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How 499 Campaigns Can Boost Your Constituent Communications Strategy

by Thea Schmid, on May 11, 2022

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No federal mailing strategy is complete without 499 campaigns. These concentrated mailings let your office speak to segments of your constituency about specific issues without going through franking. They’re an integral part of staying in touch with your target constituency, due to the letters’ specificity. A 499 is the place to get as demographic and interest-specific as possible, while reaching the most people you can. 

A word about 499 campaigns: Each campaign can touch way more than 499 people — your letters for each group of 499 people just have to differ enough to not get flagged by franking.

Here are the steps to take for a successful 499 campaign:

1. Pick your target audience

Out of an office’s target constituent base (we recommend around 20 percent of a voter base), there’ll be tons of ranging interests, ages, demographic sectors, etc. Pick one audience to target, likely narrowed by demographic and demonstrated interest. 

Don’t worry if the audience has way more than 499 individuals — in fact, it’s better if it does! (You’ll see why in the next section.)

Example: An office would like to message voters under 35 who’ve demonstrated interest in firearm legislation. Pull the list based on these criteria.

2. Evaluate your list and decide how many letters to send

Next, an office should decide how many form letters to write based on the list size. It’s wise to keep the number of recipients under two-thirds of the list size to provide a buffer. Take that audience and divide it by 499 and you’ll have the number of unique form letters to write. (It’s fine if you’d like to write less, of course.) Sending to half or a little over half of an audience size gives plenty of room for incomplete sends due to old or duplicate record filtering. 

Example: Say the list above of voters under 35 with an interest in firearm legislation pulled a group of 5,000 constituents. Since 5000/2 = 2500, and 2500/499 = ~5, an office would want to write around five or six form letters for an audience of 5,000. 

3. Write your letters

After deciding how many form letters to write, offices need to abide by the franking commission’s rules of what constitutes a letter that is “too similar” for a 499 campaign. Just write the letters, send them through the proper approval process, and prepare to send them to constituents. 

Example: An LC would write five form letters to voters under 35 about firearm legislation and get them approved by their boss, taking care to abide by franking’s rules on how different the letters need to be. 

4. Let your CRM do the rest

After the audience and form letters are set to go in the bulk mailing tool, let your system handle the rest. Top CRMs automatically pull groups of 499 constituents out of your audience, assign a form letter, send the mailing, and exclude them from the next send using issue codes. 

Example: The letters are in the system, the bulk mailing batch is set to 499 constituents, the form letters are assigned, and the exclusion is set. The 499 campaign is ready to send to its curated audience.

Conducting a Successful 499 Strategy with Fireside

Since sending 499 campaigns is such an integral part of Hill communication strategy (especially during a blackout), having a CRM that has a built-in 499 functionality is key. Fireside understands the importance of 499s in a Congressional office strategy — especially during those months when you’re touching base with as many constituents as possible. Learn more about how Fireside’s all-in-one CRM makes bulk mailings (and so much more!) more intuitive.

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