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5 Tips to Effectively Advocate

January 30, 2015

Jason Roth, director of public policy with the United Way of Northeast Florida, leads a role-play activity.
Jason Roth, director of public policy with the United Way of Northeast Florida, leads a role-play activity.

On January 28, Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute hosted the annual Northeast Florida Advocacy Training Day. Sponsored by United Way of Northeast Florida, Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition, and Jacksonville Kids Coalition, the event invited local advocates, teens, and online viewers to learn how they could become a change-agent in policy.

Featuring advocacy experts and local thought leaders, NEFL Advocacy Training Day shared five ways to make advocacy work for you: have a compelling message; do your research; be clear and concise; establish and maintain relationships; and be willing to compromise.

Have a Compelling Message

A compelling message is essential when becoming an advocate. Compelling messages will set-up your position, address the issue and draw the audience to your work. Stories, photographs and captions can quickly and impactfully communicate inform legislators and decision-makers about your cause. Melanie Lawson of WJXT-Channel 4 told attendees, “The media is looking for a story that our audience can connect with.”


Do Your Research

Being able to back up your message with facts is crucial, especially when dealing with policy makers and legislature. Executive Director of Jacksonville Public Education Fund Trey Csar said, “Stories are important, but they are not enough to make a case. It comes down to making a rational argument as to why this is best case to move forward.”


Be Clear and Concise

Policy makers and legislators have a limited amount of time to think about the volume of issues that they receive every day. By articulating your thoughts and actions clearly and concisely you can address all your concerns and use their time effectively.


Establish and Maintain Relationships

Establishing and maintaining relationships with other advocates, policymakers, and legislative committee members opens doors and avenues for you down the road and helps your cause long-term. According to Trey Csar, “People relate to people. Trying to find ways and keep that relationship going outside of that legislative session. Invite them to events and never waste an opportunity, so, when you need something done you let folks know.”

Jason Roth, public policy director at United Way of Northeast Florida, added, “Whoever you’re battling with today, you may need as your friend tomorrow.”


Be Willing to Compromise

To maintain relationships, compromise is vital. Relenting on certain parts of an issue is a high possibility if you want to preserve and address more important issues. Trey Csar states, “Don’t treat an individual, or a specific group, or special interest group as an permanent enemy. Alliances can shift depending on the issue. We and someone who disagrees with us on an issue can both be in service to kids and just approaching an issue from different perspectives.”


Missed our live panel of experts? Watch it here.