The One-Pager: Writing an Effective Advocacy Paper
Communicating your policy positions to the Hill is an art form anyone can learn
There comes that moment in every Hill meeting when you know it’s time to leave, so you have one last opportunity to drive your point home. That’s when you reach into your briefcase, pull out a single piece of paper, and slide it across the table saying, ‘here’s our One-Pager on the issue, let me know if you’ve any questions.’ The staffer smiles appreciatively because, aside from your business card, that’s the most important item you can leave behind.
They’ll use info from that document to detail their report of your meeting to their boss, they’ll use it as an element for research on the issue, and most importantly, they’ll drop it in a file for later use when they need it. When a bill is introduced four months from now on your issue, they’ll look in their file cabinet and see your One-Pager as an authoritative source of information. Plus, it’ll have your contact info on it, so if they lose your business card or pass the One-Pager to another staffer, they can still follow up. This is why when it comes to policy advocacy, the One-Pager is the coin of the realm.
Think of it as your elevator speech on a sheet of paper.
The One-Pager allows you to present your policy position in a format that is likely to be read, understood, and most importantly, retained by a very busy staffer. To achieve that, your One-Pager should be brief, written in plain English, clearly state your position, and provide facts to back it up. Here are some tips to help you write effectively:
Start with a strong title.
It should clearly state what your ask is and show the main benefit.
“Protecting Kids from Predatory Online Marketing is Good for Everyone.”
Next, have a strong subtitle.
This can be longer, and have more details to give an overall understanding of the issue.
“Congress must authorize stronger FTC regulations for safekeeping children’s personally identifiable information (PII) from predatory online marketers.”
Lay out your case.
You should use up to three main points, in bullet form or in subheads. Your issue may have a bunch of good reasons why Congress needs to consider it, but if you want your argument to be memorable, keep it to three. It’s a magic number. You can always write a longer white paper on the topic that goes into more detail (history, case law, impacts on consumers, etc.).
- * The Problem: “Child online marketing is a multi-billion dollar business built on the targeting of minors.”
- * The Impact: “Data breaches have exposed children’s data and made them the unwitting victims of online identity theft and fraud, even before they began their lives.”
- * The Ask: “Promulgating strong prohibitions against collecting child PII without parental consent – backed by stiff penalties – will keep children from harm.”
Flesh out each of the bullet points with 3-4 sentences each.
This is where you can put facts, figures, and statistics to good use, bolstering your arguments. Use short clear sentences, while avoiding jargon. If you know the opposition’s take on your issue, you can insert info to help refute them before they’re even made.
Summarize with a solution.
Wrap up your argument in a few sentences, making sure you offer a solid plan for what should happen next.
Finish with your Call-to-Action.
Tell the reader exactly what you want them to do, or what action you’d like to see happen. This should be like a mini-headline at the bottom of the paper that makes it obvious to all.
“Please Co-Sponsor H.R. 1234, the ‘Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act’, To Prevent Identity Thieves from Victimizing Kids.”
Things to Think About
- * Be positive. Stating your position in positive terms will resonate with your reader, so avoid the negative if you can.
- * Use white space. Don’t feel you have to fill the entire sheet of paper with ink. The more white space you have on the paper, the more elegant your solution will look. This does require you to…
- * Be a ruthless editor. Hemingway said you should eliminate every third word. Pare down your language and use simple words. Write for clarity and understanding. And proof-read like your life depended on it. Or your career.
- * Use graphics wisely and sparingly. Want to use a chart or graph that explains your point well? Perfect. Want to include an image of happy people basking in their new found freedom from identity theft? Don’t waste the space.
- * Include your company name, logo, and contact information. Your message is far more authoritative and impactful when you let readers know who the advocacy is coming from – plus it adds accountability. Don’t forget to include a line that encourages readers to follow up, along with your email or phone number.
- * Always PDF your document. This way you ensure that the message they’re reading is the message you wrote. Not only is it a layer of security, but it ensures that the formatting remains consistent regardless of what platform the document is opened on.
One Last Thing. I lied. You Can Use Two-Pages.
What about all that wasted white space on the back of the One-Pager? You can definitely use it for additional graphs, charts, or to lay out additional, supplemental arguments. Just make sure that the core of your argument and the call-to-action is on the first page – which is likely all that may be read.
Check here for more tips on effective government relations, as well as info on our policy platform, DC Policy Shop, that can help make your voice heard in Washington, D.C.