Civic Engagement and Advocacy Blog

Email vs. Snail Mail, What is the Best Way to Reach a Rep?

Posted by Brent Willis on 3/25/13 7:25 AM

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If you want to make changes in your local, state or federal government, contacting your representatives and making your voice heard is one of the most effective steps you can take to get things done.snail mail vs email

You can contact representatives in several different ways, but two of the most popular methods are via email or through the postal service. Although either method can get the message across, most concerned citizens want to use the communication channel that gives them the best chance of reaching a representative in a timely manner and making a lasting impression. To help you make your choice, the pros and cons of each of these methods are detailed below.

Snail Mail

Using traditional mail to contact your representative provides them with a hard copy of your letter that they can hold in their hand and read. While emails are easily scanned and deleted, going through physical documents requires more time, thus increasing the chances that the representative will read your letter. Furthermore, older representatives (or staff members) who didn't learn to use the Internet until later in life may be more comfortable reading a hard copy of your letter than they would be reading an email.  On the other hand, former staffers tell us that snail mail is space consuming, time consuming to respond to and more likely to get lost in the shuffle.

Email

Although sending an email to your representative may not provide them with a hard copy of your letter, it is a much faster method of communication. It is also less expensive, since it does not require you to purchase a stamp, envelope or paper. While you must wait several days for a letter to make it through the postal system to your representative's mailbox, an email arrives in a matter of seconds. In addition, emails are easier to scan, which means that the representative is likely to make their way to your message more quickly and with less frustration. Snail mail, on the other hand, requires more time to peruse, and representatives or their staff members are more likely to put off the task and let the mail pile up. 

Making a Choice

The best method of communication depends on your individual situation, the urgency of your message and your opinion of your representative's preferences with regard to communication. To further increase your chances of the representative receiving and responding to your message, consider using multiple methods of communication to reach him or her. When you reach out to your representative in more than one way, you reduce the likelihood of your letter falling through the cracks or being overlooked.

Concerned citizens or politically active organizations can also reach their representatives using other methods, thus adding to their level of influence. For example, with the software from Votility, you can keep up with all of the issues that interest you and record your opinions by voting and commenting on issues. In the future, Votility plans to add several new features that allow members to contact representatives directly from the interface.

Regardless of the method you choose to contact your representative, make sure that your letter is clear, concise and easy to understand.

Address the representative courteously and don't be abusive or crude. However, you should not be afraid to state your concerns and opinions assertively. The letter you send is your chance to speak directly to the representative and help him or her to understand the position of your organization or you as an individual, so make sure that it includes all of the points you want to make.  In the case of the Votility platform, it is easier for the member if all they have to do is click two buttons and a pre formatted email and letter can be sent to a predetermined list of representatives. 

Finally, include several methods that the representative or his staff members can use to respond to your letter, such as your phone number, email address and home address. If you don't hear from your representative in a reasonable amount of time, contact him or her again.

 

 

 
Brent Willis

Written by Brent Willis

People want to be heard other then just voting every 2,4, or 6 years. Groups that engage them and measure it are positioned to win the public policy battles of the future. My vision and mission is to revive the civic engagement of the American citizen in government relations; at the federal, state, and local level.

Topics: government relations