Hosting Site Visits for State Legislators at Your Institution
Hosting site visits is an excellent way to continue building relationships with elected officials, and an opportunity to increase a dental program’s exposure as a major player in state politics. Site visits give legislators a chance to see the daily operations of a dental program, and the opportunity to experience the positive impact dental programs have on their communities.
These visits are also a good way to remind faculty and students about the importance of advocacy and re-invigorate them for the work ahead, and should be used to link legislators with faculty and students who are willing to serve as resources on issues related to dental education.
the Site Visit
Arrange a site visit when your legislator is in his or her district and when classes are in session. The legislator’s schedule can be hectic, so be as flexible as possible with your schedule to accommodate the public official.
Organizing Media Coverage
Most state legislators will not have full-time staff dedicated to handling the press. Members in leadership positions or members in a large state with full-time legislative staff may have a staff member responsible for working with the media. If the legislator does have press staff, work with that person as well as your institution’s communications/media staff to coordinate press activity. If the legislator does not have press staff, work with the legislator directly by asking for their input when inviting members of the press.
Create and send out a media advisory to invite local television news stations and newspapers to cover the event. Make sure to include the time, date and purpose of the site visit. If the media cannot be present, take pictures and include them with a summary of the activities to send to local media outlets.
You should also make use of social media. You may wish to use Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to announce and document the event. Always be complimentary and gracious in your posts, and clear posts with the legislator or their staff before posting.
Hosting the Site Visit
Prepare faculty and students before the visit by explaining what to expect during the visit. Have students interact with the legislator and provide the legislator with literature on local statistics regarding the effectiveness of your program. Information that highlights ways in which your institution increases access to care can demonstrate the positive impact your institution has on its community.
Be sure that during the site visit you make your request for any legislation needed to strengthen your dental education program.
After the Site Visit
Send a media release to local and state news outlets. Send a thank-you letter to the legislator and include any photos and press stories. In the letter, recap the highlights of the visit and restate any requests for legislation needed to strengthen your dental education program.