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Retailers Encouraged to Connect With Lawmakers

Tobacco conference speaker raises importance of local, personal touch

CHICAGO -- Even though retailers feel like they’re climbing uphill on state and local tobacco legislation, a speaker at a recent CSP tobacco-category conference encouraged participation in the process and emphasized the value of their voices as local employers.

Adding a personal twist to a “form” email to a lawmaker bumps its importance up tenfold, said Seth Turner, whose firm, Congressional Management Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., conducted a study of lawmakers and the factors that influence their decisions.

Where an emailed form letter ranked at only 3% on a scale of importance for lawmakers, an individualized email message received a 30% ranking, the director of citizen engagement at the foundation told about 60 attendees at the CSPBehind the Counter Forum held recently in Chicago.

“If you take the time to put in personal information, you’ll have 10 times more influence,” Turner said.

Similarly, people meeting with lawmakers are likely to have more influence if they are a constituent of their district. Turner said their survey found that lobbyists scored 8% on that scale of importance to lawmakers, while a constituent representative received a score of 46% and actual constituents received a 54% rating.

Turner also emphasized communicating personal stories and the effect a piece of legislation could have on a retailer’s business. For example, a new cigarette tax or a ban on menthol-flavored tobacco could mean the loss of five jobs at a chain with 20 employees, Turner said.

He also suggested retailers attend town hall meetings, invite legislators to tour their stores and write grateful letters to the editor when lawmakers do show their support.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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