How to Be an Effective Advocate

Information for faculty provided by
Government and Community Relations +
Communications and Marketing

At Vanderbilt University, freedom of expression is core to our mission, values and beliefs. Through the sharing of ideas, faculty contribute to our institution’s mission of growth and discovery. As part of this commitment to free expression, we recognize the importance of faculty members sharing their opinions and expertise with external audiences.


Aerial drone image of Vanderbilt campus. E. Bronson Ingram Residential collage and Kirkland Hall

In the process of sharing your personal opinion or research, you may earn recognition for your work, your department and Vanderbilt. Please note that faculty should never position themselves as speaking on behalf of Vanderbilt University as an institution unless officially asked to do so by Vanderbilt’s Government and Community Relations team. However, there are a number of ways to advocate and we are here for you as a resource whether in support of your outreach or in collaboration with us.

Ways to Advocate

  • Write an op-ed that is fewer than 700 words. In your byline, refer to yourself as Name, professor of [expertise], who studies [area of study] at Vanderbilt University.
  • Speak to elected officials in a private meeting or as a witness at a hearing or briefing either as an individual who works at Vanderbilt University or on behalf of a professional society to which you belong.
  • Engage with the media as an expert with the support of the Media Relations team.
  • Connect with your representative at the appropriate level of government by email or phone call, or participate in a town hall meeting.
  • Submit public comments related to federal regulations at
  • Exercise your right to free assembly. Demonstrate outside government buildings or other fitting locations.

Support for Faculty

  • The Government and Community Relations team is available to consult and advise faculty interested in advocating —whether they are engaging independently or on behalf of the university.
  • If you are scheduled to address a legislative body or meet directly with elected or appointed officials, please reach out to GCR so that we may assist you with logistics and answer any questions.

Support includes:

  • Insider information on effective engagement strategies, including tips on your engagement approach based on your audience and how to maximize your allotted time.
  • Logistics support ranging from parking to security and access.


Tips for Persuading Others

Do you have compelling research or an interesting expert opinion to share? Here are tips for expressing yourself clearly and persuasively to reach people, change minds and perhaps even shape public policy. 

  • Consider your audience first. Who are you talking to?
  • Track the news, and jump at opportunities. Timing is critical.
  • Clearly define your point of view. Can you express it in one or two sentences?
  • Make a single point, and do it well. You cannot solve all of the world’s problems.
  • Tell your audience why they should care. How can your work answer, “Who cares?”
  • Showing is better than discussing. Use colorful details to bring your argument to life.
  • Think carefully about your voice. Consider your tone and style.
  • Embrace your personal experience. Your best examples come from your own experience.
  • Use short sentences and cut long paragraphs into two or more shorter ones.
  • Avoid jargon. If a technical detail is not essential to your argument, don’t use it.
  • Use the active voice. Passive voice can sound too wordy and indirect.
  • Acknowledge the other side. Your opinion will come across as more credible and balanced.
  • Avoid tedious rebuttals. Mention the opposing opinion once, then argue your case.
  • Offer graphics. Share an illustration, photo, video, etc. to accompany your opinion.

About GCR

The Government and Community Relations team is responsible for the university’s advocacy work with all branches of government and for fostering and supporting community engagement between campus and community partners. The GCR team sets institutional priorities in consultation with campus leaders, communicates Vanderbilt’s position to elected and appointed officials, and keeps campus informed of legislative or policy actions.

  • J. Nathan Green

    J. Nathan Green

    Vice Chancellor for Government and Community Relations

  • Christina West

    Christina West

    Associate Vice Chancellor for Federal Relations

  • Daniel Culbreath

    Daniel Culbreath

    Assistant Vice Chancellor for State Government Relations

  • Eben Cathey

    Eben Cathey

    Senior Director of Local Government Relations

About Communications and Marketing

The Communications and Marketing team develops and executes communications and marketing strategies that inform, engage and inspire others to participate in Vanderbilt University’s global academic and research mission.

  • Steve Ertel

    Steve Ertel

    Vice Chancellor for Communications and Marketing

  • Katherine Brick

    Katherine Brick

    Assistant Vice Chancellor for Public Relations

  • Lauren Hammond

    Lauren Hammond

    Assistant Vice Chancellor for University Communications

  • Damon Maida

    Damon Maida

    Associate Director of Media Relations