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It’s a new year and, as with any fresh start, it’s a great time to begin building a plan for the future. Truly powerful constituent outreach programs do not happen by accident; having a blueprint and being able to execute it is essential. The 115th Congress looks to be busy and now is the perfect time to prioritize your future communication plans. Established offices may want to increase the effectiveness of their engagement plans; newly elected Members may be starting from scratch as they try to determine the best ways to maximize outreach opportunities. Below, you will find suggestions and strategies that will assist you as you get started.

Build Your Foundation

Before you can engage, you have to find people to engage with.

  • Collect Your Existing Data – Each time a constituent contacts your office, you’re collecting potentially useful data. But one of the biggest opportunities many Congressional offices miss out on is developing a plan with the Legislative team to organize the constituent information in a useful way. The best time to identify constituents with Affiliation and Issue tags is during the logging process. This means that the press and legislative mail teams have to be on the same page and have this shared goal in mind. When a constituent writes “As a teacher…” or contacts you about Common Core or Charter Schools, tag it. When your boss sponsors a piece of relevant legislation, you’ll know exactly which people in your district will be the most interested.
  • Purchase District Data – Want to communicate with constituents not already in your database? Looking to target people based on specific demographic identifiers? Need more email addresses to grow your subscriber list? Purchasing data is a great way to accomplish any of these goals. You can buy email data, essential voter file information or enhanced constituent data and find people that you would otherwise be missing. The more people you have available to contact, the more effective your outreach will be. Fireside21 would be happy to discuss all of your data options with you and – bonus – we label and import all the data for you!
  • Build Audiences – What issues matter the most to your district? What will be coming up this year that you know your office will want to communicate to constituents about? Take advantage of all the features in the Audience Builder to improve your targeted communications and be proactive. You can micro-target constituents with 499s related to their interests or you can construct complex and dynamic audiences so you’re ready to go as soon as your Franked message has been approved.

Plot Your Outreach

Once you have data, you can now plan the best ways to communicate with your constituents and build towards your larger engagement goals.

  • Live Events – Life in Congress is busy so you want to maximize the time the Member spends engaging directly with constituents. Frequent telephone town hall events and in-person district meetings are great ways to let constituents know you want them to be a part of the political process. In addition to being effective at establishing connections, these events also provide opportunities to increase your available data which in turn strengthens the relationship. Leverage the telephone town hall criteria in Audiences to follow up with participants and keep the conversation going; bring a mobile device to a local event and enter attendee information directly into your database.
  • Web Surveys – Surveys can also be leveraged as a way to directly connect with your district. They provide constituents a great opportunity to share their feelings about legislative priorities, while your office gets to learn about what matters most and who it matters most to. Build issue-based surveys with multiple choice answers and free response fields, conduct a constituent satisfaction survey, or just use surveys as an event sign up page. As a bonus, each time a constituent submits a response, you can add them to your subscriber lists. Check out our blog on how to build your opt-ins with surveys.
  • Bulk Mailings – Fireside’s Bulk Mail tool is a quick and easy way to set up both solicited and unsolicited mass mailings from your CRM. Want to send email 499s each week? Want to do larger print campaigns? No problem! Like constituent responses, you will need an office-approved form letter (and if needed, Franking-approved) and one of the Audiences you prepared in the earlier foundation building stage. Email newsletters are also tremendously useful – you can send regular messages to your subscribers, large blasts with your latest surveys, or microtarget interest-based audiences and send specific updates about legislative activities.

A frequent, diverse and consistent engagement plan is incredibly important and will yield the best results. Resolve to set yourself up for success throughout 2017 and beyond!