Jackson: Congress's digital outreach is better than free mail

Even before the Constitution was adopted, members of the First Continental Congress voted themselves the power to send government-financed mail to constituents.

And for perhaps nearly as long, critics have complained of federal lawmakers’ ability to tap taxpayer money to connect with the public and, not coincidentally, bolster their reelection chances.

The use of what’s called “franking” has been declining for years, and there are signs the drop may be accelerating because of budget cuts and 21st-century technology.

The $16.3 million that Congress spent on postage in 2012 was 40 percent less than 2010 levels, a comparable election year, according to the Congressional Research Service. The total fell further, to $11.3 million, last year.

Just as citizens use snail-mail less often, Congress is turning to emailed newsletters, tele-town halls and social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, to connect with the public and promote themselves.

“It’s the new best way to stay in touch with the public, and it’s not going away anytime soon,” said Steven Miller, a journalism professor at Rutgers University. “Seventy percent of people under 30 learn about news through social media. For those 40 to 49, it’s 40 percent.”

But while most social media platforms are free and should provide a more level playing field for incumbents and challengers, even here members of Congress have an edge: They can use public money to pay staff members to craft effective online messages, clip and publish YouTube videos or, in the case of House members, hire consultants to develop lists of email addresses and manage contact lists of constituents who call, write or email.

In general, the Senate puts more limits on official budgets than the House does. For example, senators have a dollar limit on how much franking they can do, and spending on advertising is restricted to filling job openings. At the same time, senators have bigger staffs, so they can pay an employee to handle social media more easily than House members can.

House rules give members an overall “representational allowance” and more freedom to decide how to divide it between staff and other expenses.

See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/news/jackson-congress-s-digital-outreach-is-better-than-free-mail-1.1073556?page=all

Signal CRM Updated to Version 1.1

Posted by Christopher Brooks; Manager, Web Production & Marketing

You may have noticed a few changes yesterday morning. Monday night we successfully launched a package of updates to users of Signal CRM in the House environment. These changes are either direct answers to your enhancement requests or updates to improve your user experience.

We hope that our users – especially caseworkers – find some of these new features useful, including:

  • Ability to create a new contact when adding a contact to a casework or organization
  • Drag and drop attachments on a case to upload AND upload multiple attachments at one time
  • An updated reporting mechanism
  • A new text editor

For a complete list of new features and enhancements, check out our help center article

4 Reasons Why Drupal Is Becoming THE CMS Platform.

Posted by Christopher Brooks; Manager, Web Production & Marketing

Last week discussed the History of Drupal. This week, let’s talk about what makes Drupal such a great choice for developers, designers, and publishers.

  1. It does so many things and does them well. At its core, Drupal helps you organize all of your information and present it cleanly– as any self-respecting CMS should do. Drupal takes this to another levelby making your content easy to find once published. Additional capabilities include the ability to upload almost any form of content, great admin controls, collaboration tools, use as a mobile application launch pad, and the ability to connect to external sources.
  2. Drupal
    Gil C / Shutterstock.com
  3. Is it secure? More on this in a later post, but YES. The platform has a great track record of strong security.  Even though it is an open source platform, the Drupal security team is always on the lookoutfor vulnerabilities and quickly releasing patches to address them.
  4. Fully customizable. Though sometimes seen as a weakness, everything about the platform can be customized. From the layout of the backend, the addition and removal of certain basic functions, to the creation of groups to contain your content tags. This ability to mold the software to your specific needs is one of the great features for administrators of Drupal.
  5. Add-ons. Did someone say widget? There are a bevy of featured add-ons in the Drupal community. Rather than having to recreate the wheel (or in this case social media widget), one can go find a compatible widget online and install to the website. This makes it easier for coders to focus on coding great add-ons, and web developers to focus on making your website beautiful.

If you liked these, I’ve got four more for you next week.

Ads that Gather more Page Awareness

Trying to drive traffic to your facebook page can be a feat in and of itself, on top of creating content that people will read and engage with. It requires the right combination of image, text, size, and placement. So to lend some insight on how to create online ads that drive more awareness, Facebook’s Marketing Science team conducted a study, and after more than 700 people and 350+ campaigns were analyzed in the course of 6 months, the team offered up some key elements for success.

First, focus on 7 essential things when creating an online ad creative:

  • Focal point: Is there an element that draws the reader’s eye?
  • Brand link: Is it easy to identify you?
  • Brand Personality: Is the ad cohesive with the tone of your page?
  • Informational reward: Is the ad info captivating?
  • Emotional reward: Does the ad stir up any emotion?
  • Noteworthy: Is the image an attention grabber?
  • Call to action: Is there an urge to a clear action?

When promoting your page, research shows the most important elements were brand link, emotional reward, and noteworthiness.  Ads serve to persuade, so when promoting yourself or an issue, there should be a clear connection back to your page.  However, this must be in conjunction with an emotional appeal and noticeable presence to exude a more personable feel.  

Keep the following best practices in mind when constructing your ad campaign.

  • A clear brand/page story is pertinent, so a direct brand link is key.
  • Know what you represent and utilize already relevant awareness.
  • Understand your audience and communicate with them regularly through your creative.

If any of these things are ignored, it can have an extremely negative effect on the performance of your ad and hinder your progression to your goal. For more in depth explanations on this topic read Facebook for Business’s article here, and let us know how these tips have worked for you.