Matheson Telephone Town Halls Reach More than 100,000 Constituents

Congressman Jim Matheson said that more than 100,000 Utahns have participated in his 21 telephone town halls he has held so far this year.

Matheson began offering the phone town hall format several years ago, as a convenient way for Utahns to talk about issues with him when he was working in Washington D.C. Technology allows him to dial directly to thousands of constituents’ homes, letting them decide whether and for how long to listen, as well as to personally ask a question.

“Hearing from Utahns has always been a top priority for me in this job. It makes me a better representative. It’s also a way for me to learn about the good ideas that my constituents have about solving problems,” said Matheson.

Matheson said the outreach method has proved to be very well received. The telephone town halls—while popular—are but one of many communication tools Matheson uses to stay in touch. Matheson said he continues to participate in many public events and forums throughout Utah.

New Website Features from the Constituent Gateway

Over the past few months, we have seen many new trends and features start to gain popularity on the Hill. At iConstituent, we have also been working on developing a lot of new widgets and features that our clients can use to better interact with their constituents. Below, we have detailed just a handful of ideas that we can help you develop on your website. And remember, if you ever see something on another site that you would like to include on your site, we would be happy to help! Just email and we can work with you on it.

E-News Splash Pages

Coming into the 2010 blackout periods, it is important that your office works to develop and strengthen your list of opt-ins. An important means to develop these opt-in lists is your website, and what better way to get sign-ups than to make the sign-up form front and center when users arrive! The use of the "lightbox" to display the sign-up form is an elegant way to remind users of the benefits of receiving your newsletter. And, since we set a cookie on the users machine, they will only have to see it the first time they visit your site.

We can also integrate Flash video or other simple surveys into these lighboxes and the design is completely customizable! View Example >>

Flash Rotating Galleries

Constituent Gateway can now support Flash rotating news or "hot topic" boxes on site homepages! Using the Constituent Gateway, simply upload imagery, add a description, and a link to view more detailed content. The designs for the rotating galleries is completely customizable. We can include thumbnails of each image, place the text above, below, or to the side of the images, and control color and style! This really allows you to keep your homepage looking fresh and up-to-date, while drawing attention to the issues that matter most to your constituents. View Example >>


Using tabs on your homepage is a great way to share a lot of content in a little bit of space! Keeping your homepage clean and organized will not only save site real estate but will also help your users find the information that they are looking for as quickly as possible. It will also keep your site looking modern and up to date. We can integrate any type of content into your tabs, such as "Most Recent", "Most Popular", Press Releases, Video, Audio, or even Twitter feeds! View Example >>


Twitter Feeds

Speaking of Twitter feeds, we can also help you to integrate your Twitter feed anywhere on your site! This is great way to keep your constituents up to date on the latest happenings in Congress. We are even sharing our iConstituent Twitter feed on our website! View Example >>


Counters and Clocks

Did you know we can integrate any 3rd party widget in your website? Some popular ones we have seen lately include debt counters and census clocks. Just about anything you find that can be "embedded" on another website can be included! View Example >>



If your office is already using Flickr, there is no reason you can't integrate these galleries directly in to your iConstituent website! Flickr makes it easy to generate embed code that you can paste into your website so that your gallery can be included on the site. The Flickr gallery improves page load times due to the fact that images are not loaded until the Flash object is scrolled into view. Just like you do for YouTube, you simply make a gallery on Flickr, generate the embed code, and paste it into the "source" area of your text editor – it's that easy! View Example >>


 Also remember that iConstituent now has a Twitter page! We are frequently updating our Twitter account with other tips and tricks that will help you make the best of your website and e-newsletter communication strategies. Follow us at!

Joe Courtney Launches a New Website

Representative Joe Courtney, 2nd District of Connecticut, has launched a brand new website with iConsttiuent. Congratulations, Representative Courtney, on your new site!

Visit Rep. Joe Courtney's web site at


Rep. Dan Boren's Town Hall Calls Reach Many

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By the time Rep. Dan Boren hung up the phone in his Capitol Hill office last Monday night, nearly 9,000 people had listened to him talk about such topics as health care, energy, horse slaughtering and hunting in Honobia.

He had talked about various burgs in his eastern Oklahoma district — "There are some Borens who live in Calvin,” he told one person — and dropped names such as Ted Nugent and T. Boone Pickens.

He spent a lot of time listening and nodding as callers listed their worries about Washington.

"You threw a lot of issues out there,” Boren told one caller who had a particularly long list of grievances. "Czars and guns and Copenhagen.”

Boren, a Democrat from Muskogee, held the latest in a series of "telephone town hall” meetings last week, taking advantage of an Internet-driven means to talk to the folks back home just after casting a vote on the House floor.

Boren’s office sent out a notice to district residents earlier this month that he was going to conduct some telephone town halls and asking those interested to call with their names and phone numbers. At the appointed time, a computer called all of the numbers and linked in participants.

Zain Khan, CEO of iConstituent, the company hired by Boren’s office to set up the calls, said more than half of the 535 lawmakers in Washington have used the technology.

"It’s a growing number,” he said.

President Barack Obama, he said, had done a call with about 1 million people.

Khan said it makes contact with the congressman easier for everyone, including the constituents.

Boren, as did many lawmakers, appeared in person at town hall meetings in his district in August; several hundred people showed up for those, far more than ever before as intense feelings about government spending and health care proposals drove people out to see him.

At the time, Boren had already planned the telephone town hall meetings, committing $13,500 for a package of four such calls, and he didn’t have any in-person meetings on his schedule.

However, he hastily arranged two when attendance was surging at other lawmakers’ events and some were asking why he wasn’t appearing anywhere.

Almost 9,000 different people were on last week’s hourlong call at one time or another; there was a steady audience of about 600 throughout the call.

Boren could pick among the callers to try to get different topics, though it didn’t always work out; a caller that he thought would ask about the stimulus bill asked about hunting access.

Though he was inside Washington, Boren did all he could to distance himself from it, dismissing "elitists” who, he said, don’t know that it’s more humane to slaughter horses than to let them starve, agreeing that people should worry about "unelected bureaucrats making decisions for us,” and saying he serves on the National Rifle Association board with Ted Nugent and would never restrict gun ownership.

"I could sit here and talk all night,” Boren said as the session wound down.

Improve E-Newsletter Views and Click-Throughs with A/B Testing

We receive a lot of questions from our E-Newsletter clients asking what can be done to increase open rates, click-throughs, and opt-ins on their mailing campaigns. Factors such as subject line, day and time sent, and e-mail length all have an impact on the success of the mailing. While our training staff can suggest best practices based on national statistics, it can sometimes be useful to run tests for your particular district to see what kinds of things are working and what could be improved. Running tests on your mailing campaigns is known as A/B testing.

The basic idea of A/B testing is to create multiple mailings that are identical except for one particular aspect of the mailing – such as subject line. If you sent out 3 identical versions of the same mailing but with different subject lines you would be able to assess which subject line had the greatest success, based on a goal metric that you have chosen.

Here are some recommendations for creating a successful A/B testing strategy:

  • Identify Your Goal: determine what metric you would like to improve – open rate, click-through rate, or opt-ins.
  • Determine Testing Variables: to improve open rate, consider testing subject line. To test click-through rate, consider testing calls-to-action (such as “click here”), location of calls-to-action, etc. To test opt-in rate, consider testing the location of sign-up (side-bar versus in-content link, etc).
  • Create Random Test Groups: ensure that your lists are randomly segmented.
  • Test Only One Element at a Time: in order to properly review your results, it is important that only one factor be tested at a time.

Here are some ideas for things to test:

  • Subject Line: this is the most popular test as it is easy to do and really has an impact on open rates. Try testing “John Smith’s Weekly E-News” versus something that specifically identifies a particular topic of the e-mail. You can even test passive vs. stronger language.
  • Layouts, Colors, and Format: conduct the test to see which layouts result in the most click-throughs for particular content.
  • E-mail Length: this is an easy way to test long copy versus short copy. If you are including links back to your website in your e-mail, you can see how copy length will affect the click-throughs back to your site.
  • Sending Time: testing various days of the week, times of the day, etc is another option to test when trying to optimize your e-mail marketing. If you are testing the impact of the day of the wee, send both test versions at the same time and within the same week. You can also experiment with sending on different times of the day, morning versus evening, for example.
  • Calls-To-Action: calls-to-action refer to the text used on links to get viewers to click. Commonly used calls-to-action include: "click here", "learn more", "view", etc. Playing with different calls-to-action allow you to see what types of links generate the most interest and will allow you to tailor your content in the future.

With a little extra effort setting up and implementing the above tests, you will start to see what kinds of things are working in your district to maximize your e-newsletter’s impact.