At the start of every new legislative session – whether we’re talking about Congress in Washington or at state capitols across the country – it is critically important that PAs lay the foundation for legislative success early by introducing themselves and the PA profession to these decisionmakers who have the power to change the future of the profession for years to come. Here are 5 quick tips for getting acquainted and starting the process of building lasting, productive relationships.
- Do your research. Identify your new legislators and research their background; check AAPA’s Advocacy Action Center easy access to this information. Do they have prior healthcare experience? Do any of your CO’s board members have an existing relationship with incoming legislators? Are there other factors which might make them potential supporters of your issues? Most new legislators have extensive bios on their campaign websites where you can learn about their profession and interests.
- Reach out. Reach out via phone or email to congratulate the new legislator and briefly introduce yourself, your CO, and the profession. Indicate that you are excited to work together and offer to be a resource in the community for the legislator on healthcare – specifically, PA issues. Once they begin to set up their offices, be sure to reach out to the newly hired staff as well. They’re getting up to speed on many issues and you can serve as an important resource for healthcare-related topics.
- Arrange a meeting.As any successful PA advocate knows, visits (whether they’re in person or virtual) and personal communications from constituents are the best way to influence a legislator on an issue. Ask to meet with the legislator and health staffer in person or by Zoom (learn more about effective socially-distanced advocacy). Bring a brief backgrounder about PAs in your state and consider presenting your top legislative priorities for the new year. This is primarily a get-to-know-you meeting, so don’t overwhelm or aggressively seek their support quite yet, there’ll be plenty of time for that.
- Use your PA skills. Foster your budding advocacy relationships in the same way you build rapport with patients: be friendly, approachable, knowledgeable, and honest. Potential champions will come to see you as a trusted resource in their community, and you’ll be well-positioned to inform their decision making.
- Keep in touch. Establishing a relationship with your legislator is a marathon, not a sprint. Communicate often and let legislators and staff know the role PAs are playing in your community. Invite them to visit your practice/facility, attend their events in your area such as town-hall meetings, and participate in your CO’s lobby day at the state capital. Re-state your legislative priorities and your willingness to be a resource the legislator can count on. Show appreciation for their interest and efforts on your behalf – “thank you” goes a long way. AAPA has many grassroots advocacy resources to assist you on our website.
Building relationships takes time and persistence, but there is no better indicator of potential legislative success than the strength of your relationships with decisionmakers at the state and federal levels.
Questions about advocacy? Contact Kristin Butterfield, AAPA’s Director of Grassroots and Political Advocacy, at [email protected].