Ah, how different the world was on January 19th. How comparatively peaceful Facebook was. How many fewer marches were in the news. If you’re like most people out there, you have something to say about the Trump administration. There’s a lot of choices (particularly in cabinet members) being made right now that will leave lasting marks on American, or even global, history. However, no matter how much impact many of those vocal people like to feel that they do, political Facebook posts don’t carry much political effectiveness. You know what does? Actually contacting your lawmakers – and here’s how to do it.
Calling: Yes, actually calling.
Your single phone call may seem like a drop in the ocean of messages sent to your local lawmakers, but it’s the best way to make yourself heard. Emailing is the most commonly used method of contacting them, but that doesn’t mean it’s the most effective. Past government aides agree that a phone call is guaranteed more attention than an email (and infinitely more than a social media status). When constituents flood an email box, the unread mail count may skyrocket, but it doesn’t have nearly the same value as a flooded phone line. Endless ringing is much harder to ignore than endless emails.
There are countless scripts available online that will tell you exactly what to say in your message, but it’s best to personalize your plea. Give a personal anecdote as to why you agree or disagree on whether or not guns should have a place in schools because, you know, there might be grizzly bears. Let your elected officials know exactly why you believe how you do on a policy issue or proposed cabinet member.
Struggling to put the right emotions behind a letter or phone call to your lawmaker? Countable lets you send a video to them. It also facilitates emails, calls, and social media posts, but the video feature is what sets it apart from other governmental outreach apps. Bart Meyers, CEO of Countable’s parent startup, believes that “ video gives [the user] the power of that impassioned communication…You can show the pothole down the street, you can show the classroom that you’d like to see increased funding for. The power of video is so much greater than just me to the lawmaker”. If you’re someone that needs to create a visual to fully get your point across, Countable is the advocacy tool you’ve been waiting for.
Petitions (but beware: not all are created equal)
No, that Change.org petition that your cousin has shared 17 times this week doesn’t have much political gravitas. There’s a few reasons for this – Change.org and similar sites that don’t do too much confirmation of personhood enable activists to potentially gather unlimited fake signatures for their cause. It’s also not a non-profit operation, which takes some people by surprise. Change.org sells user data trends to advertisers and allows brands to use its activism-based platform as yet another way to analyze how who you are is related to what you buy. But worry not, petition-pushers: there is a better way. Whitehouse.gov petitions, if they gather 100,000 signatures in 30 days, must be reviewed by the White House. They’ll even check back in with you and give an official response in regards to your petition.
The next time your distant family decides that Facebook is the most effective platform to let a lawmaker know what’s on their mind, kindly point them towards these resources. Our ability to give our voices to our government becomes irrelevant if we don’t use it.