A New Age of Online Advocacy
Daunting title, isn’t it? So what do we mean?
A quick review
Contact with constituents has always been a central function of any legislator’s office. The issue since the late 1990s though has been the level of communication arriving at a legislator’s door. With the advent of email, constituent letters multiplied exponentially with every passing year. While email made it easy for constituents to reach out to their elected representatives, unfortunately, it also made it incredibly simple for non-constituents to flood the inbox of any legislator’s office. As more and more legislators began to block incoming email, the simple web form became the preferred method of communication.
Demanding an address, something they couldn’t do over email, the transition to web forms was aimed at reducing the level of noise generated from non-constituent communications as well as streamlining the analysis of incoming messages. As more and more offices transitioned to the web form specific workflows could be implemented on the legislator’s side, filing each submission quickly and ensuring that constituent’s communications were responded to promptly.
Unfortunately, the switch to web forms also distanced legislators even further from their constituency. What was once a personal hand-written letter is more often than not now simply a standardized web form submission. It’s with that in mind that CQ Roll Call has continued to push forward developing a new era of advocacy and engagement.
CQ Roll Call’s Capwiz was one of the first in the market to address the need to contact legislators online. From the early days of email, Capwiz was there to assist organizations in allowing their stakeholders to quickly and easily contact legislators on the issues. As legislators moved away from email, so did CQ Roll Call, tailoring a backend system that delivered messages either directly to Hill offices through specific channels or through the web forms that have since become a standard. CQ Roll Call has since updated this advocacy management software and the most recent iteration is called VoterVoice.
Our system and the team of professionals that support it, ensure that any messages sent through our tool are delivered. The numbers only serve to support our methods, our system delivered more than 25.5 million messages to Capitol Hill last year alone at roughly a 95% first-time success rate. This rate of successful delivery is more than 15% higher than our competition. In short, our close relationship with the Hill ensures that our client’s messages get through.
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So What’s Changed or Pushing Forward
As web forms became ubiquitous and messaging turned to a more standardized format, the personalized feel was lost. While that suited some legislators, others depended on that constituent connection not only as part of their day-to-day business but also as part of a larger reelection strategy.
On the Congressional side, as messaging began to inundate offices, a larger picture of the impact of any legislation had to be told. While offices now have a better handle on direct mail and email/forms coming into the office, the advent of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media has created a new glut of messaging to the Hill. Effective messaging and advocacy now means combining these efforts into a cohesive strategy and ensuring that a clear goal is in mind. Yes, each of these tools is powerful on its own, but their utility comes when used in conjunction with one another. As organizations layer in video, hashtags, Facebook shares, issue breakdowns, and more alongside raw numbers, they can begin to create that dynamic full picture of the issue, one which a legislator and their staff can quickly grasp and act upon.
To create this new class of legislative interaction, the Virtual Lobbyist, we need to create an environment that breeds education and engagement for an organization’s stakeholders. Battling the glut of (mis)information at their fingertips, organizations have had to look at new and compelling ways to build trust and thought leadership with their audience. As tools like Twitter add to the continual news cycle, users are finding content online through any number of outlets. Fractured communities are forming with opinions being made.
The cycle has to stop. The question is, why can’t your organization be that central location for information? By integrating fully licensed news content from over 4500 sources that have been filtered on your organization’s issues, we create a backbone for your organization’s advocacy effort.
Build trust and thought leadership through education and engagement. Place a New York Times story on Energy alongside talking points, whitepapers, and a take action button. No longer will your users and stakeholders feel that they only hear from you when you want them to act on an issue. Only through that trust can we gather the user-generated content (stories shared, petitions signed, videos made) that is needed to address legislators in language which they’ll understand. It’s with that in mind that we’ve created the full engagement platform.
Leveraging the following components into one cohesive engagement platform, we look to educate, engage and activate users on your issues, addressing each one at their own pace and creating an ecosystem that begins to support itself through constant news updates, social media, and user content.
Individual Methods of Contact
- Emailing Congress
- Calling Congress
- Tweeting your Legislator
- Personal Visits
- Share your Story