You’ve heard it all ever since you took that poli-sci class in high school: Write your congressman if you want to see legislative change. Better yet, visit your rep in person. Are these approaches really effective? “Letter-writing works to a point,” says Stephanie Hendricks at the DMA’s Washington office, reflecting on her days as an intern on the Hill. But that “point” changed drastically five years ago, after Sept. 11 and the subsequent anthrax attacks on the mail a month later. It can take more than a month for legislators even to receive letters, she points out, because all letters go to a big warehouse someplace in the middle of the country where they get X-rayed, irradiated and checked for anthrax. “So it’s not even timely to physically mail a letter to the Hill anymore,” she notes. What’s more, once letters reach the office of your official, they’re opened by unpaid interns sitting in a basement office, who generate automated thank-you notes.
So what approach will make an impact? Hand delivery. No time or money available to visit D.C.? Association reps have the entrée to make personal contact, as do some vendors who sit on association boards. Let them be your couriers. State your case about the vitality of direct shopping, the jobs your company brings to your rep’s district, the gas you help customers preserve by not having to drive to the mall and other positives about your business.
Play The Media
Other easy things can make a significant impact. It's no secret that politicians follow the media closely. Submit a savvy op-ed piece to a local paper. Write something a publication will accept. If your name and issues are out there, politicians will pick up on it.
Postal reform may be dying now, but stand by and be ready to play a role in whatever happens next. As for fending off privacy advocates, lobbying on your part may not be the way to go for now; just be smart. “All the lobbying in the world will do no good if consumers continue to be concerned that they have no control over the use of their names,” says the DMA’s senior vice president of ethics and consumer affairs, Pat Kachura. “When consumers say they want off your list, take them off! And that includes not putting their names in co-op databases.”