How to meet effectively with your elected representative

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How to meet effectively with your elected representative

Do you want your Member of Parliament or other elected representative to do something about an issue that’s important to you? Read our guide to one of the best techniques: meeting them, either virtually or, when social distancing relaxes, in person

At Cycling UK, we regularly ask our members and supporters to email their parliamentary/assembly representatives (MPs in Westminster, MSPs in Scotland, MSs in Wales and MLAs in Northern Ireland).

We usually set up an automatic action, making it as easy as possible to send off a template message to the right politician.

En masse approaches like this can, and do lead to progress, or we wouldn't do it.

But, while inboxes stuffed with carbon copies from the electorate are one thing, face-to-face meetings with individual voters explaining why a cause is so important to them personally, to their families and their communities are quite another.

Potentially, this can be especially engaging and persuasive.

So, if you (and/or Cycling UK) want your elected representative to add their clout to a cause, we thoroughly recommend that you arrange a meeting with them.

In our full guide (see below), we suggest seven steps.

Here's a quick summary of the steps:

Research your elected representative

Apart from their contact details, check out their roles, responsibilities, interests, views, voting record and speech-making history.

Have they ever done, written, said or tweeted anything to suggest they could be sympathetic (or not sympathetic) to your cause?

Use your gathered intelligence to frame your pitch and hook them in.

Think about what you want your target to do

Could they write to the relevant minister or Secretary of State? Ask an oral or written question? Raise the subject in a debate, or trigger a debate devoted to it?

This step is crucial: you need them to do something concrete, not just note your concerns.

If you’re not sure of the options/have a difficult choice/don’t know if your representative can actually do whatever it is, remind yourself to ask.

Compose your introductory email/letter

Keep this concise and clear, emphasising anything that shows how important the matter is to you, your family, your friends and/or your community. If it’s a national matter, explain why it applies in your local constituency area.

If possible, link it to your representative’s personal interests and political goals.

Support yourself with facts, links, reports and cases, but don’t go overboard.

Say you want to meet to discuss the issue further.

Put something in the diary

You may need to call the relevant office to find out what the meeting arrangements are if 'surgeries' aren’t operating because of social distancing.

Prepare to meet

Make sure you have the required application (e.g. Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, Teams etc.); if not, download it. Practice in advance.

Plan and rehearse your pitch carefully. Keeping the time limit in mind - typically only ten to twenty minutes - prioritise your punchiest points so that you’re guaranteed to cover them.

If you’re clear about the action you want to see, underline it; if not, underline your need to ask for advice.

Read through your notes, supporting documents and any list of questions. Clarity boosts confidence.

Meet

Keep an eye on the clock and keep your pitch on track (but be flexible); stay constructive, two-way, and invite questions.

But, most importantly, thrash out the action you want your politician to take, and leave with a firm agreement, timescale and follow-up plans.

After the meeting

Follow promptly with an email rounding up the content of your meeting, stressing your mutually agreed action.

Ask politely for updates, and chase as necessary.

What next?

In the aftermath, build on your relationship with regular contact and further meetings.

Also, please let Cycling UK know if you’ve lighted upon a supportive ally. This could be start of something big!

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