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How to connect directly with your decision maker

You've started a petition backed by a crowd of supporters. Awesome! Now, to get to a win, it's time to connect directly with the decision maker. Why is talking to your decision maker important? Although a small percentage of petitions succeed without a real-time conversation or meeting, most victories take at least some direct contact. Talking to your decision maker helps prove you're serious about making a change.

Having an in-person chat with your decision maker may seem scary -- but it doesn't have to be. By prepping beforehand, writing out a script for yourself and enlisting support, you'll have the answer you want in no time.

Step 1: Prepare

Step 1: Prepare

  • Decide the best way to contact your decision maker
  • Decide your "ask" and define what winning is
  • Practice different scenarios

    •  Decide the best way to contact your decision maker

      Are you targeting a small business owner? A public figure? A CEO? Depending on the decision maker, where they're located and how accessible they are, choose what type of contact will work best. An in-person meeting should be your first choice, but a phone call or a chat with a representative can also give you helpful information.

      Before you plan a call, or schedule a meeting, find the phone number of the decision maker you're trying to reach. Is he/she accessible -- available simply by calling the main number of the decisionmaker's office and asking for him or her? Or do you need to call someone else in the decision maker's organization -- typically someone in the public affairs or media relations department? Google the person's or department's phone number, or call the company switchboard and ask for the best way to reach him or her. You could also try searching old press releases.

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      Decide your "ask" and define what winning is.

      You may have several requests or demands in your petition letter. Write out -- in an email, on a sheet of paper or a marker board -- what exactly you're going to ask the decision maker to do when you talk to them.

      Keep in mind that there may be several steps you're asking the decision maker to go through, and define what "winning" means to you. Is it a promise to investigate? A new policy? A meeting?

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      Practice different scenarios

      You may call your decision maker, walk into his or her office, and be greeted with a friendly hello. You may find it difficult to get through to him or her. You may even be met with hostility. The road to change can be tough, and it's important to prepare for different scenarios before you pick up the phone. Here are some possible pitfalls -- and solutions -- that you should rehearse beforehand.

        Practice Tool: Different Decision Maker Scenarios

        "The decision maker is not available to speak with you."
        Be persistent. Explain who you are, ask when a good time would be and if there is someone else you can speak with. Try calling at a few different times, and send a personal email.

        "I'm sorry, we're not aware of your petition."
        Have a brief explanation of the petition prepared. If the decision maker asks to read the petition before responding, politely ask the best email address to mail it to, and set up a time and date to follow up.

        "I'm not the person responsible for this decision."
        It's important to differentiate when this is really the case -- and when the decision maker may be giving you the runaround. Ask politely who a better decision maker would be to target, but continue to press for a response and consider escalating your tactics.

        "We'll have a response by XX date."
        It's important to keep your campaign's momentum up, and waiting too long before a response can mean a loss of energy and supporters. It's helpful to have a deadline of your own, or plans to send out a press release by XX date, to counter.

        "We're not going to do anything."
        Even though this may be discouraging, having a firm negative statement from a decision maker can energize your campaign. Write down or record your decision maker's response (while following all laws) and consider escalating to next steps.

        "We're going to make the change you've requested."
        This is great - but don't pop the champagne bottles yet. If possible, get the decision maker's response in writing, and have a specific timeline agreed on. Will there be a way to monitor, or approve, the changes that the decision maker puts into place?

      Step 2: Call or meet with the decision maker

    • Be polite, yet firm
    • Have potential responses prepared
    • Decide on "next steps" before you end the conversation

      • Be polite, yet firm

        It can seem overwhelming to call or meet with a corporation, official or influential group as an individual, but practice beforehand with a friend and you'll feel more confident. If you're doing the meeting in person, wear a professional outfit that you feel comfortable in (some people find it helps them to wear professional clothes when they're on the phone, as well). 

        When you arrive or when you begin your call, shake your decision maker's hand firmly and introduce yourself by your title (mother, employee, artist, voter) and that you've started a petition with XX signatures asking the decision maker to do XX.

          Practice Tool: Introduce Yourself To Your Decision Maker

          WRONG: "Hi, my name is Amanda and I have a petition targeting you."

          RIGHT: "Hi, my name is Amanda and I'm a mom in your school district. I wanted to let you know that I've launched a campaign on Change.org asking you to do XXX. Have you seen the petition? What is your response?"

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        Have potential responses prepared

        Remember the list of possible pitfalls we showed you before? Have your answers prepared and be ready to counter common replies. Don't be discouraged if you don't feel the conversation going as you'd hoped, and feel free to take a breath, think, and then respond to the question or statement.

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        Decide on "next steps" before you end the conversation

        Don't end the conversation until you've figured out "next steps" with the decision maker -- make it clear that you're committed to the goals of the petition and will be following up with them.

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          Step 3: Follow up

        • Thank your decision maker and remind him/her of your petition
        • Report back to your supporters
        • Escalate your campaign

        • Thank your decision maker and remind him/her of your petition

          After your conversation, email a thank-you to the decision maker and recap the conversation, including any next steps you decided on. This is a good opportunity to show that you and your supporters are committed to your cause.

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          Report back to your supporters

          Use the "Message Petition Signers" tool to let the Change.org members who signed your petition know how the conversation went. Try to be positive and ask for feedback and ideas.

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          Escalate your campaign

          If the conversation didn't go well, it's time to up the ante. Go back to the Tips & Guides menu for advanced tips on media outreach, using social media and planning on-the-ground events.

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