Creating Viewer Exclusion Lists in Constituent Gateway

Offices can exert a lot of effort to produce an e-newsletter only to send that message out once.  What you may not realize is that it is possible to get a second run out of your e-newsletter as long as your material is relevant. 

Viewer Exclusion Lists

In the “List Management” tab, there is an option to "Create Criteria Based List.”  Typically, this feature is used for creating lists based on constituent contact information like zip code or county.  What you may not know is that this feature can also create lists based on mailing interactions, including contacts who have viewed your newsletter.  Creating a list based on who has viewed a mailing will allow you to exclude them from the next run of your mailing.  You can send the same mailing to your "All Contacts" list minus those people who viewed it the first time.

Creating this list is simple:

  1. Browse to the Contacts Tab > List Management > Create Criteria Based Lists
  2. Near the bottom left of the page there is an area called "Mailing Interaction" and two drop-down menus.  Select the name of the mailing and the type of interaction (i.e., “View”).
  3. Click "Create List.”  The list is now available among your mailing lists to include or exclude on your next mailing.

Now that the list is created, you can set up a second run of your previous mailing:

  1. Browse to the Mailings Tab > Sent Mailings.
  2. On the right side of the screen, select the “Copy” button from the "Actions" column in order to copy the newsletter and create a new pending mailing.
  3. In the “Pending Mailings” screen, follow the same steps as you would for any other mailing, making sure to include the same contact list you did the first time and exclude the list of viewers you created above.

Capitol Correspond – Combining Constituents and Duplicate Checking

It’s never too late for spring cleaning!  One of the most important features of Capitol Correspond is the ability to isolate constituents that have already received a letter when making your assignment in an effort to avoid sending it to them again.  However, what use is this tool if your database is full of duplicate constituents?  You should be proactive about cleaning up your data just as much as you reactive about not assigning a letter to a constituent more than once.

Combining Constituents

When you import email from Outlook, incoming constituent records are automatically combined to existing records based on your Viewer Preferences, but you can only combine the newest constituent to a single existing record.  If you have multiple duplicate constituents to which the record may be combined, the only place you can search for those constituents and combine them is the Power Search screen.

When you search for a constituent in the Power Search screen and find multiple constituent results, you should highlight them all by holding down the “Ctrl” button on your keyboard, and click “Combine.”  Make sure that you select the primary constituent (the person into which other records should be combined) first.

Searching for and combining constituents in the Power Search screen could take you until next spring.  To avoid all of the work, you should make a habit of running your Bulk Duplicate Check!

System-Wide Duplicate Checking

The Bulk Duplicate Check allows you to search your entire database for duplicate constituents based on name and mailing address.  It even looks for duplicates based on additional, non-primary addresses.  There are a few important guidelines you should keep in mind about performing a Bulk Duplicate Check:

  1. You should run a duplicate check during a “down time” in your office (relative to Capitol Correspond) so that it doesn’t affect the performance of your system, especially if you have not run the check in some time.
  2. You should perform a system-wide Duplicate Check regularly.  You may want to set an Outlook reminder until you’re in a good routine.  Keep in mind, the more frequently you run a Bulk Duplicate Check, the less time it will take to perform.
  3. You should try to combine the results of your duplicate check manually so that you can choose the primary constituent into which duplicate constituents should be combined; however the first time you run the duplicate check, you may want to choose to combine the duplicates automatically.  After that, scheduling your check recurrently should allow you to be more interactive when combining.

You can find the Bulk Duplicate Check in the Utilities menu.  When you run the check, we recommend that you do not select any additional duplicate criteria in the “Additional Options” box; the more criteria you select the fewer duplicates you will find.  

When the check is finished (yes, you can leave it running without being there), click “Next” to combine the constituents.  You must choose to combine them manually or automatically based on the number of potential duplicates you find.

Capitol Correspond 6 Workflow

Workflow is an electronic approval process that uses pre-created tasks to route a letter to each staff member in the office that is required to review or approve the letter before it may be used as a response.  No more paper and no more losing track of letters!  You can even run reports on Workflow to see where letters are getting stuck and to determine where your process flow could use some adjusting.

What You May Know

Workflow can either be assigned to a Quick Letter or a Form Letter.  When a Quick Letter needs to go through your office’s approval process, Workflow is usually initiated on the actual correspondence activity line that contains the letter.  The entire activity is routed from one person to another.

When a Form Letter needs to go through your office’s approval process, you can initiate Workflow on the letter in the Letter Library before it’s assigned to an activity.  That way, you can save yourself the time and effort of Workflowing multiple pieces of correspondence that should all receive the same response. 

After Workflow has been initiated, there are several different places you can view and edit the letter and approve or reject the Workflow:

  • From the Constituent Record:  If an activity line has been assigned a Workflow, you can search for the constituent and view the Workflow tasks and letter from the Constituent’s Record.  Click on the “Workflow” button to view the details of the process or edit them for this particular letter; remember, editing a Workflow from an activity only changes the task set for this particular letter.
  • From the Tickler:  In the Tickler, you can view both Quick Letters that have been assigned Workflow (in your Correspondence Tickler) and Form Letters that have been assigned Workflow (in your Form Letter Tickler).  If you’re working with Quick Letters, you can even sort by the “W” column in order to batch together all of the open Workflows assigned to you.
  • From the Letter Library: If Workflow has been assigned to a Form Letter, you can view both the tasks and the letter in the Letter Library.  If you’re working strictly out of the Letter Library, it may be helpful for you to subscribe to Workflow notification emails that can send you the code of the letter in an email when it’s been assigned to you.  The letter code will help you to easily search for and modify the letter.

What You May NOT Know

There is a place in Capitol Correspond that you can go to view and manage ALL of the Workflows assigned to you in a single screen, regardless of whether the Workflow is assigned to a Quick Letter or a Form Letter.  The “Open Workflows” utility is located in Utilities > Additional Utilities.

Each row in the “Open Workflows” utility is indicative of either an activity line or Form Letter that has been assigned Workflow.  You can easily identify the different types by the “Category.”  Form Letters have a category of “Letter,” and Quick Letters have a “Category” of “Corr” or “CW.”  Also, Quick Letters have the name of the constituent located in the row, which is a hyperlink to the activity line in their personal Constituent Record. 

Additional information includes the name of the letter, the name of the Workflow, the task assigned, and the Due Date.  You may approve or reject the workflow, edit the letter, and modify the Workflow’s tasks and assigned staff all in the same window.

Share Via… Tools in the Constituent Gateway

Six various constituent outreach content pieces starting with “Content: Share via…” are available for you to select to add to each of your e-newsletter publications.  Be sure to take advantage of them!  You can locate the “Share via…” content pieces in the “Content Library.”

Adding these content pieces is easy. Simply select which “Share via…” content pieces you'd like to add to your mailing (i.e., “Share via Facebook).  Drag them from the “Content Library” over to the “Selected Content” area on the right.

Placement of these links is important.  Whether you place the Facebook link in the main content area, the sidebar, or both, make sure it is among the first items that your constituents see.

In the statistics view for your mailing you can see which constituents shared your e-newsletter and how many views those postings have collected.

To learn more about reading your executive summary for these posts, please click here.

Members of House Spent $45M on Outreach

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Public opinion of Congress is hovering at an all-time low, but it's not because lawmakers are sitting by quietly.

House members, including Palm Springs Rep. Mary Bono Mack, collectively spent more than $45 million in 2009 on taxpayer-funded mass mailings, phone calls and electronic messaging to trumpet their records to constituents, alert them to town hall meetings and seek feedback, a review of House documents shows. The franking privilege, which dates back to 1775, can be a powerful advantage for incumbents in their efforts to fight off challengers.

The $45 million spent on constituent communications last year was more than double the $20 million lawmakers reported spending in 2007, the most recent nonelection year.

The total for 2009 appears to be a more comprehensive accounting of how members of Congress are using their franking privilege to contact constituents through a variety of methods, including glossy fliers, radio ads and e-newsletters. But the totals are imprecise: members don't all count the expenditures the same way, so the total may be even higher.

The money paid for nearly 339 million mass communications sent by House members — an average of 770,000 per lawmaker — to residents of their districts.

Among the findings:

Eight of the top 10 spenders in 2009 were freshmen, led by Democrat Dina Titus of Nevada and Republicans Lynn Jenkins of Kansas and Erik Paulsen of Minnesota, each of whom spent more than $400,000.

Twenty-nine of the 441 House members (435 voting and six nonvoting members) reported not issuing a single communication.

Lawmakers spent the most money and sent the most communications during the fourth quarter (Oct. 1-Dec. 31). Historically, the last quarter of a nonelection year is the busiest franking period, according to the Congressional Research Service.

That may be partly because members want to share their views of the just-completed session and also because election-year limits on franking restrict their opportunity to communicate on a broad basis.

Bono Mack reported spending $126,166 on franked communications and made 393,650 contacts with constituents during 2009. That ranked her 155th-highest in the House in terms of money spent and 250th-highest on number of communications sent. In 2007, she reported no franking activity.

The Republican's outreach efforts last year included calls inviting residents of the 45th Congressional District to participate in a town hall meeting conducted over the telephone.

Those town halls “have allowed her to speak personally with thousands of constituents and get their direct feedback on the issues that matter most to them,” Bono Mack spokeswoman Jennifer May said.

Bono Mack also sent out seven colorful mailers during the year to express her opinions on a host of issues, including drug addiction, federal health care legislation and the H1N1 “swine flu” virus.

One mailer in August explained how she was “working to help secure millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements” for her district and displayed a map showing which communities were getting money and how much.

A mailer she sent in December touted her budget-cutting credentials, warning that “Congress must stop spending money it doesn't have.”

May said it's important for Bono Mack to keep her constituents informed, “particularly at a time when such major pieces of legislation are being pushed through Congress, including a massive overhaul of our nation's health care system and a bailout of the U.S. financial sector.”

No spending limit

There's no limit on how much House members can spend on communication, though it must come out of the annual allowance they get to run their offices.

In 2009, the average allowance was about $1.5 million per member. Senators tend to spend far less on franking due to a $50,000 cap on mass mailings in any fiscal year, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Neither of California's senators, Democrats Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, reported sending out any mass mailings during the first nine months of 2009, Senate records show. Information on the last three months was not available yet.

The $45 million in House expenditures is supposed to encompass all types of unsolicited communication sent to at least 500 constituents. But there's inconsistency on what is reported.

Jeff Ventura, a spokesman for the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer of the House, said his office has been reminding House members that all mass communications should be counted.

The biggest franker in the House was Democratic Rep. John Barrow of Georgia, who reported sending by far the most mass communications — 35.7 million in 2009, which cost taxpayers $264,591.

His spokeswoman, Jane Brodsky, said that included a number of radio and newspaper ads last year alerting residents to town hall meetings. An ad that ran four times in a weekly newspaper with a circulation of 10,000, for instance, was reported as 40,000 communications, she said. But not all offices report to that degree.

Some restrictions

Restrictions have been imposed on the franking privilege over the years to make mass mailings less promotional and more informational.

Each communication must be reviewed and approved by a bipartisan commission before it can be issued. Even so, colorful mailers bragging about a representative's accomplishments and reminding constituents how hard the member works for them are common, according to a review of several lawmakers' franked pieces.

House members also cannot send mass communications within 90 days of a primary or general election. The restriction is 60 days for senators.

Pete Sepp, executive vice president of the National Taxpayers Union, said they should be banned entirely in an election year.

“Content restrictions, while minimally helpful, really haven't solved the ultimate problem, which is that mass communications can serve as very favorable publicity for incumbents that challengers have to pay money to counter,” he said.

The doubling of franking costs from 2007 to 2009 is most likely the result of higher postage fees; increased communications in a year when Congress debated controversial measures such as health care and climate change; and better accounting of expenses related to non-traditional communications, such as automated phone calls notifying households about an upcoming town hall, according to those who analyze franking expenses.

The increasing use of such technologies reflects a growing shift to a paperless world that should benefit the public, said Zain Khan, CEO of iConstituent, a Los Angeles company that more than 250 House members have hired to develop e-mail lists, set up telephone town halls and create Web sites.

Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi reported no mass communications, though his office spent $20,825 on local TV ads last year to advertise town hall meetings. Taylor said his office does not send fliers or newsletters out for a couple of reasons.

“The nation's $12 trillion debt, (and) I think it's fair to say a lot of those mass mailings, at least the ones I've seen, appear to be very self-serving,” Taylor said.

“We do answer every letter that we get. … I think the way do it is to answer people's mail. I think we'd better served if everybody would do it the way we do it.”

Maureen Groppe of the Gannett Washington Bureau contributed to this report.