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8 Ways to Force a Response from Public Officials

Frustrated with your elected representatives? Tired of getting generic responses to your inquiries? Want to get answers?

As a citizen, you have a right to be heard. But sometimes it seems the government isn’t listening. When writing for Watchdog Wire or just demanding an answer to a question, here are some ways to force public officials to respond:

1. Call out public officials
2. Contact public officials through email and phone
3. Tweet at public officials
4. Start using a special hashtag
5. Show up at a rally, fundraiser or other public event
6. When all else fails, build a Wall of Shame
7. Be persistent
8. Contact us!

1. Call out public officials (and staffers) by name

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When writing for Watchdog Wire or your own blog, don’t hesitate to name names. If someone or their office is uncooperative, write about it!

Be sure to link to their home page in your post. They may receive automatic notifications, known as “pingbacks,” that alert them to your link. It also can affect their SEO (Search Engine Optimization) results.

2. Contact public officials through email and phone

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Sending public officials an email is not always going to get you a response. If you do email them, be sure to be detailed (but not too wordy) so they have a specific inquiry to respond to.

Also call their office and talk to a staff member. It is unlikely that a politician will be available to talk with you, but staff can be helpful. Be sure to remain polite at all times, take down the staff member’s name and get accurate quotes if using them for a story. If you are going to write something about the exchange, be sure to let them know.

3. Tweet at public officials

Politician tweet

Many politicians have Twitter accounts. In addition to email and phone, social media is a great way to hold leaders accountable.

To “tweet at” someone (so the tweet shows up directly in their feed) just start your tweet with their twitter handle. The image above is a good example. For information on Twitter terminology, check out the social media platform’s official glossary.

4. Start using a special hashtag

Silent joe tweet

Hashtags are a way to get your tweets and Facebook posts noticed by other people. Check out this guide for helpful tips to using hashtags.

Here’s an example: Let’s say Sen. Joe Shmoe refuses to talk to you or any other media. You could start using the hashtag #SilentJoe to drive home the point that he isn’t responding to his own constituents (see the image above).

5. Show up at a rally, fundraiser or other public event

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This is a great way to get comment from public officials, assuming they actually hold public events. Some politicians think it is okay to duck and cover instead of facing the electorate.

Bring a video camera and film them answering questions. If they aren’t taking questions, you have the right to speak up and demand an answer to a question. For some examples of this technique, check out this story from Watchdog Wire Michigan.

6. When all else fails, build a Wall of Shame

Wall of Shame

Sometimes nothing seems to be working. That’s okay, because there is another technique that really gets under their skin. Put them on a Wall of Shame.

Don’t actually erect a wall to put their picture on. Instead, write a post for Watchdog Wire like this one by Citizen Watchdog Gena Rinckey.

7. Be persistent

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Don’t give up. If you keep up the pressure, you’ll eventually get a response.

And if all else fails…

8. Contact us!

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Still not getting a response? Let us know and we’ll put in a request for comment with the public official’s office. Just send an email to info@watchdogwire.com!

If you’re planning to write a story and want some help, let us know in the email. We can help you at every stage of the process.

Josh Kaib

Josh Kaib is the Assistant Editor of Watchdog Wire. Twitter: @joshkaib

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Categories: Government Transparency, Quick Tips
Tags: , ,

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