Why I Advocate: Creating Beneficial Connections

U.S. Rep. Julia Letlow visits the Coast Professional, Inc. call center in West Monroe, Louisiana. She visited with the leadership team and then with the company’s entire staff at that location.

Micah Pulliam from Coast Professional shares his experience becoming an advocate and how to get started, including through the Washington Insights Fly-In. Editor’s note: This article is available for members only.

05/02/2022 12:30 P.M.

7 minute read

Advocacy can go a long way in your community, and it takes just a few steps to get started, according to Micah Pulliam, president and chief financial officer at Coast Professional Inc. in West Monroe, Louisiana.

Finding your local or national representatives online is step one. They typically have automated contact forms allowing you to reach out for more information and forms to sign up for their newsletter. Read on for more advocacy tips from ACA and Pulliam.

“We’ve seen success in our advocacy efforts that have resulted in real change,” Pulliam said. “The feeling of having an idea and seeing it through to the finish line is incredible.”

Pulliam was among those who attended last October’s Group 50 advocacy conference, where ACA members met with legislators on both sides of the aisle to talk ARM industry issues ranging from Regulation F to call blocking and labeling and other telecommunications issues. He has also participated in ACA’s Washington Insights Fly-In, and his office has built relationships with legislators in Louisiana.

Coast developed a relationship with the office of U.S. Rep. Julia Letlow, R-La., by being an active participant in the community, Pulliam said. Letlow represents Louisiana’s 5th congressional district and serves on the House Committee on Education and Labor.

“Through outreach efforts to her office, we built a connection that was based on helping the congresswoman strengthen jobs and economic outcomes in her district while allowing Coast to have a chance to make a difference in these communities,” Pulliam said.

Here, Pulliam shares more about the importance of advocacy and his tips on how other members can get involved.

Q. Why is being involved in advocacy important to you?

A. Advocacy is all about amplifying your voice and having your shared concerns heard. When we as an industry come together on issues that impact our organizations, consumers and future generations of stakeholders, we get an opportunity to be more than the sum of our parts. We can help shape the environment so that it best represents all parties and cohesively addresses the challenges we face. We’ve seen success in our advocacy efforts that have resulted in real change, and the feeling of having an idea and seeing it through to the finish line is incredible.

Q. Do you have some tips on how ACA members can get involved in advocacy?

A. Advocacy can be both started today through reaching out to your representatives at the local, state, and federal level, and a long-term strategic decision. Start by answering the question, “Why do my goals matter to the local area?” When developing initial outreach with your representative offices, it’s important to keep in mind that building relationships takes time, but they want to hear from their constituents. It can start with identifying your representatives and then attending local events where you can meet face-to-face and schedule a follow up meeting or office tour when they are in their home districts. Try telling a personal story about your business and sharing a few top issues of concern as well as thanking the representative for their work. Make sure your message is concise, but personal. Creating a handout on one page and with your contact information is also helpful.

Q. What are some talking points you’ve used when meeting with members of Congress to break the ice and provide education about the industry?

A. When we develop talking points for meeting with representatives, we focus on making sure that the information we provide is factual, easy to understand, concise, and relevant to their concerns. It’s helpful to remember that they most likely don’t have an in-depth understanding of what you do and why it’s important, so developing your talking points in a way that easily conveys the background and challenges you face is an important step in having a productive meeting with your representative.

Q. ACA’s Washington Insights Fly-In is May 18-19. If a member hasn’t been to the Fly-In before, why should they attend?

A. Participating in the Fly-In allows you to not only connect with other ACA members, but also participate as a group in advocacy on Capitol Hill. The conference is also a great way for a first timer to see how it is done and to meet other members with similar concerns. It is the first step in relationship-building and gives attendees a chance to further their existing relationships with members of Congress and ask questions.

Opportunities to Get Involved

If you’re near the Washington, D.C., area, spots at ACA International’s Washington Insights Fly-In are still available for those driving to the event. You won’t want to miss out on this in-person return to Capitol Hill available for all members.

More information about ACA’s recent advocacy efforts, especially related to medical debt collections, as a preview to the Fly-In will be presented during the May 4 ACA Huddle. A recording will be available after the Huddle.

Here are some additional ideas on how to advocate:

  1. Seek out your representative at public events. Elected officials are interested in hearing from and meeting with their constituents—especially during district work periods, which are typically held in August and at the end of the year.

Nearly every politician has an official social media account or website with information about public events. These in-person opportunities can be a great way to introduce yourself and can serve as a conversation starter for the future. Town hall meetings are another good option.

  1. Make a phone call or send an email. You can help inform policy experts and staff focused on relationships with constituents about the accounts receivable management industry. It’s important that policymakers and constituent experts can count on you as a resource.

Educate them about your business. This could include how you got started, how long you’ve been doing it, how many people you employ and the types of clients you provide services for. Here are some ideas:

  • Educate them about some of the issues that are front and center in Washington, including medical debt, credit reporting, student loan debt, and industry operations in general as discussed in ACA’s advocacy book.
  • Share why the work you do is important to other businesses, your community, the economy and consumers.
  • If your group is involved in any charity work or community service, talk about it.
  1. Ask for a meeting. Members of Congress and their staff are willing to sit down and listen to your concerns.

Once you schedule a meeting, check out the latest version of ACA’s advocacy book for talking points about ongoing topics important to the ARM industry. After the meeting, make sure to keep in touch with your representative or senator by sending a thank-you note and ask to be added to their mailing lists for events. Moreover, keep your eyes peeled for more information about opportunities to engage with policymakers and participate in grassroots campaigns.

Keeping your name and ARM industry issues in front of district staff might make all the difference if those issues make it to Capitol Hill for a hearing or a vote.

Changing misconceptions people have about the ARM industry is a group effort. We need help informing and, in some cases, changing the views policymakers have about debt collectors and debt collection practices. As a constituent and a voter, you hold a considerable amount of power and your opinion should matter to your elected officials.

We challenge you to take these steps to start a dialogue, forge a relationship and get your opinion out there—and keep us updated on your progress. It makes our work on Capitol Hill easier if we know about the relationships our members have in the states.

If you have executive leadership updates or other member news to share with ACA, contact our communications department at [email protected]. View our publications page for more information and our news submission guidelines here.

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