While we’re on the Add a Person page, there is now even more info you can include when creating a new person! You can check the Opt-in box to sign the person up for your eNewsletter. You can also add a fax number or date of birth!
Warning: file_get_contents(http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/90490354.rss) [function.file-get-contents]: failed to open stream: HTTP request failed! HTTP/1.0 404 Not Found in /home/fireside/public_html/wp-content/themes/Fireside2010/index.php on line 26
It appears we had some formatting issues- Thanks @NealKirby!
Congratulations! It looks like your boss has gained a few (thousand) new Facebook followers over the last three weeks and has just ascended several spots in the intra-caucus social media competition.…now what?
Engaging constituents effectively over social media can help Representatives bridge the district-DC divide and respond more quickly to constituent needs. To truly take advantage of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, however, you’re going to need more than just a few press releases, GOTV reminders, and Facebook Likes!
Here are some best practices from Fireside21 clients who have effectively used social media to start meaningful online dialogues. Don’t forget to tweet at us @Fireside21, Like us on Facebook, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions!
1. Share videos of House Floor speeches and voting records/explanations.
Take transparency and accountability to the next level by publishing social media posts that detail your boss’ position on legislation and by sharing videos of his or her speeches on the Floor and in committee. In doing so, Representatives can more clearly demonstrate how they are serving the needs of their constituency while also providing more opportunities for feedback.
2. Encourage social media followers to share posts from their Representative on their own profiles.
The number of social media followers that your boss has will likely never approach the hundreds of thousands of constituents in the district. To overcome this difference and extend your boss’ reach on social media, encourage followers to further “share” his or her posts about pressing legislative issues or upcoming events and important dates. Forwarding along a message in this way can expand discussion beyond a Representative’s immediate social network. Just remember to comment back from time to time!
3. Post photos showing personality in addition to business activity.
As important as it is, discussing platforms and issues all the time can get a little mundane. One method of keeping social media followers engaged is to share photos of your boss’ activities both on the Hill and around the district. Great examples are meeting families and service academy appointees, as well as attending events. Fun, creative, and personal content helps present Representatives as approachable and likable, and keeps followers interested so that they are more likely to join conversations on legislative issues when Members are looking for input.
When you use the Instant Search to find a person and there is nobody yet in your database with that name, you can click the New Person button on the right hand side of the page to create a new record. This has always been the case. However, that Add a Person page will now auto-fill with the text you used for searching in the corresponding fields! Less typing means time saved!
As you’ve probably (hopefully) already noticed, your screen when you first get logged in to Fireside21 has changed dramatically over the past few months! We’ve been trying to make it a little more interactive, and a lot more user friendly. It now includes summary reports for several Fireside modules, links to popular Knowledge Base articles, and even peeks at our social media!
“Social media allows politicians and organizations a method to connect directly and without filters with people across the country, assemble a constituency, and solicit their support at a reduced cost and greater reach than traditional media. Social media is not simply the next in a line of communications technologies: it has changed everyday activities and connected people in a manner never before possible.”
Our Director of Outreach, Kenny Ames, made this statement in his graduate school thesis, which focused on how social media has transformed politics in America. Social media creates an instantaneous multi-directional public dialogue that offers the ability to rapidly analyze the data and learn from the findings on an unprecedented scope.
Many of our clients are on the cutting edge by using social media in unique and effective ways. Congressman Tim Griffin is a superb example of being responsive and engaging constituents in conversation via social media. A quick perusal of Rep. Griffin’s Facebook page and Twitter account demonstrate that he uses social media in a variety of ways to communicate with his constituency. He not only uses it to disseminate information of the workings of Congress, he also relies on social media for informing his constituents of ways federal agencies can be of help, distributing vital emergency contact information and even sharing photos from around his district.
Switching gears to Congressman Patrick Murphy’s award for a photo contest with a legislative purpose, we see that Rep. Murphy used social media to garner interest in an annual competition the House hosts: An Artistic Discovery. He encouraged his target audience to vote for his district’s overall winner by Facebook “likes.” He even announced the winner by sharing the photo on his official Facebook page! The trend of including constituent votes in the annual art competition is catching on with a handful of other Fireside21 clients, including Rep. Sam Johnson, Rep. Michael Burgess, and Rep. Mac Thornberry.
The keys to a thriving social media strategy include engaging citizens on the platform they initiated the conversation, creatively using the medium for your message, and posting in a timely and relevant manner. Plus, our clients have had success mixing in some personal activities of the Member as well as official business. Avoid the mundane posts by considering: “Is this interesting? Does it achieve the stated purpose? Is it something someone would share or like?” Also, do not limit yourself on the platforms your office would be willing to adopt and thinking of new ways to engage your audience.
Kenny also found that, “Members want to connect and present themselves as likeable to the public, and social media enables their efforts.” Stay tuned for more examples of social media best practices, as demonstrated by our stellar clients! If your office is doing something noteworthy, let us know!
We applaud all of our clients in the outstanding work they do to communicate with their constituency. Fireside21 clients not
only won the most CMF Mouse Awards for Best Websites of the 113th Congress, 40% of the House winners in the Gold Mouse Awards for citizen engagement on social media were also our clients.
We’d like to feature a few of our clients that CMF says uses these best practices:
- Responsiveness and engagement via social media (Griffin)
- Accountability and transparency through social media (Massie)
- Sustained, issue-based, cross-platform integration (McGovern)
- Photo contest with a legislative purpose (Murphy)
Over our next few blog posts, we will examine these practices at length. Stay tuned!
Every Congress when the Congressional Management Foundation announces the Mouse Awards, we like to take a moment to appreciate our clients who chose us. There’s a reason Fireside21 is the House vendor with most clients who won for the past three congresses. Eighteen of our clients won awards this year. Thirty-three percent of all of the winners are Fireside21 clients. Sixty percent of the committees that won are Fireside21 clients, including two of the three Gold winners. We take great care in designing and building websites for our clients that are not only on the cutting edge of technology, but also deliver the most up-to-date and accurate information to their target audience: the constituent. Without further ado, here are the Fireside21 clients who won:
Fireside21 is joining dozens of other technology and software development companies in committing to end product testing using mice, kittens, puppies, chimpanzees, and other adorable non-humans.
The growing trend — driven by improved technology and pressure from animal rights groups, as well as the National Institutes of Health and Congress — means that quality control for product development will from now on rest solely on human shoulders.
The Humane Society of the United States released a statement calling the move a “step in the right direction” as they step up their campaign urging companies to phase out all animal testing because it “totally stresses them out. And no one likes a sad panda.”
Fireside21 CEO Ken Ward noted he’s proud of this bold move, but wants to assure Congress that “as a small business, we at Fireside21 take our role as job creators seriously. That’s why we are also announcing our pilot project to re-train all of the newly unemployed animals and put them to work in other parts of Fireside21’s organization, including answering phones, managing finances, and providing customer service.”
Joshua Billigmeier, Fireside21’s Director of Product Development explained that, despite some client concerns, he does not expect to see any reduction in the quality of the CRM due to this change. “I think the animals will be a solid addition to the rest of our human team.” As for quality assurance and technical support, “we’re just going to have to go back to abusing interns,” Billigmeier added.
It is hard to believe it, but Ken started at our company 10 years ago this month. Ken was fresh off the Hill and looking for a job in the tech field, and wound up at what was then Adfero, where he started out in the account staff working on managing campaigns and online strategy.
I worked with Ken over email and chat for 6 months before meeting him in person on my first day at the company. After years of solely offering website design and support on the Hill, Jeff Mascott gave Ken and me the goal of creating a new newsletter and CRM system to address the frustrations that Hill staff had with existing software.
Ken started out by changing our web business to a true software as a service business. This gave us the stability we needed and the recurring revenue to grow our company to the next level, by standardizing our monthly fees and switching away from depending on big up front sales.
Next he started on growing our newest product, the eNewsletter service. We got the first version up and running in only 6 months, and after some technical tweaking, the service really took off.
In 2008, Ken closed an astonishing 40 website deals as the only full time sales representative for Fireside21. This was the springboard that enabled us to grow our development team and give us the staff to finish and launch our CRM.
Around that time we also realized it was time to create our own identity. When we simply did websites, it was easy to share developers, designers, and support staff with Adfero since that was what we were doing. After launching the Enewsletter and CRM tools, we became a more specialized software group, and by 2008 our team was operating almost independently from the rest of Adfero. We decided to start by creating our own brand and website. Ken led the effort to create a new name, logo, branding, and website that that we all loved. Personally, I love our logo and color scheme, and even try to get clothes and accessories in orange now. I don’t remember what Ken’s title was at that time, but he had established himself as the leader and champion for our work on the Hill, and shortly after our rebranding we changed Fireside21 to its own legal entity and Ken was formally given the title of CEO.
The next few years were a whirlwind of growth for our CRM tool. In 2008 we had 4 members of our team, and by 2013 we had 10. Ken worked to grow our account team and establish our reputation of excellent service and support for our products.
In 2012, we were quickly running out of room in our office. Adfero served as our “garage” to get started, and was a great place to work and hang out, but the space we were using no longer allowed us all to sit together and work effectively as a team. Ken started looking for a new space, and found a fantastic office that was just coming onto the market in the Penn Quarter. It had formerly been occupied by the FBI, that turned the beautiful historic building into a generic and boring office space. Ken worked with an architect to gut the space, and created a great environment to work, that had an open feel and modern design. A great example of Ken’s creativity and fun design is that one of our walls is painted in stripes which spell “Fireside21” in binary code.
Having worked with Ken for nine years, it has been exciting to watch him grow into his role here, and these are just a few of my favorite qualities about him.
While I’m more of a cut-corners and ship-it guy, Ken is always looking for ways to provide a wow factor for clients, and thinks about all the details that go into a feature or communication. I think having worked on the Hill gives Ken a lot of empathy for staffers, and it’s always great to have someone who keeps us focused on making life easier for them.
Ken also leads from the front. In fact, if you call our office when we are short staffed due to weather or sickness, there’s a good chance the CEO will pick up and help clients with formatting a newsletter or getting that targeted mailing just right. A common sight for us is Ken sprinting for the phone if the support team is already on a call. How often have you gotten help from the CEO at other companies?
Ken is also one of the most cooperative people I’ve worked with. Whenever we have a big project to do, Ken is great at rounding everyone up, writing up a plan, and encouraging everyone to get cracking and make stuff happen. Ken is also very resourceful; I don’t know how many times I’ve said something couldn’t happen due to technical difficulties, and then he fires out a simple solution to the problem that works like a charm.
I have enjoyed watching Ken grow into the leader of our company, and he is a great example of how hard work, dedication, and hustle can lead to success. Happy 10 years, Ken!
Thanksgiving is a popular holiday among the Fireside21 staff. (I think this is mostly because we all thoroughly enjoy a good meal, and an excuse to pig out at said meal!) In honor of this tasty holiday, here are some of the Thanksgiving goodies we enjoy!
Mark (senior programmer) enjoys turkey. Can’t go wrong with that on “Turkey Day!”
Kenny (director of outreach) is on a “runner’s diet,” and has fewer options than most for this hallowed holiday. However, he never gets tired of good ole mashed potatoes! His favorite recipe is below:INGREDIENTS 1 1/2 lbs yukon gold potatoes, peeled (as desired) and quartered length-wise 1/2 teaspoon salt 4 Tbsp heavy cream 2 Tbsp butter 1 Tbsp milk Salt and Pepper METHOD (1) Put potatoes into a saucepan. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add water until potatoes are covered. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, 15-20 minutes, or until done – a fork can easily be poked through them. (2) Warm cream and melt butter, together, in a pan on the stove. Drain water from potatoes. Put hot potatoes into a bowl. Add cream and melted butter. Use a potato masher to mash potatoes until well mashed. Use a strong spoon to beat further, adding milk to achieve the consistency you desire. (Do not over-beat or your potatoes will get gluey.) Salt and pepper to taste.
Michael (programmer) really likes stuffing. He won’t get into an argument over stuffing v. dressing. He likes it all and according to him, “the two are identical as far as I’m concerned.”
Rachel (account coordinator) makes some not-so-traditional cranberry meatballs that are said to be “ridiculously delicious.” She even shared the recipe, which is below:“Grandma Selma’s Cranberry Meatballs“ INGREDIENTS
2 lbs. Ground beef
l/2 cup Matzo meal
1 can (12 oz) Tomato paste
2 cans Whole berry cranberry sauce
1 Medium onion, diced
1 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Pepper
1 1/2 Cups water
2 tbsp. Ketchup DIRECTIONS:
Mix together: Ground beef, Matzo meal, Eggs, Onion, Salt and Pepper. Make small meatballs out of these ingredients.In a large pot, mix together: cranberry sauce, ketchup and water.
Bring liquid to a boil adding meatballs. Lower to a simmer, in a covered pot for 2 hours.
This is great served over noodles or brown rice!NOTE: The sugar in the cranberry sauce burns easily. Make sure there is enough liquid at the bottom of the pot. Add a bit of water if needed.
Adam (web developer) couldn’t decide on a favorite. This isn’t surprising to any of us, since he’s the office “foodie” and even regaled us for weeks on his cast iron skillet restoration project!
(Adam’s actual before/after skillet photos)
Bridget (account coordinator) is borderline obsessed with pumpkin pie. (Her birthday is near Thanksgiving, so she usually asks for it instead of cake.) She’s dedicated. She will definitely not be sharing her recipe, because it’s a family secret.
Here’s her first-ever attempt at baking a perfect “secret family recipe pumpkin pie,” circa 2007.
Ken (CEO) is a true resident of the mid-Atlantic region. He says his favorite (new) Thanksgiving tradition is oysters. You read that right: oysters. He says it’s awesome: “1) Meet waterman at dock, 2) Buy oysters, 3) Shuck oysters, 4) Eat oysters.”
Jeremy (director of business development) likes to keep things simple. His favorite part of Thanksgiving is bourbon. Alrighty, then!
Scott (programmer) also could not decide on a favorite, but it is because he piles everything on his plate in the style of:
Fireside Web is a user-friendly interface that gives you complete access to your website. We provide our clients with full control over their website, so there is no wait time for updates to the website. Here are a few key advantages to Fireside Web:
Add Your Own Content
Pages in Fireside Web give you access to all the pages within your website. The shortcut for finding where to edit the page you need to is “hidden” in the URL of the page! For example, http://joecongressman.house.gov/constituent-services/students.htm would be found in the Constituent Services folder under the Students page.
Press Release Web-to-Email Publishing
After publishing any News document (press releases, blogs, news articles, etc.) to your website, you can put the document into your press release email template with the click of a button! This saves you time since you don’t have to input the information in two different places.
Create your own surveys within the Fireside Web platform. You have the ability to add default fields such as name, mailing address, or phone and create new custom fields that are specific to that survey. Once the survey is completed, share it on your website or link to it from your email. All responses are stored in Fireside with the ability to easily pull a list of the constituents who responded and their responses.
If you would like more information on our website services, please contact Jeremy at email@example.com.
By selecting Fireside21 as your web vendor, you are not only getting a one-of-a-kind website, you are also getting the Fireside21 team. We pride ourselves on our customer service – from our online chat room to our free training offerings. We are here to help around the clock.
If designing websites is not your forté or you are looking for a quick turnaround – we can accommodate that. We have a variety of templates to choose from that can be ready to go in 2-6 weeks. The fastest turnaround recently was Rep. Lee Terry’s website project, which was done in a record-breaking 10 days!
As previously mentioned, some projects can stretch over months at a time. There are a variety of reasons this can happen:
- There can be several rounds of edits before and/or after programming. Each round of edits take a few days for your office to communicate and the designer to update.
- “Too many cooks in the kitchen,” i.e. involving more members of your staff than necessary in the design and decision-making processes.
- Getting content up on your site. There is a lot of content, so we recommend having some other team members in your office assist with this.
If you would like more information on our website services, please contact Jeremy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Website project time frames come in a variety of lengths at Fireside21 – they can be completed within four to six weeks, and last up to a few months. This will vary office to office, depending on factors like how many people are involved, how passionate you are, and how confident your office is in your design choices.
Design Phase (3-4 weeks)
Many people have an idea of what they are looking for before the project even starts. If you don’t, that’s fine – we’re here to help. We have our Congressional Design Form with a wide range of questions to help you figure out what you are looking for in your new website with us. Once the design form is complete, we will discuss it together with you and our website designer. We will work with you through three rounds of edits for both the Homepage and Internal page layouts.
Programming (1-2 weeks)
Once the Homepage and Internal pages have been approved, programming will begin. This happens in two phases: the initial hard-coding, followed by getting spruced up by our in-house programmer. Once this is complete, you will receive a test link for both the homepage and internal page.
During the programming phase, we will train you and your staff on adding content to Fireside Web. Our development team will import all news documents (press releases, blogs, etc.) while your office will be responsible for all other content migration.
Launch (1 week)
We will do a final, internal, run through to make sure all pages have content, all links work, and all images are in place. Afterward, your website will need to go through a security audit conducted by the House CAO. Finally, after the website passes audit and with assistance from the House, we can launch your new website!
If you would like more information on our website services, please contact Jeremy at email@example.com
A website is a very important aspect of the Member’s persona. The website can be the first thing a constituent sees about the Member. It is key their website reflects the Member and their views. When designing (or redesigning) your website, there are a few things you want to keep in mind:
Take a look at your current site’s analytics. Find out where constituents are going, what pages they are exiting from, where they are spending their time, how they are getting to your site. Use this information to make smart layout designs on your new site. Set up pages with more click through options so the constituent doesn’t have to leave!
When surfing the web take a look at every site from a design angle – notice what you like and don’t like, the layout of pages, color schemes, etc. It’s okay to take a little something from a variety of sites to put yours together. And remember, you don’t have to just look at Congressional websites!
The most import aspect is when you start deciding what will actually be done. Based off the information above, you want to decide the overall look of your website. This ranges from the layout design, the navigation set up, color schemes, images and more. Take time making these decisions because, as it was mentioned before, this is the first thing constituent may see when meeting their Representative!
If you would like more information on our website services, please contact Jeremy at firstname.lastname@example.org
As with all of our other platforms, Fireside CRM is very user friendly. It will take some time to get used to because it does work differently than your previous vendor(s). This past year alone, we migrated over 25 offices from other vendors, so we know what we are doing. We’ve demonstrated from these migrations that there are advantages to Fireside CRM:
During the summer of 2012, we gave our CRM a “facelift” which really cleaned out the system. There are only the necessary buttons on each page, without any extra hoopla. This makes it easier for you to navigate throughout the pages.
Moving from one platform to another platform within Fireside is very easy. All the platforms are always available in the top navigation bar so you can select to move into a different one at any time.
When viewing your constituent’s profile, you also have the ability to see email interactions, website interactions and social media interactions. Yes, you read that right – social media interactions – we can track what constituents are saying about the Member on Twitter and Facebook.
CRM project migration timelines are pretty much set from the beginning of the project based on your office needs. During the transition of the 112th to 113th Congress, fastest CRM migration occurred in about 3 weeks, while another took roughly 8 weeks. Typically, CRM projects run smoothly, with the exception of a few hiccups that rarely occur:
- The data we received from your previous vendor can be in an unusable format, meaning our system can’t read the data. The House has a set format they should be sending the data in, but that is not always the case.
- Sometimes information is missing from the data dump: form letters, agency contacts, etc.
- If we receive the setup questionnaires late, we would have to push back the contact form launch and therefore the export date.
As you can see, some of the trouble here is caused by an outside source that we don’t have control over. We do everything in our power to stay on the timeline, and we appreciate if you do as well.
If you would like more information regarding a switch to our CRM services, please email Jeremy at email@example.com.
Fireside CRM migration projects take an average of 4-6 weeks total. At no point during this migration will you be unable to be using a CMS/CRM platform – at all points you will have access to your old vendor and/or Fireside CRM.
At the beginning of your project we will sit down with you and your office to go through each step of the process during the Kick Off call. During the call we will go over all the items needed to get the project started, including the contact form set up, CRM configuration and so forth. These will take form in a questionnaire. Our development team will get everything configured on our end, including the set up of your new Fireside contact form for your website. Once the contact form is audited by the House, we are able to launch it on your website. Now all emails will be submitting to your Fireside CRM. Don’t worry, we will train you on how to log and respond to these emails from your new Fireside account.
After the contact form has been live for 2-3 days, your export from your old vendor will be initiated. This typically takes 3-4 days and is sent to us. We will import all of that data into your new Fireside account. The import takes place in three stages: People, Mail Room and Casework.
Once the first stage of the import is completed, we will train the entire office on the basics of Fireside CRM: how to search for and add people, navigating through, etc. The second set of training will be split up into DC and District staff for the Mail Room and Casework, respectively. This training will be very specific and go into the details of the system. We are available for as many follow up trainings or individual trainings after this migration is complete.
Moving from another CMS vendor to Fireside CRM is a very exciting time! There may be some stress involved, as there is with any form of change, but we are here 100% of the time to help you out with that. Here are a few key tips to make sure it is a successful and smooth transition:
- Know the export date. Think of that date as frozen in time when it comes to Fireside. When you get up and running in Fireside, all your information will look as it did on this export date.
- The time between the export and the import is crucial. Your office is still working in your old system, until everything is completed import into Fireside CRM. It is critical that your office is keeping track of everything done for these 1-2 weeks so they can be replicated in Fireside CRM after the import is complete.
- Take this transition time to clean up your account. You may notice after moving over that you have a lot of old agencies and agency contacts, form letters and batches.
The key thing to remember in the transition is that Fireside will work differently than your past vendor. It is important to have an open mind when coming in to Fireside for the first time. You will be able to do almost everything that you were able to do in your past vendor, but it may just be set up differently. We are happy to walk through all processes with you, as many times as it takes to get it down!
Have more questions about Fireside CRM? Email Jeremy@fireside21.com for more information!
As voting kicked off yesterday, we realized that Hill staff really love their dogs! At the time this blog was written, all the dogs have total combined points of 5,094! That’s a ton of puppy love!
Here are the points front runners so far:
- Overall is Winston with 2,056.
- Second place so far is Conan with 603.
- Third place is Milton with 512.
- First place among Fireside dogs (who are NOT eligible to win) is Ronnie with 157.
Don’t forget to vote early and often for your favorite dog-testant at www.Fireside21.com/TopDog!
Congressman David Valadao launched a very useful and constituent-focused new website a couple weeks ago! The site is separated into English and Spanish pages which allow his constituents to use all services no matter which language they read or speak!