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Lecture 5 Communicating with Policymakers. Andy Schneider, J.D. Former Chief Health Counsel House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Why Should You Interact with Federal Policymakers. To establish a working relationship in which the Member or staffer seeks your advice

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Lecture 5 communicating with policymakers

Lecture 5Communicating with Policymakers

Andy Schneider, J.D.

Former Chief Health Counsel

House Committee on Energy and Commerce

Why should you interact with federal policymakers
Why Should You Interact with Federal Policymakers

  • To establish a working relationship in which the Member or staffer seeks your advice

  • To understand what Members or staffers are concerned about

  • To educate Members or staff about your research and your agenda

Opportunities to speak with federal policymakers
Opportunities to Speak with Federal Policymakers

Congress (Legislative Branch)

Capitol Hill visits

District Office visits

Hearing Testimony

Department of HHS (Executive Branch)

Government Commissions (MedPAC, MACPAC, Long-Term Care Commission)

Legislative visits
Legislative Visits

Typically initiated by you or an organization you work with

Specified appointment (30 minutes)

More likely with staff than Member

Small groups (2-3) can work well

Large groups tend not to be effective

Whom are you representing
Whom Are You Representing?

Generally not yourself unless it is a personal story

Your university?

Your professional organization?

A community-based organization?

A coalition of groups?

Get explicit authorization

Anticipating your audience
Anticipating Your Audience

Jurisdictional – How does your issue relate to the Member’s State, District and committees?

Personal – Whatis the Member’s or staffer’s understanding of or commitment to your issue?

Political – When is the Member’s next election? What is his/her voting record on your issue?

Experience – How much legislative experience does the Member/staffer have?


  • Websites

    • Legal - www.thomas.loc.gov;www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/

    • Foundations and other knowledge brokers

      • RWJ Foundation, Commonwealth Fund, Kaiser Family Foundation

    • Members of Congress websites

  • Government relations experts (lobbyists) working for knowledge brokers can quickly get you up to speed

Dress formally and be on time
Dress Formally and Be On Time

Government is a formal place

Business suits are the norm

The pace is brisk

Members and staff will act casual about time but they are not

Be on time but not too early

Stay on time (even though Members and staff likely will not)

Setting the stage to deliver your message
Setting the Stage to Deliver Your Message

Briefly introduce yourself, what your organization does, and whom it serves

Acknowledge anything constructive the Member/staffer has done on your issue

To the degree possible, make a connection between your issue and how it affects the Member’s State or District

Boiling down your message
Boiling Down Your Message

You’ve got somewhere between 30 seconds and 3 minutes to introduce yourself, explain your issue, and make your ask

Use one-pager to organize your presentation

Avoid jargon/technical terms

Do a dry run before the visit

If it’s a small group visit, choreograph the presentations in advance

The one pager
The One Pager

A brief synopsis of your issue, your solution and your ask

Simply phrased bullet points with lots of white space on paper

Include pointed examples that make it relevant for the particular Member

Include contact information or card

T elling a story to explain your issue
Telling a Story to Explain Your Issue

A highly effective way to build a bond with a Member or staffer around your issue

Focus on a person or a family and include a few special details to help make it real to the Member or staffer

Bonus points if the affected party is from Member’s State or District

The ask
The Ask

Don’t just describe your issue, ask for specific help in resolving it

Members like to help and want to say yes - tell them what you want them to do

Your “ask” should be reasonable in relation to the Member/staffer’s power and jurisdiction

Some things you can ask of a member or staffer
Some Things You Can Ask of a Member or Staffer

  • Provide a letter of support

  • Attend a community meeting

  • Speak at a conference

  • Hold (or request) a hearing

  • Request an investigation

  • Support pending legislation

  • Introduce legislation

The follow up plan
The Follow Up Plan

Figure out who is doing what next

Make it clear how you think you can help move your issue forward

Plan for the next interaction

What to leave behind
What to Leave Behind

A business card

A one-pager

Possibly a research summary

No gifts

Executive branch visits
Executive Branch Visits

  • Similar objectives and techniques apply for meetings

  • Less need to emphasize State or District-specific details

  • Ask relates to flexibility agency has in issuing regulations within limits of law

  • Note ethical limits on Member/staff assistance


  • Congressional hearings can be on proposed legislation or to conduct oversight of Executive Branch or the private sector

  • Testifying at a hearing is more formal than a visit and is a public event open to the press with live webcasts

  • Witnesses usually testify as a part of a panel and legislators will often ask questions

  • You are either a majority or minority witness

Government commissions
Government Commissions

  • Intended to formalize expert advice of stakeholders

  • Often include representation of key stakeholders

  • Generally bipartisan

  • Researchers often prepare background or summary papers and testify

  • Commission staff will provide guidance on protocol for visits or open meetings

Be strategic
Be Strategic

  • In every interaction think about how you can use it to further your agenda

  • All talk is for a purpose; use it wisely to try to make a difference

  • In interacting with Membes and their staffs you are always “live”. Watch the jokes and “off the record” comments.

One pager homework assignment
One-Pager Homework Assignment

  • Your chance to practice boiling down your message to 1 page

  • Use bullet points

  • What is your policy issue

  • How does your research support a particular policy approach

  • What is your ask of the policymaker

  • Be prepared to share it in class next week