP off the hook and means your time and theirs has been wasted. Always ask the MP to take action on your behalf. Be specific.
You can ask MPs to: raise the issue in parliament, write to the person responsible for making the decision that will help fix the problem, respond to you with their views on the issue and/or what action they have taken in response to your contact. You can also ask to have a meeting with you to further discuss the issue.
Tip #4: Make sure that what you are asking is something the MP can actually do.
Before you press send (or if you are developing a website for a campaign), find out who is responsible for making the decision that will fix/address your issue. Knowing the answers to these questions will increase your chances of the email getting to the best person who can take action on your behalf: In what jurisdiction does your issue fall? What action is required to address my issue? Does your issue require legislation? Can the Minister make a decision to change a policy and have it implemented?
As an example, asking a state MP to fix something that is the responsibility of the federal government will result in your email being ignored or flicked back to you.
Tip #5: Do your research and target.
If I receive an email that I can see has gone to every MP in Australia. I ignore it. On any given issue your first contact should be: your local MP, the relevant Minister, the relevant Shadow Minister plus others whose opinion you are trying to sway.
If you or the organisation running the campaign website, have done the research you will also know which MPs are already supportive of your cause and those that it is not even worth bothering to talk to about your issue. Target those with power and those you need to persuade. For those who are supportive enlist them to help you make the argument to their undecided colleagues. Don’t be afraid to ask your supportive MPs who they think you should be targeting on your issue.