Do:

  • Recognize that you make a difference – to children, youth and their families.
  • Be well prepared as an advocate – map out your key messages.
  • Be clear about what you’d like to happen, what action you’d like taken.
  • Be patient and persistent.  Keep in mind that change doesn’t happen overnight.
  • Create and cultivate relationships with opinion leaders and decision-makers.
  • Whenever possible, work with others – including people from other sectors.
  • Put a human face to your issue by sharing your stories.
  • Be positive; adversarial relationships rarely result in positive change.
  • Always be sure of your facts; you want to be seen as a credible “source” of children’s mental health information.
  • Stick to issues that correspond to your experience and expertise.
  • Take the time to thank those who have listened to you, or helped you advance your issue.
  • Be realistic. Remember change is about compromise.

Don't

  • Invest a lot of time and energy in something that you don’t have strong feelings about; you’ll be more effective if you really believe in your issue.
  • Bite off more than you can chew. If you only have time for a phone call, then that’s what you can do.
  • Assume that your audience knows the issue as well as you do; explain, simplify, and go over the basics (several times, if necessary).
  • Use jargon, technical terms or acronyms (unless you’re certain you’ll be understood).
  • Criticize and complain – negativity will turn off the people who have power or influence to make change.
  • Underestimate public officials. With very rare exceptions, they are intelligent and want to do the right thing.
  • Leave an influential person’s office without leaving behind your business card or contact information.