Gold Mouse Checklist Part II: Your Website and Usability, Navigability, and more

After reading Part One of our Gold Mouse Checklist, we know that you’ve got all of your issues covered. Now we’ll move onto some other topics — usability, multimedia, for instance — to get you noticed by the Gold Mouse. Remember, a Congressional website needs very specific things that other websites don’t. So look this list over, care of The Partnership for a More Perfect Union, and see where you stand and where you could stand to improve. You still have plenty of time to bring home a prize.

Usability/ Navigability

Does Your Site:

  • Have easily navigable content that are easy to read and organized? Require constituents to scroll significantly to view all the content on the homepage?
  • Have a sitemap?
  • Have proper landing pages?

Communication/ Multimedia

Does Your Site:

  • Have a separate page for video?
  • Have a separate page for audio?
  • Include video and audio integrated together into press releases to create a multimedia / cross
  • content experience?
  • Ensure the press releases are organized by date?
  • Include a blog? 
  • Include a survey?
  • Have an RSS feed?
  • Provide press secretary / communications director contact information on each press page?
  • Include social media links on every page of your site?

Casework / Constituent Services

Does Your Site

  • Explain how a bill becomes a law?
  • Have an FAQ about how Congress works?
  • Have a student page?
  • Have a kids page?
  • Have info on Congressional internships?
  • Have info on Admission to military academies?

Is there a

  • robust “visiting Washington” page with resources to get tours?
  • flag request form where they can request a flag online?
  • grants page with resources on local/state/national grants available?
  • “one stop shop” for constituent casework?
  • casework FAQ ?
  • Guidance on how to initiate a case and on the scope of what they can do?
  • Downloadable casework privacy release form?
  • Links to relevant government agencies?
  • Links to
  • a robust district page with mapping, demographic, and district information?

We want to know: What areas need the most work?

Golden Mouse Checklist: Your Website and The Issues

The 112th Gold Mouse Awards are just around the corner:  Evaluations will take place this summer, grades assigned in the fall, and winners announced in the winter of 2011. That gives you just enough time to whip your website into shape for a crack at the award.

To become an award-winning website, here’s a two-part series that includes a comprehensive checklist to get you started. The guidelines, based on guidance from award sponsors The Partnership for a More Perfect Union, can help you hone your site or move it to the next level.

For part one, we’ll talk about the Issues. Review your site to see if it includes these points. If not, remember that there’s still time to make changes!

Does your site:

  • Have quality issue content that is substantive? (at least 2-3 paragraphs for each major issue?) Are they specific enough and not too general?
  • Have a page dedicated to Member priority issues?
  • Have a page dedicated just to state and local issues?
  • Include positions on issues that are relevant to the 112th Congress?
  • Have a roll call voting record link or widget with rationales given for the majority of votes cast?
  • Have a page where major Member accomplishments are listed from the current and past Congresses?
  • Use words like accountability and transparency at least five times each?     
  • Have a place to view caucus Memberships? 
  • Have a place to view sponsored and co-sponsored legislation?         
  • List the chambers schedule?
  • Have a link directly to the Congressional record search?

We want to know:What are your roadblocks to achieving these points?

Email Subject Line: Small but Mighty

With so much information coming at us, we make decisions about what to read — or what not to read — in a split second. This is definitely true when it comes to email subject lines. Good lines usually have a higher open rate, while poor ones languish in your target’s trash. But what makes a good email subject line? Here’s a few tips that distinguish the winners from the losers.

  • Make sure it’s relevant. Sure, you can write a clever subject line that makes the reader click. But if it has nothing to do with the topic at hand, they’ll feel cheated. This could slowly erode at your brand. So steer clear of overpromising, and stick to the fact.
  • Personalize your message. No one wants to feel anonymous. As much as you can segment your email lists according to region or topic, do so. This makes the reader feel like you care enough not to spam them.
  • Find a clever way to say something. Sounds obvious, but it only takes a minute. But it could mean the difference between a glance and a click. Look through your thesaurus, use alliteration, and just find a way to be different  while also setting realistic expectations for what is to come.

We want to know: What are your email subject line pet peeves?

Facebook Ads: The Future is Here

What are you waiting for? The time is now for Facebook advertisements. Since your Facebook page is becoming an interactive second home page for your constituents, it’s a no- brainer you should consider Facebook advertisements for

  • more traffic
  • more comments
  • more interactions

We are totally committed to the best results for your money when it comes to the online advertising business in Congress.  How do we do this?

Pay Per Click

We ensure the more effective use of Facebook ads because you only pay when your advertisement is clicked. Other advertisers run CPM advertisements, or cost-per-mile, which basically require only that your ad shows up. While it’s great that people see your ad, we don’t think you should get charged unless that person takes action. That’s like charging someone for looking at a billboard — it doesn’t work! That’s why our business is built on a CPC, or cost per click model, which requires a person to click on the ad that takes them directly to your page.   

A Targeted Approach

Since running Facebook ads, we’ve seen staggering numbers such as 1,800 new likes in 90 days and 120% more interactions in one month.  These numbers represent interest from true constituents who want to hear your message. These ads are so successful because of targeting: By targeting by district and other criteria, we  ensure that we are delivering the advertisement to people who want to see it and engage with your page. 

Bottom line? We’re ready and eager to make Facebook advertisements work for you.  Based on our experience with this powerful tool, we’ll bet it brings you more traffic, more likes, and more exposure to a broader audience.

Predictions: The Future of New Media – Not Just For Elections

There is much buzz surrounding the campaign world about New Media, also called "digital" in some camps.  The campaign world is a digital Wild West, a lawless society known for raising serious cash and getting people involved at astonishing speed. But what happens when a Member gets to Congress?  Where does New Media find its place in the official communications of Congress? 

Currently, all Members of Congress have a website and most have an email newsletter tool to send out news, videos and other interactive pieces of content to their constituents.  In addition, they all have a CRM to manage and respond to the hundreds of thousands of constituents they represent.  Along with this mix, they also have (hopefully) some sort of social media account, either with Facebook or Twitter, or both.  These tools are working, but questions remain. Are they working effectively? What change will the future bring? Here are our top three predictions: 

  1. The Ubiquity of Real time Feedback Platforms.
    The obvious big one here is Facebook, a place where feedback and commenting flows freely. Integrating Facebook into the Congressional communications strategy will reach more people, since Facebook gets 25% percent of all traffic on the web, Facebook may not be the only platform to use, but real time feedback and input, such as YouCut and others will become essential to the daily operation of our democracy. 
  2. The Explosion of Mobile applications.
    With 31% of mobile users in the U.S. now owning smartphones, you can’t refute that interacting with them on their mobile device is a good thing.   Members with a smartphone application have a head start, and it’s only going to grow.  At iConstituent, we provide Members with smartphone applications that also integrate with their email newsletter and website content automatically. Plus, you can push a survey out on the application to get real-time feedback via mobile on any issue you want.  In the future, this is what giving feedback to your Representative feels like. 
  3. The Rise of Internet Video Advertisements.
    Look for your representative’s face on Hulu, Pandora, and others talking about a piece of legislation. Think of watching the latest episode in the office and then bam, “Hi, I’m Congresswoman Jane Smith and I’d like your feedback on the latest issues in Congress.” It’s coming, trust us.  

We want to know: What are your predictions?

Start Sharing: SharePoint for Member Offices and Commmittees

What happens when a staffer leaves — and takes all of their knowledge with them? The rest of the office is left scrambling, often spending hours pouring through folders and files trying to track down the information they need. Not the best use of a person's time. 

Member Offices aren't new to tracking. Most have products that track how they are responding to constituents. But what they have been seriously lacking is a document management system that saves and indexes a member office’s knowledge base.

This is where SharePoint comes in.

A Microsoft product, SharePoint helps member offices organize their documentation, information, emails, and calendars. Once this is done, all of these disparate pieces become an organized and searchable database, which ends up looking something like a company intranet. Using the database, you can figure out how many times you’ve met with an organization, what was discussed, or find that missing piece of information after a staffer leaves their post.  Whether it’s a media file, document, or spreadsheet, all of this information is indexed and searchable.

“It’s a great way to be able to maintain the historical knowledge of the member office,” says Tony Perez, vice president of Sales.

IConstituent can help you maximize SharePoint. We’ve spent over ten years implementing SharePoint on the Hill: We understand how political offices work and what type of specific needs you have. So when you are putting a SharePoint implementation site together, we can help you find the features that make sense for your office to stay streamlined and organized.

We want to know: Where are your roadblocks to efficiency?

Voter File Uploads: What Are You Waiting For?

You wouldn’t send out an important document without spell check. So why not have a voter file that is not as accurate as it could be?  Your office deserves to have the most up to date informamation on your district.

Our voter file uploads ensure that you get the most updated information on your constituents after an election. The upload feature automatically updates new voter information to your file, making sure that it’s the most accurate information on your constituency.

What’s so important about this? These days, data is everything. By having the most accurate names, phone numbers, and email addresses you’ll be assured to get in front of your constituents for mailings, telephone town hall meetings, and targeted demographics.

Want to upload your data file? Contact us for more information.

We want to know: How do you stay in touch with your constituents? 

Help! How Do I Evaluate and Compare Social Media Tools?

There is no book written, no chart composed, that explains the pros and cons of choosing Social Media tools. And since hundreds of these tools exist, this can be a bit overwhelming.

In her blog on oneforty, Liza Sperling says that to compare tools, you need to understand their basic functionality. Secondly, you need to understand your objectives. Once you have these two pieces of the puzzle in place, the rest will follow. To help out, Sperling breaks out these tools into categories:

  • Social Medial Monitoring
  • Social Media Engagement
  • Social Customer Relationship Management
  • Social Media Specialized Tools
  • Social Media Content Management

Read more about these categories and examples of companies in each, visit