Feed me!

Do you use a feed reader? A feed reader like Bloglines, Google Reader or News Gator lets you subscribe to a blog or web site’s RSS feed. Most blogs and modern news sites publish a feed. Usually, you will see an icon like this orange button on the page and sometimes it appears in your browser’s address bar.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Web site feeds use a very simple technology. It’s actually a simplified format for content called XML (Extensible Markup Language). XML gets rid of all of the window dressing of your web site and only displays the body content or news in a structured format. Due to its simplicity, XML powers blog feeds, podcasts and even databases.

Take a look at the feed for the Congress 2.0 blog to get an idea.

WELL, WHAT DOES THAT DO FOR ME?

Okay, okay…so now that you know what a feed is, it’s time to subscribe to the feeds of sites that you frequent. You will quickly become addicted to your feed reader which aggregates all of your favorite site’s latest content in one place.

You’ll find this to be a big time saver…that is until you’ve subscribed to every feed you come across!

I WANT A FEED TOO!

Now that I’ve let you in on this little secret, you’re probably wondering how you can use this technology to promote your own web site. Well, if you are a Fireside Web™ client, your web site already has a feed that your constituents can subscribe to.

If you aren’t sure if you are using it, give us a call.


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The Fireside21 team would like to welcome @bridg_eeee to our ranks! http://t.co/vQrmIs51

It appears we had some formatting issues- Thanks @NealKirby!

Welcome to Fireside21, @KennyAmes! http://t.co/RH01Ftc5

Just launched a completely redesigned website for @MacTXPress! Check it out: http://t.co/dQG2cHOh

Just launched a completely redesigned website for @TomLatham! Check it out: http://t.co/OYJ8AfAD

Fireside21 on Twitter >>

How to use Windows Movie Maker to edit and compress videos

If you want to edit or compress Windows media video files you can use Windows Movie Maker. It is free and easy to use. Windows Movie Maker should already be installed on your computer, if not, you can download it here. Below are step-by-step instructions on how to use the software.

  1. Open Windows Movie Maker
  2. Click on Import Video under the “1.Capture Video Tab” on right side.
  3. Browse for the Windows Media File on your Computer and then click Import. Note: It will take a few seconds/minutes to import depending on the size of the file.
  4. The video/clips should be in Windows Media Player under Collection (in the center of the page)
  5. Drag video/clips to the timeline below.
  6. Under “3.Finish Movie” Tab click on Save to my Computer.
  7. Fill out the File Name.
  8. Browse for a location to save your new file. Then click next.
  9. Click on the third radio button that says: Other settings. Click the drop down box and select: Video for broadband (150 Kbps). Then click next.
  10. Check or uncheck the “Play movie when I Finish” button. Then click Finish on the bottom of the screen.
  11. Go to the folder that you saved your video in and play the video.
  12. Then Upload the video into eManager under the files section.

Advice on blogger outreach from Richard Edelman

As a follow-up to my 5 tips for reaching out to the blogosphere, I wanted to point to a post by Richard Edelman about how the PR industry needs to adapt to ongoing changes in the mainstream media to realize client successes.

He gives a great example of blog outreach and tactics that can be adapted for Congressional offices:

So let’s say that you are at a PR firm representing a diabetes drug. The mainstream media has been reluctant to cover the category. You come across this interesting blog written by Amy Tenderich, a Bay Area resident and a Type One Diabetes patient, called DiabetesMine.com. You see that she wrote a letter to Steve Jobs which sparked the design of a next generation diabetes measurement gadget. You learn that it attracts 30,000 unique visitors a month. So you offer Amy an interview with the doctor running the important clinical trial with a human interest angle with a few of the patients who have benefited. Amy posts and you are off and running in the long tail. Note a few recent posts: http://www.diabetesmine.com/2007/09/where-healthcar.html and http://www.diabetesmine.com/2007/09/health-20-a-mov.html. Scott Hensley, the WSJ health blogger, picks up on the story for his blog and you are working in a new media-eco system.

Mr. Edelman is the President and CEO of Edelman Worldwide.

2007 CMF Mouse Awards

Congratulations to our clients who were selected as 2007 CMF Mouse Award Winners! Your hard work, dedication, and creativity paid off.

Web sites were evaluated on how well they incorporated five basic building blocks: audience, content, usability, interactivity, and innovation.

GOLD MOUSE WINNERS

SILVER MOUSE WINNERS

BRONZE MOUSE WINNERS

Take a look at the full copy of the report, the 2007 Gold Mouse Report: Lessons from the Best Web Sites on Capitol Hill (PDF). More information is available on the Congressional Management Foundation’s web site.

Also, see what John Boozman’s office has to say about winning a Gold Mouse Award in today’s Roll Call.

Reach out to bloggers to get new traffic and email subscribers

Blogging is a great way to cultivate new audiences for your web site, but even if you don’t blog, you can still reach out to the blogosphere!

Step 1 – Identify “friendly” and “unfriendly” blogs

This can be as easy as searching Google Blog Search, Technorati or Icerocket (blog specific search engines) for your boss’ name. Once you find them, keep track of them using a feed reader like Google Reader or Bloglines. In addition to reading the blogger’s post, it is important to look at comment threads to get a feel for other reader’s opinions.

Step 2 – Comment thoughtfully

If you have something to say–leave a comment. It is important to be thoughtful, factual and transparent with your identity. Don’t try to be sneaky with your identity or your argument, because you will get caught! Emotional rants should be discourage, but counter arguments to “unfriendlies” is an important component of your outreach.

Step 3 – Contact bloggers directly

Every blogger has their own preference for communicating, but consider reaching out to “friendly” bloggers with an email to introduce yourself asking the best way to contact them. They may prefer you to send them a message another way–perhaps by Facebook.

Step 4 – Provide exclusives or other privileged information

Bloggers love special treatment. Scheduling a regular blogger conference call, for instance, could give the participants access directly to your boss. When you are pushing out informaion, keep in mind that bloggers inboxes are swamped just like the rest of us, so don’t inundate them with every press releases.

Step 5 – Ask for feedback

This is a two-way street, so provide mechanisms for bloggers and their readers to interact with you. Providing surveys and polls on your web site is a great way to continue the conversation without jamming up your back office. Added bonus to those of you who can gather email list opt-ins from your surveys.

More on identifying and developing a relationship with bloggers.

Enhance the look of your Web site

Hope you had a great New Year’s! Starting off 2008, here are some tips to enhance the look of your website.

BACKGROUND COLOR

Adding a background color brings contrast to the site which brings it out more.

Examples of background colors on websites:

BANNER

Change your banner by adding/changing the pictures. The banner is one of the first things a constituent sees on your website. Include lots of color, pictures of district places and or symbols representing the state.

Examples of great banners:

MULTIMEDIA AND PICTURES

Make your website exciting and add pictures throughout the site. Update your photo gallery with the newest photos. Include lots of audio/video on your website and let your constituents see your latest floor speech, radio interview or video.

Please let us know if we can help you enhance the look of your website.

Setting Web Site Goals for 2008

Everyone wants to make improvements to their web sites this time of year. It is, after all, an election year!

So, where to start? Well, one good idea is to take a look at your web site statistics from last year. There is no better tool to analyze your web site’s effectiveness than looking at your traffic statistics. You may already check your statistics weekly, but if you don’t, it is a good idea to take a peak at least once a month.

Here are a couple of key statistics for first-timers to examine:

  1. Summary statistics – Ignore hits. I don’t know why this is still included in some web statistics programs. Look at page views, visitors and unique visitors. Monitor trends in the weekly or monthly averages. You will likely be able to see spikes related to your email campaigns and floor debate of controversial issues.
  2. Popular pages – you might be surprised to find your photo albums to be the most highly visited section of your web site! Where are stats about your home page? Many statistics programs refer to your homepage as the “root” or with just a “/”
  3. Referring sites – ever wonder who is linking to your web site? It is best to keep an eye on this regularly to find new referrers. This will be a mix of friends and foes…handle accordingly.
  4. Search phrases – this is another type of referrer for traffic coming from search engines like Google, Yahoo, etc. Your top 5 phrases are probably obvious, but this report is useful for finding other topics or issues that you may impact the content you publish and promote.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for traffic statistics, but keeping an eye on these key stats will give you a good idea about the impact your web site is having. With this knowledge, develop your tactics to increase your visitors and page views in 2008.

Resolutions for Congressional Web sites and outreach

Go on a diet, exercise more, save more money…I thought I would help with a couple of more resolutions! These ones apply to your web site and email outreach to your constituents.

  1. Use more video. Specifically, use Flash-based video. You can use YouTube, BrightCove or do it yourself so that video plays in place on your web site and your constituents don’t need any pre-installed software. Here’s a new service called Ustream to webcast live events. Consider using video on issue and survey pages…
  2. Keep an eye out for the “Gold Mouse” Awards. The Congressional Management Foundation is “a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to promoting a more effective Congress.” They will be publishing their latest Gold Mouse Repost this month. More important than whether or not you win is to take heed of their advice! Here is last year’s report.
  3. Take a look at the Sunlight Foundation. Sunlight’s mission is to encourage the government to use the Internet to provide better transparency and access to information. Their Open House Project has provided recommendations for many House organizations.
  4. Target your emails. Tired of low open-rates and high unsubscribe requests? It is time to get more sophisticated with your email strategy by targeting your emails.
  5. Interact and engage your constituents. The Internet provides the best medium to interact with and serve your constituents. Blogs, social networks and many other new technologies make it easier than ever to connect online and exchange information.

More to come on the Congress 2.0 blog to help you stick to these resolutions!