Reprinted from Bird-dog Basics: How to Help Politicians Commit to Do the Right Thing, from the Backbone Campaign.
In a political context, bird-dogging means going to an elected official’s speaking event to thank them in public, to call them to action, or to ask them to take a leadership role on an issue.
Do Your Homework
Find a local party activist who is willing to pass on information to you. Find friendly members of the media to get information from. Check media sources such as newspapers and newspaper websites for calendars announcing when political candidates will appear. Find out where the official will be speaking.
Get Familiar with the Official
Subscribe to candidate, state, and party email and snail mail lists. Go to the candidate’s website or campaign headquarters. Access nation-al Congressional websites through www.house.gov or www.senate.gov. Other politicians can be found at the “political futures” column of ABC and MSNBC.
Work in Teams
Prepare the question(s) you want to ask and rehearse it. Arrive early to get seats close to the front and/or near the microphone if there’s a mic for the Q&A. Have others sit in different areas of the room to maximize your impact.
Raise your hand immediately when the Q&A starts. If you respond enthusiastically to the official, that also increases your chance of being called.
Be confident and considerate when you ask the question. Don’t get distracted or angry if your question is blown over, but do be persistent about getting your question answered, including repeating the question and asking for an appropriate response.
Have a note-taker jot down all info and promises made by the official. Designate a videographer, as You-Tube, Google , and other methods are an excellent way to amplify your message.
After the Meeting
After the meeting talk with media about issues if they weren’t covered. Seek out the candidates after the meeting to introduce yourself and follow up on your question, or ask it if you were not able to ask the question during the meeting. Leave the event with a clear plan to follow up with their staff.