Using Capitol Correspond User Preferences

Some of the most commonly used features in User Preferences include the ability to open Capitol Correspond directly to your Tickler instead of the Search Screen.  Also, many users like to view their Tickler in a “Tree View,” which organizes all of the open records assigned to you by Group Codes instead of the default list view.  You can also set up activity defaults like “In Type,” “Out Type,” “Response Type,” so that when you create activities manually, all of the fields are already filled out for you!  Of course, you can change those fields at any time, but it’s definitely a time saver to have the pre-set for the type of correspondence you create most often.

What You May NOT Know

User Preferences also include the ability to default your salutation for response letters.  A salutation (i.e., “Dear Friend,” or “Dear John,” or “Dear Mr. Doe,” etc.) is an incredibly important element of any Congressional response letter.

If your office likes to be formal with your constituents, you may want to ensure that all of the staff members in your offices have their salutation set to “Dear [Prefix] [Last Name]”.  If your office policy is to be a little more personal with constituents, you may want all of the staff members in your office to have “Dear [First Name]” instead.

If your office is like most, you probably have occasions for both, which means that the majority of users in your office will have the same salutation preferences while a minority of users that primarily deal with VIPs, Congratulatory letters, and Thank You letters have completely different preferences.


To Set Your Salutation Defaults

From the “Search” screen, click on the “Utilities” button.
In “Utilities,” click on the “Preferences” button.
In the new screen, select the drop-down menu labeled “Salutation,” and choose the standard default from the list of options.
Next, select the drop-down menu labeled “Salutation (When Prefix is Null),” which means you have a constituent that is gender neutral – no “Ms.” or “Mr.”, and choose the standard default from the list of options.
To Apply Your Default Salutation to an Individual

Remember!  If you edit or transmit a response letter to a constituent, and the salutation is incorrect, you can permanently update the constituent’s salutation based on your User Preferences.

From the “Search” screen, search for the constituent “Last Name, First Name.”  When you find the constituent, double-click on his/her record.
 Double-click on the “Address” box in the top left corner of the constituent’s record.
You may choose to edit the constituent’s name and prefix.
Click on the “Update Salutation” button in the top right corner of the address box.
Click “OK.”

Ross Web Site Wins Coveted Gold Mouse Award

WASHINGTON – The Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) today presented U.S. Representative Mike Ross, D-Prescott, its Gold Mouse Award for having one of the best Web sites in Congress.  CMF analyzed all 620 congressional Web sites, including those of all Senate and House Members, committees (both majority and minority sites), and official leadership sites.   Ross’s site, http://ross.house.gov, was one of only 37 Web sites awarded the group’s coveted Gold Mouse Award for the 111th Congress.

“I am proud to receive this tremendous honor by such a respected organization.  I have worked hard to make sure my constituents get the information and help they need as quickly as possible, and my congressional Web site can often be an important resource,” said Ross.  “One of my primary responsibilities as a U.S. Congressman is to help my constituents cut through the red tape and get the help and benefits they deserve and need from the federal government.  For those who can’t visit one of my district offices in El Dorado, Hot Springs, Pine Bluff or Prescott, my website is designed to be a ‘one-stop-shop’ for constituents needing help.”

The 111th Congress Gold Mouse Awards are part of CMF’s Partnership For A More Perfect Union, which seeks to improve the quality of communication between Members and their constituents.  For this project, CMF partnered with researchers from the Harvard Kennedy School, Northeastern University, University of California–Riverside, and the Ohio State University to study how Members of Congress can use the Internet to improve communications with their constituents and to promote greater participation in the legislative process.

“One of the key reasons for the awards is to highlight best practices so offices can improve their sites by learning from those already excelling in online communications,” said Beverly Bell, CMF’s Executive Director. “Web sites like Congressman Ross’s serve as a prime example that we hope other congressional offices will follow.”

Ross recently launched a redesigned Web site on March 24, 2010, featuring an extensive “How Can I Help You?” section that provides detailed information on casework such as Social Security and VA claims, and also information that helps in applying for federal grants, scheduling tours in Washington and finding federal job openings.  It also includes pages designed just for high school students that contain information on congressional internships, applying to a U.S. Service Academy and the congressional art contest.

“Congressman Ross’s Web site shows that he understands how to meet the needs of his constituents online,” said Bell.  “The Congressional Management Foundation congratulates Mr. Ross for having a Web site that is among the best-of-the-best on Capitol Hill, and we are pleased to present Mr. Ross with the 111th Congress Gold Mouse Award.”

The 111th Congress Gold Mouse Project report, a full listing of winners and other comparative data is available on CMF’s Partnership For A More Perfect Union Web site at www.pmpu.org.

Ross’s website is located at:  http://ross.house.gov.  Ross is also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/repmikeross, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/repmikeross and on YouTube at www.youtube.com/repmikeross.

Foxx Wins Award for Online Constituent Service, Communication

WASHINGTON, DC —Congresswoman Virginia Foxx‘s congressional website won a top award for online constituent communications from the non-partisan Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) last night. The honor, the Gold Mouse Award, is given to members of Congress with the best websites.  Of the 435 Representatives in the House, only 21, or less than five percent, received a CMF Gold Mouse Award.

“Communicating with constituents is vital to my work in Congress and a strong online presence is more important than ever,” Foxx said. “I’m very pleased that my office’s efforts to provide constituent service that is second-to-none have not gone unnoticed.”

According to the CMF study, Foxx’s website, www.foxx.house.gov, ranked especially high for constituent service and clear information about how Congress works and what is happening in Congress.   Foxx was the only member of Congress from North Carolina to receive the Gold Mouse Award.

This is the second Gold Mouse Award for Foxx’s website; she won the award in the 110th Congress.  Foxx also has an active presence on Twitter (twitter.com/virginiafoxx), YouTube (youtube.com/repvirginiafoxx) and Flickr (flickr.com/repvirginiafoxx).

“Websites like Congresswoman Foxx’s serve as a prime example that we hope other congressional offices will follow,” said Beverly Bell, CMF’s Executive Director.  “Congresswoman Foxx’s Web site shows that she understands how to meet the needs of her constituents online.  We congratulate her for having a website that is among the best-of-the-best on Capitol Hill, and are pleased to present Congresswoman Foxx with the 111th Congress Gold Mouse Award.”

The 111th Congress Gold Mouse Awards are part of CMF’s Partnership For A More Perfect Union, which seeks to improve the quality of communication between Representatives and their constituents.  For this project CMF partnered with researchers from the Harvard Kennedy School, Northeastern University, University of California–Riverside, and the Ohio State University to study how members of Congress can use the Internet to improve communications with their constituents and to promote greater participation in the legislative process.

The full 111th Congress Gold Mouse Project report is available on CMF’s Partnership For A More Perfect Union Web site at http://pmpu.org/wp-content/uploads/111GMP-GoldMouseAwards.pdf (Foxx rating on page 13).

Rep. Israel Awarded Best Web Site in the House of Representatives by the Congressional Management Foundation

Washington, DC – On Wednesday, Rep. Steve Israel was recognized by the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) for having the best House Member Web site in Congress.

The 111th Congress Gold Mouse Project evaluated 620 congressional Web sites, including those of all Senate and House Members and Delegates, committees, and official leadership sites, and selected 131 offices for a Gold, Silver or Bronze Mouse Award.  From these, CMF chose four offices for the highest honor—a Platinum Mouse Award. Rep. Israel earned the Platinum Mouse Award for the top House site.

“For many of my constituents, my Web site is their gateway to Washington. That’s why I work hard to make sure that it’s transparent, accessible and informative,” said. Rep. Israel.

“One of the key reasons for the awards is to highlight best practices so offices can improve their sites by learning from those already excelling in online communications,” said Beverly Bell, CMF’s Executive Director. “Web sites like Congressman Steve Israel’s serve as a prime example that we hope other congressional offices will follow. Congressman Israel’s Web site shows that he understands how to meet the needs of his various audiences. The Congressional Management Foundation congratulates Congressman Israel for having the best House Member Web site on Capitol Hill, and we are pleased to present him with the 111th Congress Platinum Mouse Award.”

Web sites were graded on how well they incorporate five core principles that CMF identified through extensive research as critical for effectiveness:  know your audience, provide timely and targeted content that meets their needs, make the site easy to use, foster interaction both on and offline, and add value through innovation.

Last week, Rep. Israel re-launched the Web site with a new look and features to give users an improved online experience.

Rep. Israel previously received a Silver Mouse Award in 2006. His website is available at http://israel.house.gov.

Paulsen Website Wins Gold Mouse Award

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Erik Paulsen (MN-03) was presented with the Gold Mouse Award for his Congressional website last night during a ceremony honoring the top websites in Congress.  The award, chosen by the independent Congressional Management Foundation (CMF), is given to the top websites in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, including both committee and official leadership websites.

Out of 620 total websites evaluated by CMF, Paulsen’s was one of 38 to receive the prestigious Gold Mouse Award.  Only four websites were given a higher award, and Paulsen was the only freshman Republican given the Gold Mouse Award.

"My number one priority in Congress is constituent service and an important part of that effort is having an informative, effective and interactive website,” Paulsen said. “I consider my website to be my ‘online office’ and I was thrilled to accept this award for one of the best websites in Congress.  I encourage my constituents to continue utilizing this important tool to stay engaged in the future."

The 111th Congress Gold Mouse Awards are part of CMF’s Partnership For A More Perfect Union, which seeks to improve the quality of communication between Members of Congress and their constituents.  For this project CMF partnered with researchers from several universities to study how Members of Congress can use the Internet to improve communications with their constituents and to promote greater participation in the legislative process.

Websites were graded on how well they incorporate five core principles that CMF identified through research as critical for effectiveness:  know your audience, provide timely and targeted content that meets their needs, make the site easy to use, foster interaction both on and offline, and add value through innovation.

For more information on 111th Congress Gold Mouse Project report, including a full listing of all winners, please visit www.pmpu.org.

iConstituent Website Wins Platinum Mouse

iConstituent would like to congratulate the office of Congressman Steve Israel on their Platinum Mouse Award. The award was based on their website that was designed by iConstituent. Given out by the Congressional Management Foundation, the Platinum Mouse Award was given to only two websites – one House and one Senate.

iConstituent Award Winners Include:

Platinum
Steve Israel (site has been redesigned since judging)

Gold
Virginia Foxx
Phil Hare
Erik Paulsen
Mike Ross (site has been redesigned since judging)

Silver
Lynn Jenkins
Chris Lee
Nita Lowey
Frank R. Wolf

Bronze
Robert Brady
John Carter
Ron Kind

To see the complete list of winners, please click here.

Congress' Web Sites Garner Praise, Pans (Roll Call)

Despite strides in the use of technology, many Members’ Web sites still don’t incorporate basic features, a new report on the growing digital divide in Congress notes.

Gold Mouse Awards went to 135 Member, committee or leadership sites Wednesday night from the Congressional Management Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that encourages better administrative practices on the Hill. But at the same time, the group released a report grading all 620 Web sites, with 137 sites receiving an F.

“It’s both encouraging and a little disheartening,” said Tim Hysom, the foundation’s director of communications and technology services. “You have a disproportionate number of offices who aren’t putting as much time and energy into their Web sites.”

Since the last evaluation in 2007, more sites incorporate video and RSS feeds and post basic information about Congress, such as hearing schedules, how a bill becomes a law and frequently asked questions. But 20 percent of the sites don’t even have a functioning search engine, the report showed. And most don’t have guidance of how to communicate with an office or links to social media profiles.

“Our guidance to offices is not to feel pressure that they have to be blogging and tweeting and posting to Facebook,” Hysom said, “but choose social network tools that fit the personality of the district … that fit the needs of constituents.”

The group did not name sites that did not receive an A grade, but Hysom said the group gave staffers in each office a 10-page report card with their letter grade and ranking in their chamber and in their party.

“It’s a good-natured Member competition that drives innovation,” Hysom said. “We’ve learned in our 33-plus years working with Members of Congress that one of the best ways to spur innovation on the Hill is to highlight best practices.”

The report also showed that the number of award-winning leadership sites nearly doubled, Senate sites scored better overall than House sites, and Republicans’ sites scored better overall. But Democrats had more winning sites.

The group handed out gold, silver and bronze honors at a ceremony Wednesday night and gave out four Platinum Mouse Awards, one to each top site among House, Senate, committee and leadership sites.

Hysom said the top sites are content-heavy, timely, constantly updated and use different formats to deliver information.

Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) took home the top House nod — even though he has since redesigned his Web site. But he said it incorporates the same philosophy.

“I designed my site as a gateway to Washington for my constituents,” Israel said. “I view it as my constituents’ first impression of Washington, and we design it so that they leave it with the impression that it’s informative and transparent.”

He embeds video all over the site, links to his Facebook, Twitter and YouTube profiles and has a robust constituent services section and a “sunshine corner,” where he posts financial disclosures, appropriations requests and his voting record.

“We try to be topical. We try to make it visually interesting,” Israel said. “We like to use all the tools in the toolbox. You can’t just use one and expect it to convey a message.”

The House Science and Technology Committee, which took home the top committee honor, takes a different approach, Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) said.

“We don’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but rather it’s a lot of in-depth content,” Gordon said. He said they take pride in “having in-depth material, being prompt in getting it up and being consistent in the format so it’s easy to use.”

On the committee site, visitors can track research and development funding and link to live RSS feeds, among other things.

GOP.gov, the House Republican Conference site, was awarded the Platinum Mouse in the leadership category. Visitors can find every conference member’s voting record, active blogging and an application programming interface, which means users can log in and take code to embed content in their own sites.

Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) said in a statement: “GOP.gov belongs to every member of the House Republican Conference and it is the high quality work of our members and our staffs that makes the site what it is.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) won the Senate award. She was not available for comment.

Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) won a silver award, which was significant in that he is now the only Member who has won an award every year, though not surprising since his district includes Silicon Valley. He said it’s important to constantly reinvent the site to keep it fresh and to keep people engaged through honest communication.

“It’s a values system that we’ve established in my office, and it’s really internalized by every member of the staff. They all have to stay on top of what I do and what I say and what we produce in terms of issues,” he said. “All that technology is out there. It’s how you put it together and use it and the value system that you surround yourself with. That’s what’s important.”

Customizing Auto-Reply Messages in Constituent Gateway

As you may know, the Constituent Gateway E-Newsletter system records all of the interactions a constituent has with your e-newsletter. What you may not know is that those interactions also trigger an auto reply letter, or what we call “System Messages”.

These System Messages are created automatically when we first build your e-newsletter account, and they language like "Thank you for subscribing."  However, you have the option of customizing your System Messages to better reflect the tone and personality of your office.

To add a personal touch to your default System Messages:

1.     Log in to your Constituent Gateway account at https://gateway.iconstituent.com.

2.     Move your mouse to the “Setup” tab, and select “System Messages” from the menu.

3.     The next screen will show all of the system messages that are available.  Choose the System Message that you wish to personalize in order to open the language in the same content editor that you use to create or modify content for your e-newsletter.

Capitol Correspond Tips and Tricks for Creating Custom Fields

Capitol Correspond offers many different fields to which you can add information about a constituent.  Fields include fax number, Social Security number, Tax ID number, Date of Birth, and more.  If you decide to use any of these fields to enter data about a constituent, you can also use that field to search for the constituent via the “Synonym” search in the Power Search screen.

You can create your own fields!  If Capitol Correspond does not provide a field for a certain type of information that you would like to track, you can create and label a field of your own that is specific to your office and even use that new, “user-defined” field to search for constituents.

Examples of fields that some our offices have created include a “Deceased” field, a “Grant Name” field for users that do not wish to create a case for Grant Requests, an “Alien Number” for Immigration cases, an “Application Number".

To Create a User-Defined Field:

 1.     From the “Power Search” screen, click on “Utilities.”

2.     Click on the “Additional Utilities” button, and select the “Office Configuration” option.

3.     In the “Office Config Value” column, scroll down to the fields labeled “UDF.”  There are 3 options: “Text,” “Date,” and “Number.”  For each of the 3 types of fields you can create, you have 3 possible fields you can add for a total of 9 User Defined Fields.

4.     Double-click on the “UDF” field that accommodates the type of information you wish to store.

5.     In the left column, scroll to the “UDF” field that you have added, and type the name of the label into the “Value” field (i.e., “Application #”, “A Number”, etc.).

6.     Click “OK.”

The new field you have created is available in the “General Information” box of the Constituent Detail window.

Using the Constituent Gateway Videos Section

Did you know that Constituent Gateway can integrate with your YouTube account? With this feature, you can actually add and update your video library without ever leaving the Constituent Gateway interface! Below are some helpful tips for using this feature.

In order to enable YouTube integration, you must first have a YouTube account setup. If you have not yet setup a YouTube account, you can do so here. Once you have your username and password, you can contact support@iconstituent.com and ask that YouTube integration be enabled on your account. You will need to provide your username and password in the request.

You will need to create a new Video section on your website. To do this, select “Add a Folder” as you normally would to add a new section. From the “Type” dropdown, select “Video”.

 

How do I upload videos?

Once you have created a section, click on the name of the folder that you created. Under the “Videos” section of the “Manage Content” page, click on the link labeled “Add or upload a video to this section”. You will notice there are three tabs – “Upload Form”, “Choose from Library”, and “Import from YouTube”.

Step 1:

Step 2:

To upload your first video, you will want to use the “Upload Form”. Begin by clicking “Browse…” and selecting the location of the file on your computer. Input a title, a description, and keywords for the video. You can also select a category for your video, just as you would if you were uploading your video on the YouTube website. When you are ready to upload, hit “Save”. Please note that it may take a few minutes for the video to upload as well as a few additional minutes for the video to appear in your library.

Please note that if you are unsure what format your video should be in, you should refer to YouTube's support pages.

How do I add videos to my new video section?

Once you have uploaded a video, you still need to add it to your new section. You do this by clicking on “Choose from Library”. Click on the “Choose from Library” tab, select the video you would like to add by clicking on the video, and then hit “Save”. Your video should now appear on your website in the section that you created for videos.

If you have multiple video sections on your site, and would like to have the same video in both sections, you can do so with ease. Simply click on “Choose from Library” in the second section and videos that you had uploaded in the first section will appear. Simply select the video by clicking on it and then hit “Save”. Your video will now appear in the second section.

How do I set a video to no longer be live or delete the video?

If you would like to deactivate a video – making it no longer live – you can do this from the “Manage Content” screen for the video section. Next to the video, in the “Live” column, simply click on the word “Yes” to change it to “No” and vice-versa. To delete the video, simply click on the delete (trash can) icon next to the video. You will be prompted to confirm this deletion.