The first 50 days of the new Congress have been awe-inspiring; witnessing citizens and their elected officials fully embrace the spirit of a representative democracy and communicate at unbelievable rates. At Fireside21, we’ve been floored watching the incredible spike in constituent engagement, with some offices receiving as much as four-times the normal volume of emails. We’re also seeing a similar surge on the newsletter front - we have been averaging nearly 1 million newsletter sends each Friday since the inauguration.
This week marks the first official district work week and Members of Congress have been welcoming the opportunity to connect in person with their constituencies. Though Members may return to Washington on Monday, that doesn’t mean there aren’t several fantastic options to directly engage with your district while you’re in DC.
Host Live Events
When many Congressional offices think about outreach, they think about the two most established methods: in-district events and newsletters. These should definitely be a part of any successful communications plan. However, with civic engagement reaching historic levels and a jam-packed Congressional calendar, there will be tons of opportunities to connect with your constituents. Why limit your boss to just two options? Here are a couple of additional ways to engage the folks in your district.
Telephone Town Halls
Telephone Town Halls have been around for a while, but have often been underappreciated by Congressional offices. More and more, our customers are hosting events when they are away from the district, because of two distinct benefits.
First, it’s an easy way to connect with your constituents for direct and productive conversations. Given the increase in interest for civic participation, telephone town halls allow you to include dramatically more people than would be possible with a single in-person event. Start with the information you already have in your CRM or buy voter data for your district and start dialing. Host weekly issue-based conversations or monthly calls to update on the progress of specific legislation.
The second benefit will be all of the new data your office can collect about the district. That information is invaluable and will significantly improve your future outreach efforts. Did someone ask a question about disability benefits? Make sure they’re in your Audience the next time you send a letter about sponsoring Social Security legislation. Did a constituent have a question but didn’t get to ask before the town hall ended? Follow up with an answer from the Member and invite them to the next event. The more events you have, the more data you can collect and the more meaningful interactions with your constituents will be.
Live Stream on Social Media
As of 2015, over 50% of internet users are interacting with smartphones and tablets. Just like it is critical to have a responsive website that is easy to use on mobile devices, you need to make sure that you’re connecting with constituents the way they want want to engage with you. One easy way to do this is by holding live streaming events on social media services.
There are a few good options for this (like YouTube or Twitter’s Periscope), but perhaps the best is Facebook Live. By the end of 2016, more than 1.23 billion people use Facebook on a daily basis and 1.15 billion connect with a mobile device. That’s a lot of people. Your constituents already spend significant time on Facebook, why not go to where they are? The best part is, Facebook will notify your followers as soon as you go live.
A big opportunity is coming up with President Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress on February 28. Did the president highlight a piece of legislation your boss is sponsoring? Do you want to respond to elements of the speech or offer your own ‘State of the District’ event? Go live on Facebook right after the address.
Maximize Your Reach
So you’ve hosted your event and it went great! Now what? Many congressional offices move on to the next thing but they are missing a bunch of opportunities. Here are a three excellent ways you can explore to maximize the impact of your constituent engagement events.
Post to Website
Whether it’s live video or audio from a telephone town hall, there’s no reason not to post it to your website. Was there a great question and response from your boss about a key priority? You could place it on your website under the the official issue statement or add it to your news center as a story and send it by email to your press lists.
Send to Constituents
You can also use the audio and video to engage with other folks in your district who were not able to participate. Include the content with your next email newsletter along with a sign-up for your next event. Add to relevant email form letters for bulk mailings or individual responses to further engage constituents about issues.
Follow Up with Participants
There are lots of great options to reconnect with the people who watched or listened to your events. You could send a thank you email and, if it was focused on a particular issue or piece of legislation, provide more information. You can send surveys to gauge how the conversation went or learn if they would like to participate in more events. You can propel it forward, keep people engaged and strengthen the connection you make with your constituents.
Interested in hosting a telephone town hall with Fireside21? Give us a call, send us an email or hop into chat and we can help you schedule your next event!