With Water Week now upon us, the time has come to think about ways to reach out to members of Congress and their staff. One thing is clear from a recent survey on preferred methods of communication for congressional staffers: There is absolutely no one-size-fits-all method. With services like Facebook and Twitter allowing elected officials to engage with constituents in their districts, share content, and get their message to a broader audience, why not add Social Media into your bag of tricks?
A quick scan of the Government and Social Media Wiki reveals that nearly every member of Congress has at least one social media account. In fact, the entire Senate is connected, and all but one member of the House of Representatives can say the same. (What's the holdup, Collin Peterson?) Now, I’m not suggesting to hop on Twitter today, just in time for Water Week – my suggestion is to add social media into your already (hopefully) robust outreach program and be thoughtful and strategic as you start testing the social media waters.
Tell Your Story Through A Variety of Methods
Whether you choose to add social media to your list this Water Week or not, the best way to get your message across to staffers or members of Congress is to hit them where their heart is. Localize the content and make it relevant to their areas of expertise or to their constituents. Bring the national message home – talk about how financing water infrastructure will help your community specifically.
Just as important, the information needs to be visual. Use graphics, videos, and data to drive your point home. Not only will it help staffers better understand your message, it'll also give them something to repurpose in their own messaging. (Side note – Twitter and Facebook love videos and photos! Studies have found you will get more “Likes” and “Retweets” with a photo or video than a post without).
Stay Positive – No Matter How You Communicate
The Halls of Congress can be a negative place at times, just like the lines of communication. If your member does something you disagree with, engage them in a dialogue, have a conversation about it, and ask a question. If they voted against something that you support say, 'Congressman, I support bill XYZ. Can you explain your vote?' Staying positive and engaging legislators through dialogue (either in person or virtually) and asking questions—will get you a much more positive response, hopefully leading to a better or growing relationship with your elected official.
Consistency is The Key
Whether it's by providing fresh information through e-mail, setting up a meeting in your home district, or staying active in social media, the work has to be ongoing and multi-faceted. Creating a relationship with your elected officials either in Washington or at home is an ongoing effort – but creates great dividends in the long run.