Influencing the people with the power
There are several ways you can influence the actions of your politician, business leader, councillor – or whoever you think holds the power to unlock change for your issue.
The power of politicians
The UK has layers of political representation from Members of the UK Parliament, to national politicians in Wales (Assembly Members), Scotland (Members of the Scottish Parliament) and Northern Ireland (Members of the Legislative Assembly), to councillors in local government. This is very useful for us as campaigners, as it gives us lots of options for people who we could ask to bring about change.
You may also want to contact the Government minister responsible for a particular issue – for example, if you are campaigning about sustainable farming, it’s worthwhile also writing to the Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. You could also ask your local politician to write to the minister on your behalf.
The power of business leaders and other local influencers
Don’t forget that it is also worth meeting directly with business leaders or other local leaders and influencers. For example, if you are looking to improve a local green space, local businesses may be able to support you or help you carry out improvements.
Arranging a meeting
Meeting someone face-to-face is one of the most effective ways to influence them and it’s a great way to build an ongoing relationship.
The first thing to do is to contact the person you want to meet (e.g. your politician) or their office. Some people hold regular meetings that you could attend, so do ask if there are any meetings that you could join. For example, politicians hold regular meetings in their constituencies called surgeries and are an ideal place to raise your concerns.
You may not have long to talk, maybe only five to ten minutes, so it’s important to be prepared and to the point in order to get your key messages across successfully. Another option is to group together with others. Showing that there is a group of you who feel strongly may be more effective.
Pick up the phone
Calling the person you want to talk to can be useful if you want to do more than write a letter but are unable to visit them in person. Here are a few tips:
- Before you pick up the phone, make some notes of the key things you want to say. This will help stop you getting flustered or forgetting what you want to say.
- Introduce yourself and, if you are contacting your local politician, make it clear you are a constituent.
- Find out who you are speaking to, so that if you need to follow up with them at a later date you know who to reference or get back in touch with.
- Make your case succinctly. You will most likely only have a few minutes to get across your key points as the person you are lobbying may be very busy. Also, you are more likely to get their attention if you can simply and easily explain your concerns and what you would like to see happen.
- Be polite – always thank them for their time and leave your contact details in case they want to get back in touch with you.
Write a letter
When campaigning you often need to grab people’s attention, and this means doing things a little differently. Not many people now send letters so taking the time to do a personalised (maybe even hand written) letter can be extremely effective. Here are our top tips for success:
- Make sure they can get back in touch with you by including your contact information at the top of the letter. If you are contacting your local politician this will also let them know that you are a local constituent and potential voter!
- Have a clear “ask” – don’t confuse your core message by not asking for something specific or by asking for too many different things at once.
- Be succinct and try to keep your letter to one side of A4, if possible.
- If you are writing a campaign letter or email as part of an RSPB campaign and you would like some more information or support, you can always email us at the following addresses: UK HQ and England: email@example.com, Wales: firstname.lastname@example.org, Northern Ireland: email@example.com, Scotland: firstname.lastname@example.org
Things to remember
Be polite. It may seem obvious but being polite goes a long way to getting your argument taken seriously. The person you are trying to influence may behave badly, but you always have to take the higher ground by staying cool, collected and friendly. Always remember to say thank you for their time.
Leave your contact details. You will want to start a two-way conversation with the person you’re talking to, so make sure they can get back in touch with you and you know how to get back in touch with them.
Think about how to follow up. You may want to follow up a face-to-face meeting with a letter thanking them for their time – and reminding them of why you want them to act. As well as being a useful reminder, it also shows how serious you are about the issue.
Let us know how you get on. We’d love to know about your campaign and how it is going.
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