Collected here are resources to inform and equip you as an advocate and plug you into the state’s and the nation’s leading advocacy organizations.
POLITICAL ADVOCACY 101
When you care for a person you can change a life. When you advocate for a people you can change a society. ARmindsMatter is built for advocacy, and we’ve gathered resources here to inform and equip you as an advocate and plug you into the state’s and the nation’s leading advocacy organizations.
Building a relationship with elected officials is both intimidating and rewarding. It’s also one of the highest leverage ways to influence policy in Arkansas. Use these tips to start a working partnership with those representing you and your clients.
Before you begin, be mindful of your legislator’s committees. If they are on the House or Senate Public Health or other Medicaid-related Committees then they will most likely have knowledge of Medicaid. If they are on none of these committees, tailor your message to more of a “lay audience.”
- Invite your legislator to tour your facility, get to know you and your clients. In an election season, they should be eager to meet. Invite your legislator to a 15-30 minute tour followed by a sit-down Q&A. Prep your people and your comments to underscore the human, social and economic impacts of behavioral healthcare in your community. Having legislators know that you are in their district and understand the work you do is invaluable now and in the future.
- Articulate your message and be prepared to email, call or text your legislator. Texting is a perfectly acceptable way to contact your legislator and several of them have cell phones listed as their public numbers. If you are calling and emailing, be brief. With phone calls especially, be sensitive to the legislator’s time.
Prepare! Are you calling to actively advocate a position, policy or legislation? Do you simply want them to know that you are a voting mental health provider/employee/licensure? Do you want them to do something specific? Your request should be clear and concise.
Feel free to put your own spin on it. Do you have a real-world situation that would show the legislator how Medicaid cuts directly impact lives in his or her district? Say so; this is the time. Try to stand out and give them something memorable. Underscore that you are in their district; most legislators are interested in their constituents’ opinions.
- Give feedback to us at The STARR Coalition. We want to know how your visit or text/email reply went. This helps us to gauge the political temperature in the legislature and it helps you to engage with your legislator. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments and experiences.
- Stay plugged in to The STARR Coalition and any other advocacy groups. Once you’ve become acquainted, don’t stop. Continue to foster your relationship with your legislator. Show up where you know your legislator will be and speak with him or her–at the local civic club, at the county fair, at community events. Be seen over and over until you are on a first name basis. It is your responsibility to be open and honest with your legislator to become a trusted confidant when it comes to the way behavioral health impacts people’s lives in their district. They will start to see you as a resource and they may begin calling you about issues regarding behavioral health. You’ll find that it is rewarding, empowering and it will give you a great sense of fulfilling your duty to your clients, family members and so many other special lives that you touch.
SOCIAL MEDIA ADVOCACY 101
Social media is an increasingly used tool to get desired public policy results.Social media as an advocacy tool has exponentially increased in the past several years with non-profits, trade associations, labor unions and civic groups leveraging their numbers to move their interests forward. It is allowing more voices than ever to exercise their First Amendment right to impact their government at all levels. We hope this sheet equips you with the knowledge and skills to advocate for ARmindsMatter through your social media accounts.
- Tag elected officials and representatives by using the @ sign and look for the verified or official handle with a checkmark next to each name. Check out this website for social media handles of elected officials in Arkansas.
- Keep your messages short and under the 140 character limit.
- Be cautious about retweeting breaking information. Check out these tips for what to watch out for regarding “breaking news.”
- Share what others are saying by using the Retweet feature. Retweeting is a great way to quickly spread awareness and create conversations on Twitter.
- Use the phrase PRT (Please Retweet) to encourage sharing of your tweet.
- Include a photo or video. Facebook posts with photos or videos are visible to more people.
- Tag your elected officials to make your post visible to more followers. Do this by typing their name in your post, or using the @ sign prior to their name. Check out this website for social media handles of elected officials in Arkansas.
- Make it public. To make your post visible to the largest audience possible, click on the lock icon next to the post button and make sure it is set to public. Don’t forget to set the settings back to Friends for your personal posts.
- Share your personal story. Draw from your own experience using your own words.
- Communicate with respect. Whether you’re sending individual messages or using social media as a public forum, be professional and polite.
- Create and share events and pages relating to the causes you are promoting. Invite your friends to attend and like pages and events as well.
- Comment like you would on Facebook.
- Use several hashtags. Instagram encourages multiple hashtags and this will reach more people. Place your hashtags in the first comment on your post.
- Tag your elected officials with the @ symbol. If they don’t have an account, add a hashtag (#) before their name.
- Communicate directly with your elected official by sending a direct message.
- Follow organizations who support and advocate for the same issues and causes
Using the tips and tricks for each social media platform, make sure to follow these guidelines when creating your content and messages on social media:
Whether it’s showing up for a local community workshop, volunteering for a nonprofit, or retweeting activism-related information to your online network, there are so many ways to use your social platform for good.
Particularly with our constant access to information, it can be easy to lose sight of how small pieces of the puzzle are crucial to effecting larger, long-lasting change. By reaching out to your elected officials, you can be part of the larger voice and have the ability to make change happen.
Small steps—like voting in local and state elections, calling or tagging your representatives, or creating a community group for political education—have a major impact. According to Harvard Business Review, easy-to-replicate, low-risk tactics are the most likely to succeed.
The best thing about social media activism is how accessible it can be. Actions like organizing, going door-to-door for a campaign, or showing up for an in-person rally may be beyond your interest or availability. But adding your voice on social media is as near as your phone.