May 13, 2010

The pen is mightier than the blog...

So, I have been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century and have created this blog.

Then just the other day someone sends my this video link about how a hand-written letter is the most effective way to communicate with politicians.

Here is the description of the video:

Politicians are strange creatures, says politician Omar Ahmad. And the best way to engage them on your pet issue is a monthly handwritten letter. Ahmad shows why old-fashioned correspondence is more effective than email, phone or even writing a check -- and shares the four simple steps to writing a letter that works.

O.K. I was almost convinced by his argument. You see, I had sent an e-mail to my Member of Parliament, Stephen Woodworth, a couple of weeks ago. It was to voice my dismay that the Federal Government had abruptly canceled the EcoEnergy Program -- see my Energy Poverty post. (I also e-mailed my member of Provincial Parliament, John Milloy, to say I was glad the Provincial Government was sticking with their Home Energy Saving Program.)

I wrote this blog (long-hand) the other day and was all ready to do this experiment and try sending my e-mails as hand-written letters to test Omar's contention that an e-mail is just spam. But when I got home, what did I find in the mail? A letter from Stephen Woodworth answering my e-mail, in more detail (and with no typos, unlike my e-mail), I should add, than my original e-mail.

So is Omar right or wrong? Well one caveat to my story. I had already developed a relationship with both Stephen and John over the years, through correspondence and meetings. So, I think the core of Omar's argument -- that it is about establishing a good relationship with your MP or MPP or city councilor, whether you agree with them or not -- is absolutely correct.

I have learned, too, from political staffers whom I have met that there is a hierarchy in the types of communication they receive. Letters, whether printed or handwritten letters (so long as they are legible), have the most impact. Ten letters on a particular subject, one senior staffer for a former Minister of Human Resources told me, sends up a flag that this is an issue they have to address. It takes probably ten times more e-mails to have that effect.

What happens when you get a form letter response? That is good. That means the issue has been raised by enough people that they have had to formulate a response.

What do you do then? Pick up your pen (or sit at your computer) and write back. "Thank you for your response to my letter..." I have some more questions for you.

Try it. And let me know your experience.

Now I have to write a follow-up letter to Stephen Woodworth about the EcoEnergy Program.


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