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Shaping the Message

Download a printable PDF worksheet here to help you shape your message

LegislativeTo be effective, your message should show how the proposed legislation/policy benefits or harms the lawmaker’s constituents. Be clear about what you are asking (vote for/against a particular measure, persuade other committee members to support your side). Whenever possible, include supporting facts, examples, and stories specific to the legislator’s district. Use the “What’s Your Story?” campaign to collect great stories from your library patrons that demonstrate how your library shines in your community.

Be prepared to summarize the library message in one minute or less. Time is extremely precious for public officials because of the many demands on them. It’s not uncommon for legislative visits or testimony in legislative hearings to be limited to five minutes. Don’t expect meetings to last more than a half-hour and often, much less.

A well-organized presentation is much appreciated by time-pressed legislators and their staffs. Well-intentioned individuals who do not stay “on message” hurt your cause more than help it.

Who Can Be Most Effective?

Selecting the best person to deliver your message can make the difference as to whether or not you are successful. Smart legislative advocates know which legislators are most important. They also know the names of those who are in a position to influence the legislator. The most important person to any elected official is a voting constituent.

Other important people are:

  • Campaign donors
  • Local civic and business leaders
  • Editors of local media who shape editorial opinions and news coverage
  • Potential candidates who may oppose lawmakers in future elections
  • Individuals who have had a positive impact on his/her life

Libraries have just about every kind of person imaginable as users and supporters. Just as politicians rank the importance of certain constituency groups in terms of their value, we need to do the same in order to know who can best champion our cause.

Excerpted from the American Library Association’s A Communications Handbook for Libraries, published in Summer of 2004. To see A Communications Handbook for Libraries in full, please visit: http://www.ala.org/ala/pio/availablepiomat/online_comm_handbook.pdf.

  • Montana State Library
  • P.O. Box 201800, 1515 East 6th Avenue
  • Helena, MT 59620-1800
  • Phone: (406) 444-3115
  • Fax: (406) 444-0266
  • msl.mt.gov