Effective Communication With Your Representative

As a Floridian, one of your greatest civic duties is to help elect the representatives who represent you and your community in our government. But your role in the democratic process does not end at the polls. By sharing your opinions and ideas with your representatives and senators in Tallahassee, you make your voice heard on the issues that matter the most to you and help them decide what action to take on pending legislation that affects all of us. They value your suggestions and encourage you to express them.

Throughout the year, state representatives receive a large amount of phone calls and emails from their constituents and concerned citizens from across Florida. How then can you be sure your voice is heard? Here are some helpful tips to get the most impact out of your communications with your representatives in Tallahassee.

General Tips

arrow Know who your representatives are and how to contact them. If you don’t know who represents you, you can find them by visiting www.myfloridahouse.gov and following the link under the ‘Representatives’ tab.
arrow Make sure you understand the legislative process. You don’t need to be an expert, but even the most basic understanding of the process will help you effectively express your ideas. To learn more, visit www.myfloridahouse.gov and click on the ‘How an Idea Becomes a Law (Intermediate)’ document under the ‘Student Resources’ tab.
arrow Contact your representative about a particular issue before the Legislature takes action on it. Most matters coming before the Legislature are well publicized before session.
arrow There is more than one method to communicate with your representative. You might choose to call, email, write a letter, or even visit your representative in their district office or in Tallahassee. You can also choose to give testimony at public hearings held by the Legislature. (To notify a House committee that you will be testifying, visit www.myfloridahouse.gov. Click on the ‘Visiting the House’ tab and look for ‘Appearance Request Forms.’)
arrow Tell your representative what effect you think a particular bill, if it becomes law, will have on you, your children, business, or community. Be concise, but specific.
arrow Sometimes the emotions surrounding a legislative issue can run high, but please be polite with the representative you are communicating with, even if you disagree strongly with them. Your communication will be more effective if you are reasonable in your approach.
arrow Suggest a course of action and offer assistance if applicable. Please don’t make promises or threats, neither will help you communicate your position effectively.
arrow Suggest a course of action and offer assistance. Don't make promises or threats.

Writing Effective Letters

Address letters to Members of the House of Representatives as follows:
arrow The Honorable John Doe
The Capitol (or) House Office Building
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300.
arrow Address letters to senators this way:
Senator Jane Doe
The Capitol (or) Senate Office Building
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1100.
arrow Be absolutely certain you spell your representative’s name correctly and use the correct address. If you don’t, you could lose your audience or your communication could not get to them in time.
arrow Type or print legibly. Sign your name neatly and give your address correctly so they can respond to you.
arrow Keep your communications brief. Try not to write more than one page. Concise written correspondence is more likely to grab and keep the reader’s attention.
arrow Identify your issue or opinion at the beginning of the letter so that it can be seen and understood quickly.
arrow Cover only one issue per email or letter. If you have another issue to address, write a separate communication.
arrow Back up your opinions with supporting facts. Your message should inform the reader not only of your opinion but also the issue at hand.
arrow Avoid abbreviations, acronyms, and technical jargon. Rather than impressing your reader, such terms will only frustrate him or her and make it harder for your communication to be received.
arrow Personalized letters have more impact, so avoid sending the same email or letter to multiple representatives.

Calling or Visiting Your Representative

arrow Plan your call or visit carefully. Keep to the point and discuss only one issue. Organize your thoughts ahead of time and make notes to help you stay on track.
arrow When planning to visit your representative, make an appointment. This will ensure that you meet with your representative or their staff and that your issue gets heard. Call or write for an appointment as soon as you know when you want to meet with them in their district office or at the Capitol.
arrow Prepare a one-page fact sheet concerning your issue to give to your representative if you are visiting with them. This will help him or her better retain what you have said after the meeting has ended.