Communicating with Policy Makers: Having a Productive Telephone Call
Telephoning your legislator’s office is a useful way to communicate your opinions, especially on issues where an action is pending, such as a vote. You will not speak to the legislator directly. As with letters, legislative staff track the number of pro and con calls on various topics. As few as three to ten calls over a short period of time may serve to bring an issue to the attention of the legislator or key staff person. However, if the legislative schedule and your own schedule permit, it is probably better to write a letter.
- Call congressional offices directly or through the switchboard. If you do not have the direct number, you can reach U.S. representatives by calling 202-225-3121, and U.S. senators by calling 202-224-3121. Ask the operator to connect you to the individual office. If do not know the names of your members of Congress or want the direct line to their office, visit the UCS action center.
- Ask to speak to the aide who handles the issue about which you are calling. Your call will be much more influential if you speak to the correct aide. Congressional aides are very busy and are often under short deadlines and have demanding workloads. You may need to call several times to reach them in person. However, if you do not wish to have a conversation, you can leave a message with the receptionist stating your views.
- Know your facts. This simply means that you should be able to specifically describe the topic about which you are calling and state your opinion on what your legislator should do.
- Note your expertise. If you have professional experience on the issue on which you are calling, be sure to mention it. It will help to establish your credibility on the issue and may even prompt the aide to ask you for some guidance on the issue.
- Be brief. Aides receive a high volume of phone calls every day.
- Be timely. Timeliness is especially important when you are phoning. If the vote on your issue is imminent, the aide is much more likely to pay attention to what you say.
- Call the local office. Calling the office in your district or state, rather than the Washington office, can sometimes be very effective. If you are calling about a vote or other timely issues, always call the Washington office. However, if you are calling generally about an issue that affects your district or community, calling the district can be a good way to make the district aware of an issue.