Member of Congress? There's an App for That.

Via National Journal:–20110228

Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., announced today that his office now has an iPhone app.

The app includes Paulsen’s biography, press releases, photo galleries, and easy access to the lawmaker's Twitter page.

The application was developed by iConstituent, a company that provides information-technology services to Capitol Hill. Paulsen joins Rep. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., who earlier this month released an app that iConstituent also developed.

“Making sure that my constituents are well-informed is one of my top priorities,” Paulsen said in a statement. “This new iPhone app is just another tool that allows me to make sure Minnesotans have the latest news from Washington.”

Here are two screenshots of the app:

Map it Out: Take Advantage of Our Mapping Feature

Maps are visual, easy-to-read, and dare we say kind of fun. That’s why we’re excited about our mapping feature, which you can’t find anywhere else. It’s another valuable tool for you to discover trends —  a key component for efficient and effective constituent communications.

Here’s how it works: As part of our newsletter analytics, we integrate Google Maps. This allows you to easily visualize trends in constituent behavior. Then  you can see if there is a geographical correlation around an action, whether it’s viewing a newsletter or responding to a survey. When you do discover trends, you can then target your communications accordingly.

With our e-newsletter mapping feature, you’ll:

  • Find out the geographic region of people who viewed an email or subscribed to an e-newsletter.
  • View survey respondents on a map, which are color coded to represent their survey response.
  • Obtain constituent detail when you click on each data point.
  • Link to that constituent’s history from the that datapoint display.

Go ahead, map it out. It’s simple and you’ll be glad you did.

Branding and You: Back to Basics

Sometimes we just need to get back to basics. This is often the case with branding — a vital part of your congressional marketing strategy because it differentiates you and helps to penetrate through all the noise.  In the flurry of activity, it’s easy to let your branding strategy fall by the wayside. Yet getting your congressional brand in order is extremely important. Your member office should have a consistent look and feel across all platforms, one that leaves a memorable impact. When that e-newsletter hits a constituent’s inbox, you want them to instantly recognize where it came from.

To do this, start by having a consistent color scheme, logo, and photos. Everything should match —  your website, Facebook page, Twitter. That’s your congressional brand.

When you have this brand locked in, you’ll enhance your communications, leave a longer lasting impression, and reap the benefits of repetition.

We can help your branding efforts by developing logos for Facebook and YouTube. And we can give you tips about tools to integrating your branding strategy into every point of constituent contact.

For example, our System Messages tool: When a constituent submits an email address, they get a generic message. But our customer support consultants can show you how to navigate this system so that you can personalize your message to reinforce your brand. Call us for other tips.

We want to know: Do you have a uniform look for your website, email newsletter, facebook, and twitter pages?


Social Networking: Tools of the Trade

In our last blog, we gave an overview about social networking strategy, based on the three most important areas — where you are, where you want to be, and how to get there. Now we’re going to break it down to show you exactly how we can help.

Where You Are: Do An Assessment

Our customer support consultants can help you assess your current Social Media strategy, and make valuable recommendations. During a one-on-one consultation, we'll discuss best practices and help you discover the areas you can improve. This isn’t some frustratingly remote process or through an 800 number: Our consultants are on site, sitting next to you in your office, making sure we move your operation to a new level.

Where You Want to Be: Think Competitively

Differentiating yourself even just a little bit can be the difference between a hundred hits on YouTube — or none. In other words, finding your unique edge is extremely valuable. We’ll help you uncover what sets you apart and how to let the world know. For example: Instead of a text-based e-newsletter why not try a video instead? Or what about following around your boss with a video camera for half a day? These are the types of new media differentiation that can make you stand out. We’ll also work to understand your overall look, feel, and message — while getting a unified message out to all of your constituents across social media platforms.

How to Get there: Our CRM Tools

When it comes to social media, we believe in total integration. That’s why we’ve built our Constituent Gateway e-newsletters to allow constituents to integrate into their site by sharing on their Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Yahoo Buzz, LinkedIn, and Digg profile pages. With our reporting tools, you can even track how many times the e-newsletter was posted, who is posting it, and how many people read these posts.

All of these avenues create a pathway to more effective and consistent constituent communications. With a smart strategy and execution, you can turn your echo chamber into a larger one, spread your message quickly, and raise your profile. What have you got to lose?


We want to know:  What tools have helped you increase constituent contact?

Social Networking: What's Your Strategy?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with social networking. That’s why having a strategy is important. Once you do, you can find out where you are, where you want to be — and how you are going to get there. Here’s an overview of the three important steps to a social media strategy. In the upcoming weeks, we’ll explore each of these steps, and explain how our tools and products can help you get there.

Where You Are

Social networking is a transparent way of discovering where you stand. How many Twitter followers do you have? How many “likes” do you have on Facebook? We can help you do an assessment to figure out your starting point.

Where You Want To Be

Once you determine where you are, then you can explore where to go from there. Do you want to build your likes on Facebook? Increase followers on Twitter? Integrate what you already do into your congressional brand? Figure out what you can do to make your office more transparent to your constituents? With a goal in mind, we believe that you have a much better chance at success. 

How To Get There

Make a plan to get there. Create a strategy and think competitively, determining what differentiates you from what others are doing. Know how to share your e-newsletter and understand how to integrate your e-newsletter to Facebook. Learn how to create consistent messaging across platforms with our integrated technology. When you do this, it’s extremely valuable: Your tweets will be heard, your videos will be watched, your message will resonate.

Social media isn’t the end-all. You won’t reach every single constituent. It’s simply another avenue for people to connect with you. These are people who want to stay in touch and get involved. It’s a great way to share your news, understand who is following you, and ultimately do a better job for your constituents — which is your job, anyway.

Read our upcoming blog series on Social Networking strategy for specific and practical ways we can help you in each of these areas.

We want to know:  What’s working as part of your Social Media strategy? What isn’t?

BuzzMetrics: Monitor Your Brand, Create A Buzz

Monitoring your brand takes time. With the millions of blogs, social networking sites, and user groups, it can be downright overwhelming. Yet, you want to know what people are saying about you from day to day. Are you trending up or down? Is the perception of your office positive or negative?

Our experts recommend a dual approach to finding out. The first step is signing up for Google Alerts so you can know what people are saying.

But these days, just knowing isn’t enough. We’ve partnered with BuzzMetrics, an NM Incite, Nielsen / McKinsey company, to go one step further. Using sophisticated trend analysis, now you can understand what is behind this content — and by building reports and establishing benchmarks, you can identify key metrics.

Here’s how it works: Congressman X want to see how his constituents and the media feel about his stance on health care. Do they positively or negatively perceive him? Using Buzz Metrics, he can find out. Beyond the trends, he can also watch the immediate impact of his communications on the Internet media: Does his perception change, and how, after sending out a press release?

Buzz Metrics lets you:

  • Listen to the buzz about your office
  • Compare the perception of your office to others
  • Understand how your constituents feel about your office
  • Know the media trends on a specific issue as they relate to your office
  • Analyze the impact of your online ads, email marketing, Twitter, Facebook and other communications in near real time.

We want to know:Do you use Google Alerts? If so, is it effective for you? If not, how do you monitor your online presence? 

Your Email Newsletter: Get It Right

We’ve seen a lot of email newsletters. And so we know what works and what doesn’t work to get someone’s attention — and keep it. Given the benefit of experience and hindsight, here’s a few problems we’ve encountered, and some simple solutions that will help you get the most exposure, communication, and response from this essential communications tool.

Problem:  It’s Too Long

Solution:  Make it Short and Sweet

We know you have a lot to say. But studies show that people glaze over large chunks of text when reading online. When it comes to e-newsletter, shorter is better. Before you get started, create an organized list of content. You don’t have to use it all at once; save pieces that aren’t timely to use later on. Think about the goal of your newsletter, and then make sure all of your content reflects this goal. The longer the newsletter drags on, the bigger the risk of losing the reader’s attention. Remember that whether that’s to answer a survey, click on a link, or share it on Facebook, the real purpose of a newsletter is to spur your reader to action. Which leads to our next point . . .

Problem: No Call to Action

Solution:  Add a Survey

Our data shows that people love surveys. When you embed a survey, your viewer rate and response rate spikes. 

Surveys aren’t just a great way to build your subscriber list, they also give you input on what your constituents think, and gets them excited to be involved in the process. Meanwhile, the data goes directly into our CRM, allowing you to respond directly to them, and we know that all constituents love to feel heard. A few words of advice: keep the surveys simple, with just one or two questions so you keep the reader focused and don’t take up too much of their time.

Problem:  You Are Using Content Written For Print

Solution:  Repurpose Your Content for the Web

The simple fact is that online writing is different than writing for print. So don’t just copy and paste your print content and hope for the best. You can keep the essence of the ideas you already have, just use a few simple repurposing  techniques to make it more web-friendly: Break up the space using bullets and numbers. Make sure there is a lot of white space, to give it an “airy” look rather than cramped. And use catchy and frequent headlines to draw the reader in.

We hope our experiences can help you avoid these common mistakes.

We want to know:  What are your pet peeves about the e-newsletters that end up in your inbox?

If You Build It, They Will Come: Your Subscriber Base

A new Congress means a new voter file. And this means it’s time to build your subscriber base. Doesn’t seem urgent? It is. Your subscriber base will become a valuable trove of information and data that you can use down the road.


Don’t wait until it’s too late to contact your constituents.  Now is the ideal time to build your subscriber base using our suite of Constituent Relationship Management tools. On average, over a thousand people move into a congressional district every month, so start now — especially if you are a new office who is starting from scratch.


Constituents can become subscribers by hitting the “subscribe” option in your eNewsletters. And if they click “Submit and Join” when responding to a survey either on your iConstituent website or in an e-newsletter, voila!, they are subscribed. And to make things really easy, website subscribers feed into both the Constituent Gateway eNewsletter and the CRM.


Your subscriber list does more than just solicit your constituents; it’s also an opportunity to gather their areas of interest. By learning what content is relevant to them, you can use this valuable information for future content micro-targeting.

Give yourself the ability to contact subscribers year-round. Start building your subscriber base today!

We want to know: Does your newsletter have surveys that offer the option to subscribe?