1) Identify the key players: Figure out which policymakers are your most important allies and opponents when it comes to crafting short-term rental regulation.
2) Get in front of them and present your case: Call and email them to request a meeting. State your messages in any conversation or email, making it clear that you and your group bring value insight to the issue and discussion. As always, be positive in your approach. Aim for a face-to-face meeting, rather than a phone call. And try to bring a group that represents the wide range of local stakeholders who support short-term rentals. Be friendly, but persistent.
3) Practice making your pitch: Even the best communicators practice. Don’t make the mistake of going into a meeting without rehearsing your key messages. Focus on specific, constructive policy goals (e.g., we want to see this definition changed, we think registration fees should be lower, we’re concerned about these limitations or burdensome criteria, etc.) and explain why these changes are important to making short-term rental regulation work in your community, and while they will help, rather than hinder compliance. Know what you absolutely need to communicate and ask for before the meeting ends. Other keys to a successful meeting:
- Arrive early and be courteous.
- Tailor your message to the person you are meeting with – offer reasons why they, especially, should support short-term rentals.
- Bring it back to tangible benefits to individuals within the community whenever possible – officials need to understand this issue matters to voters.
- Leave behind your contact information, and printouts of your letter, fact sheet and other relevant materials.
- Finish the meeting with another thank you and offer to follow up on any outstanding questions.
How to Deliver Your Message and Materials to Local Officials
Local officials need to hear from people like you: the short-term rental operators, renters and supporters in their communities. Personal outreach puts a name and a face on the issue and reiterates that this is an important issue that directly impacts their constituents and neighbors. Remind policymakers that if they are able to strike the right balance by collaborating with the entire community, short-term rental regulations can benefit all stakeholders.
Who do we really need to talk to?
The first step is figuring out where the local conversation about short-term rental regulation is currently taking place and who needs to take action in order to make your policy goals a reality. Every time you meet with a policymaker or their staff, you’ll want to make sure to record the date and time of the meeting and some brief notes about what was discussed, as well as any unanswered questions you might have come away from the meeting with. This will give you a good reason to follow up, both as a thank you for the policymaker’s time, but also as a means to provide additional information or reiterate an important aspect of your conversation.
What’s the best way to keep track of everything?
Make a detailed contact list and try to capture:
- Each official’s name, title, phone number, and email (this information should be available on your local government website)
- Names and contact information for any staff members your may have spoken with or who helped facilitate your meetings
- Date of last outreach and any feedback or follow-up items from that meeting
Especially in larger municipalities, staff members often help make a lot of the decisions in local government. Don’t underestimate the importance of getting to know them, in addition to your local elected officials.
Remember to be on the lookout for opportunities to engage your local officials beyond the one-on-one meetings you and your group request. A couple examples might be:
- An existing city council meeting or hearing in which short-term rentals are a topic on the agenda. Most City Councils post their meeting schedules online and provide opportunities for citizens to present concerns publicly.
- Also be on the lookout for social engagements. For instance, the chair of the local planning commission might belong to the local Rotary Club or be active in a local charity. If so, you or someone you know is involved in the organization or cause could casually mention the issue at the next meeting or charity event to make sure it’s on his or her radar, but also to reinforce that local citizens outside your group are paying attention.
What if an official already supports short-term rentals?
It’s even more important to stay in close contact with policymakers who are already supporters. Make sure you are relaying a consistent stream of new information and facts that demonstrate how short-term rentals are benefiting the local community, as well as examples of good short-term rental policy from other communities. Offer to help them make the case for fair and reasonable regulation any way you can, by appearing at public meetings, joining local government working groups or talking to the press. Remember, policymakers see public support as a crucial component to making policy decisions. Also, don’t be afraid to ask them what kind of help they need-either in talking to their fellow policymakers or perhaps a key piece of information they believe is important, but hasn’t been introduced to the conversation yet. Remember, you want your group to be the go-to resource for local short-term rental information and discussions-you need to position yourselves as the experts.