Why should I contact my MP?

Your MP is there to represent you in parliament whether you voted for them or not, so it’s important that they know what matters to you. They represent their local area and can raise the concerns of local people. This guide will help you engage with them on advertising as part of the Adfree Cities campaign to change national policy on outdoor advertising. When lots of people contact their MPs about a specific issue it can lead to national change! 

There are different ways you can tell your MP about why you care about advertising. You could:

  • Send them an email
  • Arrange a meeting 
  • Invite them to an event

What can your MP do?

It’s your MP’s job to represent the views of their constituents in parliament and to hold the government to account on your behalf. They can put pressure on the government in many ways, for example by:

  • Asking questions in parliament (‘Parliamentary Questions’ or PQs)
  • Speaking out in debates or asking for a debate in parliament (a relevant minister will always attend debates to respond on behalf of the government)
  • Proposing changes to bills
  • Voting on specific issues
  • Writing to the government minister responsible for the issue or making an appointment to see them

By talking to our MPs, we can have our voices heard and push for positive changes to policy and legislation.

Finding your MP

You can find out who your MP is by searching your postcode on the parliament website.

Each MP’s page should contain an address, email address and contact number for their office. For local issues, it’s best to contact the constituency office if there’s one listed. You should also be able to find their constituency office details on their website page if they have one.

If you have any issues finding your MP or their contact details, email john@adfreecities.org.uk and we can help.

What should I talk about?

Your MP is there to represent you. They’ll want to hear about your experiences, the challenges you face and the changes you’d like to see.

If you have your own experiences of the impact of digital billboards and other outdoor advertising you can start by sharing those. You can then link this to the Adfree Cities campaign areas that are important to you. You could also talk about the challenges that people close to you or people in your community are facing and how seeing ads makes this worse e.g. ads for gambling, alcohol, fast food, polluting SUVs or expensive holidays. Just make sure to tell your MP why making changes to outdoor advertising is so significant to you.

Contacting your MP on social media

Many elected representatives regularly use X (formerly Twitter) and other social media sites.  MPs’ X handles should be listed on the parliament website

You may find you are able to get a quicker answer to a question or concern online, rather than sending them an email. They may also share your message with their followers. Showing other people online that you want your MP to take action on advertising may motivate others to do the same as well.   

For example you could say:

Hello @[MP HANDLE] are you planning to attend the @adfreecities ‘Unavoidable Impact’ research launch on March 5th? Outdoor advertising placement feeds into health & wealth inequalities & national policy change to restrict outdoor ads is urgently needed https://adfreecities.org.uk/research-mapping-social-inequalities-billboard-locations/

This is a good way to publicly hold them to account and their reply may be public, so you can share it with others. However, remember that social media is a public platform, so you should only post something online if you’re comfortable with anyone seeing it, including family and friends, or work colleagues. And make sure you don’t share someone else’s story without their permission.

It is a good idea to include a picture to grab their attention or a link to further information as well. Please remember to tag @adfreecities too! 

It’s worth noting that some elected representatives have a policy of not replying to constituents on social media, so it’s best to check their social media bio. But even if they do not reply directly to your messages it doesn’t mean they don’t have an effect. 

Emailing your MP

When MPs get an email from a constituent about an issue, it makes them more likely to take action. And if they get lots of emails on the same topic from different constituents, they’ll know that something is important to the people they represent.  

MPs have different people working in their Westminster and constituency offices who may respond to their emails and set up a meeting.

What to write?

Your MP is there to represent you and should want to make sure your voice is being heard. So it’s important for them to understand why an issue is important to you.

Think about the effect the issue is having on you and your community, and the changes that you’d like to see. This will help your MP know why they need to take action.

You’re not expected to be an expert on advertising. We also have a model letter that you can adapt and personalise (see below). 

As you write, remember:

  • Your MP might not know much about the issue, so explain clearly what the problems are
  • Let them know how many billboards there are in their constituency (Adfree Cities can tell you this)
  • Personal stories are powerful
  • Be clear about what you’re asking your MP to do about the issue
  • Keep it short and to the point
  • Include your address and postcode so that they know you are a constituent and can respond to you
  • Keep it polite. Your MP is much less likely to respond to rude or overly emotional emails.

After you have sent your email

You should ask your MP to confirm that they’ve acted and clarify what they’ve done in a response to your email. And if you haven’t received a reply from your MP after a few weeks, follow up via email or by calling their office to check that your email was received.

Meeting your MP

Meeting with your MP is a really powerful way of having your voice heard and getting your MP to pay attention to what you care about. Try not to be daunted by who you’re talking to. MPs should genuinely want to hear from you.

How to arange a meeting with your MP

Call or email the local constituency office to ask for a time to meet with your MP. They may suggest booking an appointment at a specific time, or they may encourage you to come along to the MP’s next constituency surgery (meeting). MPs are usually in their constituencies on Fridays, and many will have a drop-in session to meet with constituents then.

Be prepared

You can find out a bit more about your MP by looking at their profile on TheyWorkForYou. This can help you find out what issues they care about and any relevant groups or committees that they may be part of. This can help you to focus on particular issues with advertising that you know they will be interested in e.g. health, the environment, gambling. Adfree Cities can also help you with this, just contact john@adfreecitues.org.uk.

What to say in the meeting

This is an opportunity to tell your personal story and highlight how outdoor advertising impacts on you and your community. It can help to think about the 3 most important messages that you want to get across. Your MP may not know very much about advertising so make sure you clearly explain what the problems are.

Give your MP an action for them to take your issue forward. For example, please encourage them to attend the Adfree Cities launch event on 5th March in Portcullis House and to meet with Adfree Cities on these issues.

Adfree Cities can also help you to think about what to say, making sure you get your key points across, and anything else that would help you to prepare for your meeting. We also have a briefing that you can give to MPs. Just contact charlotte@adfreecities.org.uk.

After your meeting

If you and your MP feel comfortable doing so, take a picture with them and you can post it on social media with some information about why you met with them. Please also send us a copy at Adfree Cities and let us know how the meeting went. 

Follow up with an email to say thank you and remind your MP about any actions you agreed on at your meeting. Send them a link to the Adfree Cities research to find out more: https://adfreecities.org.uk/research-mapping-social-inequalities-billboard-locations/

Meeting your MP on 5th March

If you are able to make the Adfree Cities launch event on 5th March in London you could email your MP to ask them to meet you there to talk about these issues. They may not be able to attend but could also meet you before or after the event. Otherwise you could arrange to meet them in their constituency another time.

Adfree Cities can help you to prepare for this meeting and someone could potentially come to the meeting with you if it is before or after the launch event. We can also give you a copy of the MP briefing. 

If you are able to come on 5th March please RSVP using this form: https://actionnetwork.org/events/parliamentary-launch-groundbreaking-new-research-from-adfree-cities  then we will contact you to arrange this in more detail. Or you can contact charlotte@adfreecities.org.uk.

Top tips for engaging with your MP

Here are some tips to keep in mind, however you choose to engage with your MP:

Manage your expectations

MPs are extremely busy so you may not hear back quickly or be able to meet them straight away. Be patient and persistent. If you do not hear from them, email or phone their office again.

Tell us about it

It’s helpful for us to know what MPs across the country think about our work. Please send us your MP’s response or tell us how your meeting went by emailing john@adfreecities.org.uk.

Model email to MPs

Please take action on the unavoidable impact of outdoor advertising in [AREA/CITY NAME]

Dear ………… MP,

My name is [NAME] and I am writing as your constituent living in [AREA] because I am concerned about the impact of outdoor advertising in my community. There are [NUMBER OF BILLBOARDS/SCREENS] in your constituency and they have a huge impact on the local residents and environment in terms of distraction for drivers, light pollution, impact on wildlife, and the energy use of each large screen is as much as 11 households annually. The content of these ads is also a concern considering the issues that many local people face. Advertising for gambling, alcohol, junk food and unaffordable cars and holidays is inappropriate and unnecessary in our local area.

This is something that is particularly important to me because [ADD PERSONAL MESSAGE].

I would urge you to please attend the Adfree Cities research launch in Portcullis House on Tuesday 5th March to find out more about these issues and how outdoor advertising sites are located in lower income neighbourhoods with higher levels of air pollution, creating further inequalities in already deprived areas. If you are unable to attend this event please will you meet with Adfree Cities to discuss what can be done to mitigate the negative impacts of outdoor advertising?

Please do keep me informed of any progress made.  
I look forward to hearing from you.  
Yours faithfully, 

[NAME]
[ADDRESS]
[POSTCODE]

Model letter to MPs inviting them to meet

Please take action on the unavoidable impact of outdoor advertising in [AREA/CITY NAME]

Dear ………… MP,

My name is [NAME] and I am writing as your constituent living in [AREA] because I am concerned about the impact of outdoor advertising in my community. There are [NUMBER OF BILLBOARDS/SCREENS] in your constituency and they have a huge impact on the local residents and environment in terms of distraction for drivers, light pollution, impact on wildlife, and the energy use of each large screen is as much as 11 households annually. The content of these ads is also a concern considering the issues that many local people face. Advertising for gambling, alcohol, junk food and unaffordable cars and holidays is inappropriate and unnecessary in our local area.

This is something that is particularly important to me because [ADD PERSONAL MESSAGE].

I would like to meet with you to discuss what can be done to mitigate the negative impacts of outdoor advertising in our communities. Please let me know when would be an appropriate time?

OR

I will be attending the Adfree Cities research launch in Portcullis House on Tuesday 5th March which will highlight how outdoor advertising sites are located in lower income neighbourhoods with higher levels of air pollution, creating further inequalities in already deprived areas. I would like to meet you there to discuss what can be done to mitigate the negative impacts of outdoor advertising.

I look forward to hearing from you.  
Yours faithfully, 

[NAME]
[ADDRESS]
[POSTCODE]

Number of ads in each constituency