Quick Tips for Health Research Advocates
Advocacy DOs and DON’Ts
- Be on time
- Introduce yourself to Candidates and describe your role in health research, and acknowledge that they have taken time out of their busy schedule to meet with you
- Address Candidates who are Ministers by this title (thank you, Minister)
- Give real world examples that demonstrate health, economic or social benefit
- Know the party platform on research and the party record; if possible, connect it to your issue
- Leave brief written materials (2pgs) and your business card
- Tell them you plan to follow up, and do so – make sure to ask for the most direct way to connect with them
- Bring anyone who is not necessary for your presentation
- Focus only on the Candidate if they bring members of their staff
- Get sidetracked by introducing extraneous topics
- Assume that your Candidate will know about, or be interested in, health research – they don’t know!
- Be negative, e.g. complain about inadequate funding or regulatory challenges
- Misjudge your time and force them to bring the meeting to a close
- Criticize their leader, party or other Candidates
Quick Tips for Effective Advocacy
When meeting with federal candidates, it is important to:
Use the meeting(s) to build the relationship
- Ask them what you can do for them. Do they need your support, information or a connection you can make?
- What can you do to support them in demonstrating that they are engaged and working with stakeholders? For example, have them speak at an event, profile them on social media, or communicate their support to your membership and/or network.
- How can you help them deliver the message? If they are supportive, are there anecdotes, stories or data that would assist them in making the case for health research?
Use clear, simple and concise messages
- Motivating messages hit an emotional chord. You need to reach people emotionally first, and then educate them. In other words, win hearts first, minds later. Stories and anecdotes are extremely helpful.
- Evidence-based messages – keep it simple. Messages are designed to achieve goals. Make sure that your messages are supported by data.
Tailor the message for the target audience
- Do some research about the person you are meeting with to understand their background and their previous experience in, knowledge of, and record on health research and health innovation.
- It is equally important to be aware of the political context within which you are making your case.
Use plain language, not scientific jargon
- To communicate your message effectively, avoid using complex, hard-to- follow and highly nuanced arguments. It is essential to engage your audience by using language that everyone can understand and that invites the candidate into a dialogue with you.
- Remember that your candidate may be late and perhaps distracted during your meeting, so the easier it is to understand and engage with your message, the more effective the meeting will be.
You influence with your message, but mostly with your passion for health research, health innovation and your experience. Your influence will grow with every visit.
What to expect DURING the meeting:
Expect to make the case: Action needed now
- There is a lot of social issue noise out there. You need to distinguish the what from the so what.
- While it is important to say that health research improves health and stimulates productivity growth, you will distinguish your cause from others if you say: we change people’s lives, and here is how.
Expect to listen and to ask questions
- Don’t speak for too long. Encourage and/ or ask questions and discuss them. It is important to discover the candidate’s views first hand. Listen to what they say and be prepared to begin from their position in making your case. Very often they will share a personal story about a friend or family member. Be sure to acknowledge the story and thank them for sharing it.
Expect tough questions
- Questions such as: Why should we invest any more dollars in health research? What is our return on investment so far? How are increased investments in health research going to help us deal with other pressing social and economic issues?
- If you can, prepare an answer for these questions, in advance, so that your case is more credible.
- Remember that politicians work on time frames that are much shorter than a health researcher, so expect that they will want to know what you can offer as a return on investment within a 4- or 5-year timeframe.
- During the meeting, if you do not have an answer, commit to getting back to them with an answer.
Expect to ask what they would be prepared to do
- You may ask: If elected, are they prepared to speak to colleagues, Ministers, the PM? If elected, are they prepared to ask a question in the House? Prepare a brief? How can you help?
What to expect AFTER the meeting:
Expect to follow-up with the candidate and/or their staff. If you want to build a new relationship with the candidate and their staff, you must initiate!
Plan to debrief following the meeting
- What went well?
- How did the candidate respond? And What did you hear (feedback or advice) from the candidate?
- Was the response due to personal interest or other circumstances?
- What should the next step be?
- Who else in your realm should be brought into the conversation?
- Are there other people from your community who can meet with the candidate to reinforce your messages?