5 Ways Gyms Can Effectively Communicate with Politicians

Your local and national legislators want to hear from you. IHRSA Assistant Vice President of Government Relations Jeff Perkins has some advice on the best ways to reach with lawmakers.

If you want to communicate effectively with any politician, here are some tips and advice from IHRSA Assistant Vice President of Government Relations Jeff Perkins. He ensures the fitness industry has a voice in Washington, D.C., and every state capitol. Before he came to work for IHRSA, Perkins was the chief of staff and legislative director at the Massachusetts State Senate, and before that, he worked in global government at Iron Mountain.

He has spent more than 10 years talking to and working with government officials. Now, Perkins is going to share what he has found to be the five most useful ways to contact and speak to legislators.

But First, Why Should Gyms Talk to Lawmakers?

It is hard to express just how much legislators rely on the input and opinions of the businesses and people in their jurisdictions. Yes, IHRSA advocates for the fitness industry in Washington and around the world, but we need members like you who can put a face and a business to the issues affecting your club and community.

A great way to start is by reaching out to your state representatives. Since their schedules allow them to spend more time in their districts, state representatives tend to have more time for their constituents than a federal congressperson or senator. More time in their communities means they can help you with the specific issues facing your club.

How much impact does someone contacting their senator's office have? When asked this question, Senator John Thune said, "It really does matter, and we pay attention to that."

Now you understand why gyms should talk to lawmakers, but what are the best ways to do so? Let's look at what Perkins says are the five best ways to get your legislator's attention.

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5 Ways Gyms Can Effectively Communicate with Politicians

Meet Them in Person

Making an appointment to meet with your legislator can be a very effective way of making your voice heard. “Politics is about people," says Perkins. "And the best way to build a relationship is in-person.”

Attending a fundraiser or scheduling a meeting with their office is a great way to have some face-to-face time. If you are meeting in their office, create an agenda beforehand to get the most out of your visit.

Most local officials have office hours. Blocking out time to visit during these hours can be an easy way to get in some face time.

Give Them a Call

If you're not ready for an in-person meeting with your legislator, the next best way to make your voice heard is by calling their office. You might not speak with your elected official right away, but you will get to talk to a staff person who will relay the message.

"Be very specific about what you want," advises Perkins. For example, say things like, “I want representative Smith to sponsor bill 123 and send a letter to leadership, asking that they release it from committee.”

Making a very specific request forces the office to respond “yes” or “no” as opposed to their default non-committal generic response. It is also good to ask follow-up questions. If you become a regular caller who makes specific requests and asks good questions, the staff and elected official will become familiar with you.

You can also connect with other club operators toto log multiple calls in the district. When an office receives many calls from different sources on an issue, it can give you a larger voice even without being a big donor name in politics.

Find Them on Social Media (But Know Your Audience)

Social media can be a powerful tool to get the attention of representatives and make others in the fitness industry aware of legislation that could affect their health club. Social platforms allow politicians to gauge how voters are responding to an issue in real-time. This makes social media an excellent place for elected officials to see what their constituents care about, and for you to have a direct, immediate line to your official.

Perkins says when it comes to social media, the key is knowing your audience, or in this case, your official.

If your elected official is not active on social media, then you should try one of the other options on this list first. If they do use social media, then find the platform where they post the most often. Most people running for—or already in—office have a website with their active social channels listed.

Write Them a Letter or Send Them an Email

Writing a letter or sending an email is a great way to have the time to gather your thoughts on an issue. This method may not be as effective as calling or meeting face to face, but it is a great first step to becoming an active constituent.

Know Their Position on an Issue

Going into a call or meeting with the background on how your representative might stand on an issue can be extremely beneficial. You can usually discover where they stand on legislation via social media or their website.

Perkins' last piece of advice is "be a constituent." If you are not a constituent, then find a way to tie it to their specific district. No matter the issue, always ask yourself how it could impact businesses or consumers in their community?

Ready to build a relationship with your local officials? The IHRSA staff is here to help with resources and guidance on how to make a difference in your community and fight legislation that would be harmful to your club. Feel free to email our team, and if you see a legislative alert in your email, be sure to open it.

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Emily Gluck

Emily Gluck is IHRSA's Executive Assistant. On average her job consists of scheduling, supporting the executive team, and planning events, while the best part of her job is getting to work with a great team on a daily basis. If Emily is out of the office you can typically find her kayaking, hiking in a national park, or rafting on a remote river (ideally she likes to get out of cell phone range).