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Tips for Communicating with Elected Officials

Us TOO Advocacy Activities: Get Involved!

Why should someone with prostate cancer be concerned with what happens in Washington

Government officials make decisions about health issues that affect your life! Issues
include research, treatment, awareness, early detection, access to quality care
and insurance coverage. Together, we can convince lawmakers that fighting prostate
cancer should be a top priority.

How can I make a difference?

Us TOO International has an active volunteer advocacy committee that is constantly
monitoring current issues affecting prostate cancer patients and their families.
The committee develops key position statements that communicate how the issue will
impact those in the prostate cancer community and makes recommendations for future
action. Us TOO distributes the position statements and recommendations to our grassroots
volunteers (people just like you) and asks that they add their own personal story
to the message then contact their local elected officials. Contact can be made via
email, fax, phone call or face to face visit.

Writing a Letter

For those who prefer to write a letter to their elected official, we offer the following

  • Be brief, specific and courteous: keep your letter to one page and state the purpose
    of your letter clearly in the first paragraph. If your letter pertains to a specific
    bill, identify it.
  • Ask for a reply: always close your letter by asking for a written response.
  • Send your letter via fax or email if possible. In these days of heightened security,
    it has become more difficult to reach a congressman through traditional mail service.
    You can contact the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your
    representative’s office to obtain the fax number and or email contact information.
    You can obtain contact information by clicking here.

Addressing your letter:

To a Senator:

The Honorable _______________
Room # and name of Senate Office Bldg.
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator:

To a Representative:

The Honorable _____________
Room # and name of House Office Bldg.
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative:

Find your state senators at www.senate.gov

Find your state representatives at

Placing a Phone Call

For those who prefer to make a personal call, we offer these tips:

  • Identify yourself as a constituent: “My name is Jane Doe and I live in Chicago.”
  • Be brief and clear: tell them why you are calling, give a bill number if applicable,
    state the action you would like to see the lawmaker take on the issue and ask where
    your lawmaker stands on the issue.
  • Be courteous and ask for a response: if the lawmaker does not support your position,
    kindly let them know you are disappointed and how they will reconsider. Ask for
    a written response on the issue.
  • Remember that most calls are taken by a staff member and not the elected official.
    When calling, ask to speak with the aide who handles health related issues for the official.

Face to Face Visits

For those who would like to visit the local offices of their elected officials,
we offer these tips:

  • You need to schedule an appointment in advance.
  • If the elected official is not present, ask to meet with the aide that handles health
    related issues.
  • During your meeting, be sure to discuss the issue affects you personally, as well
    as your friends or family members. Always be specific, clear and courteous. Be sure
    to send a thank you letter as a follow up to your visit.

Crafting an Effective Message: Get to the Point

  • One of the most important aspects of crafting an effective message is to get to
    the point as soon as possible. The very first sentence of your letter should include
    your purpose for writing to your representative.
  • Elected officials receive a large amount of messages from constituents every day.
    These messages come in the form of emails, faxes, and physical mail and staffers
    try to categorize them as efficiently as possible. Getting straight to the point
    and sticking to it throughout makes this job easier. It also makes it more likely
    that you will get a response from your representative’s office. Responding to a
    single-issue message is easier than responding to one that covers a broad range
    of topics.
  • If there is a specific piece of legislation you are writing about, it is always
    a good idea to include the bill number in your message. At the Congressional level,
    bills introduced in the House of Representatives start with H.R. Bills introduced
    in the Senate start with S. Clearly state your position on the bill with something
    such as “Please support H.R. 57.”
  • It is also a good idea to identify yourself and your affiliation. This gives the
    representative a better idea of who you are and why the issue is of special significance
    to you. There is no downside to letting your Member know that you have a personal
    stake in how they vote on this issue.
  • We hope that these suggestions will help you craft more effective messages to your
    representatives. Sending letters that are concise, specific, and personalized is
    a great way to make your voice heard and to more ably participate in the democratic

How can I communicate with the media to get the message out?

Writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper is another great way to communicate
about issues affecting people living with prostate cancer. Studies show that people
read the letters to the editor section more than they read the editorials by journalists.
In addition, letters to the editor are widely read by community leaders and lawmakers
to gauge public sentiment about current issues. For those who would like to write
a letter to the editor, we offer the following tips:

  • Check the paper’s guidelines for writing letters. Be sure to include your name,
    address and phone number on your letter. Address your letter “Dear Editor”. Letters
    should never exceed one page, preferably less than 125 words.
  • Focus on current issues. Write about an issue or legislation that is hot right now.
    Write in support of or against pending legislation at the local, state or federal

For more information contact Us TOO International at 1-800-808-7866 or e-mail
us at: advocacy@ustoo.org