Bee Day enables Tell Them's statewide network of advocates to come together to discuss issues, share resources and meet with their state Representatives and Senators to ask them to provide leadership and support on a wide variety of issues.
This year, Tell Them's key messages focused on the issues of reforming the state's 27 year-old sex education laws, protecting birth control and in vitro fertilization from legislation that could potentially make them illegal; cervical cancer prevention through expanding the availability of HPV vaccinations; and prevention of domestic violence.
Tell Them is just one of dozens of organizations that hold lobby day events each year at the South Carolina State House. What kind of impact do these events really have on public policy decisions?
A cynic might say that they don't have any effect at all - that legislators make decisions based on their personal beliefs, pressure from their political party or influence from paid lobbyists. However, grassroots advocacy remains a key tool in the toolbox of public relations strategies. Why?
Effective two-way communications models state that information flows both ways - that both parties have an opportunity to receive information, adjust and distribute information back to one another. This concept is truly at the heart of grassroots advocacy. Constituents meet with their legislators to share their perspectives on issues. Legislators listen, share their own perspectives and discuss possible outcomes. Hopefully, both parties leave the meeting feeling that their voice has been heard and that mutual understanding of one another's opinions has been achieved. From there, it's up to the legislator to determine if they will vote based on the desires of those who put them into office, or on the basis of their own opinions and the "party line."
Consider that in any given legislative session, legislators could have hundreds of bills cross their desks. While they have dedicated staff members who help navigate them through the process, surely they don’t have the time to read every word of every bill. Education and advocacy could make the difference in a legislator understanding the intent of a bill or even becoming the person to champion and shepherd it through the legislative process.
(Just in case you need a refresher on the process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFroMQlKiag)
The next time that an organization you follow asks you to take action by calling, writing or visiting with an elected official, keep in mind that these opportunities might enable a significant increase in the official's understanding of issues of importance to the communities he or she serves. The voice that changes their opinion – and that helps legislation get passed – just might be yours.