As most Capitol Hill professionals can attest, Congressional staffers are stretched pretty thin these days.  With today's 24/7 news cycle, seemingly constant international crises and partisan politics reaching fever pitch, there's plenty of work to go around in Congressional offices.  With that said, there are other factors that contribute to the heavy workloads on the Hill.  Staff turnover and stagnant pay has become a real problem in Congress and has led to a widening gap in institutional knowledge.  A study from the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) found that there are fewer House staff and fewer legislative support agency personnel now than at any time since 1979. The effect of this lack of support staff is felt most acutely in the staffs for the Congressional Research Office, the Government Accountability Office, and the Congressional Budget Office who have lost 45% of their combined staff from 1975 to 2015.

The issue is exacerbated by the fact that on average each House member represents about 200,000 more constituents today than they did 30 years ago, while the average Senator represents 1.6 million more. 63% of the DC staffers polled by the CMF stated that they wanted to find another job, most often due to the fact that salaries have gone unchanged (and in some cases decreased) in the past two decades. With a competitive and thriving market for former Hill talent, staffers can easily find higher pay in the private sector. Because of this, the average age for a DC-based Hill staffer is only 31.  Fortunately, most professionals on the Hill are called to this line of work not because of the financial benefits, but due to the unique opportunity to make a true difference in the direction of the country.  In fact, 94% of Congressional staffers choose to stay in their jobs rather than test the private sector, “because they believe what they’re doing is meaningful”.

This gap in experience and education is making it more and more difficult for Members to get the information they need for important legislative actions like determining voting positions and drafting new bills. More and more Congressional offices are turning to lobbyists, interest groups and private sector resources for help, allowing these groups to exert a unique influence in the halls of Congress.  Most Members of Congress would probably agree that relying on outside experts for legislative guidance is not always ideal. 

Fortunately, there is an option to provide fair, accurate and unbiased data to Congress when staffers don't have the bandwidth or expertise. Quorum Analytics provides the world’s most comprehensive database of legislative information on an intuitive, web-based platform, allowing easy access to bills, votes, Tweets, Facebook posts, press releases, floor statements, hearing schedules and transcripts, committee reports, Dear Colleague letters, CRS reports and much more. Bill text comparison allows Congressional staff to effortlessly highlight additions, subtractions, and modifications to every bill so they never miss a thing as the bill makes its way to the floor.  Integrated Legislative outreach allows staffers to easily help the Member prepare for meetings and update colleagues, making it easier to find and share what’s most important.  Quantitative legislative targeting provides actionable insights to help you identify active Members, affected constituents and key relationships, providing you with key demographic data to allow you to make more informed legislative decisions.  With those available features and the fully functional mobile app, it’s never been easier to provide the best possible and most informed service for your constituents.

Leidos is pleased to be the exclusive reseller of Quorum Analytics on Capitol Hill and we'd love to provide a short demo to show you how Quorum Analytics can be your legislative team's best friend.  Contact us today with any questions or to schedule a demo.

On Monday, April 1st, President Trump signed a repeal of an Obama-era bill known as Section 222. Section 222 of the Communications Act was initially intended to create an affirmative right to privacy in our communications and was due to be in effect through 2017. In March of this year Congress enacted a rarely used procedural move known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to initiate a repeal. How does this affect you? Well, let’s start with the basics:

What is Internet Privacy?

Internet Privacy is your right or mandate to personal privacy of your information via the internet. This can involve browsing history, personal data, demographics, purchasing history and more. Today, Internet privacy has a different connotation than standard privacy concerns and typically pertains to user information. The 1997 Information Infrastructure Task Force (IITF) defined information privacy as "an individual's claim to control the terms under which personal information--information identifiable to the individual--is acquired, disclosed, and used." At present, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are not required to obtain an individual’s consent before accessing and selling a user’s information.

What was the bill going to do?  What are the consequences of the repeal?

The new regulations under Section 222 would have required Internet Service Providers to receive consent from users before selling their information, protecting the individual’s privacy from telecommunications carriers with unique access to our communications and our personal information. These new regulations would have adapted Section 222 to apply to broadband companies in a way that, since the founding of the bill in 1996, they had not. The CRA repeal of these new regulations removes some restrictions on ISP’s access to information, and was clearly a priority for ISP companies, given that they spent nearly $8 million dollars lobbying Congress to pass the repeal. “Historically, regulations have treated data as the property of the consumer,” GeekWire wrote. Under the new bill, “it will be viewed more like the property of internet providers.” In theory, anyone from insurance companies, airlines, banks, and retailers to political parties or governments could buy data profiles of consumers. The CRA repeal also essentially hamstrung the previous regulations by including caveats to make it more difficult for the FCC to pursue similar regulations in the future.

But there are benefits to the repeal of Section 222. The proliferation of public information about users could make it easier for companies to more effectively reach their target audiences, cutting through bothersome, irrelevant ads and saving businesses millions in lost advertising dollars.  In theory, if advertisers can more effectively find their customers and spend less money doing so, prices could drop in a variety of industries, especially those with heavy eCommerce presences.  Also, the ability for ISPs to use consumer data could allow them to more evenly balance advertising and usage, allowing you more time surfing without being barraged with ads. 

However, in could be quite a while before we know the true effect of the repeal of Section 222.  In the two months since the repeal was signed, roughly a dozen state senators have taken up measures in enhance their state’s internet privacy laws and protect constituent’s privacy. Many Members of Congress have vocally protested the repeal and the issue is unlikely to die down anytime soon.  Stay tuned!

Intern Season is Here

May 31, 2017

Every summer, the nation’s best and brightest college students flock to Capitol Hill and government offices all around the country to explore careers in public service.  Because internships on the Hill and in high profile government offices are so competitive and demanding, the average intern is not only sharp and capable, but also ambitious and eager to contribute on Day One.  That’s why it’s so important to start your interns off right with a structured onboarding plan, clear expectations and well-defined benchmarks for success.  In this blog, we’ll explore a few strategies that will help your interns contribute in a real way and walk away with highly valuable experience at the end of the summer.

 

1)      Dress Code

Things you take for granted as an experienced professional, like what to wear to work, may not be as obvious to a college-aged intern.  If possible, connect with him/her before the first day about the dress code in your office.  Something as simple as showing up on Day One dressed appropriately can set the tone for a productive experience for you both.  Every office has its own unique culture so don’t be afraid to be specific about the do’s and don’ts.

 

2)      IT Training

With roughly ten short weeks to make an impact, it’s important for interns to get up to speed on your core IT systems as quickly as possible.  One way to get ahead of the game and get your interns working on real tasks right away is to schedule their IQ training now.  We offer a variety of convenient training options including classroom training in our Capitol Hill training center (directions here)webinarseLearning videos and Quick Reference Guides.  Not sure where to begin?  Just ask your IQ Consultant for recommendations.  All online and DC-based sessions are totally free of charge so don’t be shy about loading up your interns’ calendars with IQ training!

 

3)      Social Media Policy

We’ve all seen the consequences of poorly managed, high-profile social media accounts.  It rarely ends well.  If you plan to have your intern help out with social media, make sure your office’s approval/publication policy is crystal clear before they begin posting.  Do your best to develop a dynamic where your interns always feel comfortable asking for feedback and input so you can avoid any social media surprises.

 

4)      Make a Project List

In most offices, there’s no shortage of work to be done and projects to be tackled.  However, it can sometimes be difficult to find time in your busy schedule to clearly define where your intern can help most.  Invest the time up front to work with your whole team and make an “intern project list” so there’s never any doubt about what your interns should be working on.  By establishing clear project goals, milestones, deliverables and due dates both you and your interns will be able to stay focused and have a productive summer together.

De-Mystifying FedRAMP

April 11, 2017

If you work in—or anywhere near—government IT, chances are you’ve heard the term FedRAMP a few times in the last year or two.  Or more likely, you’ve heard the term a few dozen times…this month.  FedRAMP is quickly becoming a buzzword among public sector professionals, particularly those in highly technical or security-centric roles.  In this post, we’re going to try to pull back the curtain and explain, in layman’s terms, what FedRAMP means and why it’s so important.

What is FedRAMP?

FedRAMP (Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program) is a government-wide program that acts as a standardized model for security assessment, authorization and continuous monitoring for cloud-based IT products and services.  In other words, FedRAMP is a government-sanctioned stamp of approval indicating that a cloud service provider has met a specific set of stringent cybersecurity and performance benchmarks.  When a government agency selects a FedRAMP certified (or FedRAMPed) partner, they benefit from the highest possible levels of data protection but also from significant cost savings across the entire enterprise.  Working with a FedRAMPed cloud solution can cut costs by 30-40% and save staff time and energy by eliminating redundant security assessments.  When you see that a potential service provider is FedRAMPed, you can rest assured that they’re serious about keeping your data safe. 
 

Why Does it Matter?

Considering the nature of the work and the senstive information so often involved, it goes without saying that cybersecurity is vital to everday government operations.  It’s also true that faster processing speeds, increased computing elasticity and on-demand cloud-based solutions are becoming more and more attractive to government agencies.  Cybersecurity experts at the NSA, DoD, GSA and in the private sector agree that this migration toward the cloud will continue to grow expontentially in the coming years.  With that in mind, these experts have concluded that a standardized replacement for inconsistent, costly cloud assessment techniques is vital to maintaining a secure government IT infrastructure across the country.  That replacement is FedRAMP.  And for the last several years, government agencies are legally required to select FedRAMPed solutions if they wish to migrate core systems to the cloud.

 

How Does it Work?

Every cloud service provider that seeks FedRAMPed status for its products and services is required to undergo a comprehensive, three-step evaluation process, sometimes spanning a year or more. 

1.       Security Assessment.  The FedRAMP security assessment uses a standardized set of requirements in accordance with the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) using a baseline set of NIST 800-53 controls to grant security authorizations to cloud service providers.
 

2.       Leveraging and Authorization.  Government agencies view security authorization packages in the FedRAMP repository and leverage the security authorization packages to grant a security authorization at their own agency for an individual cloud service provider.  This step is known as the Authority to Operate (ATO).
 

3.       Ongoing Assessment & Authorization.  Once an authorization is granted, cloud service providers are subject to a series of stringent, ongoing assessments and authorizations in order to retain FedRAMPed status.

 

How Does Leidos Digital Fit In?

As of April 2017, Leidos Digital Solutions is pleased to offer a new way for government agencies to purchase IQ, our industry leading CRM solution.  IQ FedCloud and IQ GovCloud are now available on a secure, stable and scalable FedRAMP certified cloud platform and can be acquired quickly and easily on our GSA Schedule 70, Contract GS-35F-0636K.  To learn more about IQ, browse our website or contact us with any questions you may have. 

Visit our YouTube channel for a preview of how IQ really works!

In recent days and weeks, the term "town hall" has taken on a new meaning in American politics.  Elected officials from all over the country are facing increasingly vocal constituents during town hall meetings, and in some cases, the crowds' passion and energy has gotten in the way of productive dialog.  Of course, personal engagement with constituents is critical to a productive relationship between the Member and his/her community and traditional town hall meetings are an excellent way to connect.  However, there are many other ways elected officials can forge strong relationships in their states and districts while maintaining control of their message.  Telephone town halls are one of the most affordable, efficient and effective ways to connect personally with constituents.  From the comfort of the office, the Member can conduct live streaming, moderated Q&A sessions broadcast over the phone, his/her website, Facebook, YouTube or all of the above.  Click here to read about other ways to promote engagement during your event. 

Making oneself visible, accessible and accountable is a big part of why personal connection with constituents is important, but what happens after the event is over?  A non-partisan study done by the Congressional Management Foundation found that telephone town halls yield significant increases in constituents' perception of the Member's trustworthiness, accessibility, fairness and approval rating on specific issues:

TRUST

  • Prior to the telephone town hall meeting 38% of constituents trusted the Member to do the right thing "all or most of the time".  
  • After the meeting, 52% of attendees agreed with this statement.

ACCESSIBILITY

  • 82% of constituents who attended a telephone town hall meeting described the Member as "accessible".
  • Only 48% of the control group, who did not attend a meeting, described the Member in this way.

FAIRNESS

  • 82% of participants in the telephone town hall meeting said the Member was "fair".
  • Just 52% of the control group agreed with the statement on fairness.

APPROVAL RATINGS

  • Prior to the telephone town hall meeting only 20% of participants approved of the Member's handling of a specific issue.
  • At the conclusion of the one-hour meeting, the same group reported 58% approval on the exact same issue.

What's a 38-point increase in approval ratings worth to you?  Contact us today to get a quote for your next telephone town hall event!

 

We're so pleased to annouce the latest addition to our portfolio of communications and legislative strategy solutions.  Quorum is an innovative, new platform that provides users users access to the world’s most comprehensive database of legislative information ensuring legislative professionals and Hill offices never miss a mention of the issues they’re working on. With unique data analytics tools, Quorum helps users build coalitions by finding unexpected allies. Quorum also provides Hill offices with data-driven methods for measuring their Member's legislative productivity, tracking key issue areas and working with Census data on their district.  For a competitive monthly fee, offices can get access to this exciting new software and benefit from unlimited support plus the same access to our other industry leading solutions like IQ, Telephone Town Halls, Web Design, Voter Data Subscriptions and more. 

Read more about this new partnership in the article published by The Hill!

Over the last several years, we've all watched the role of social media progress from an interesting trend, to an useful tool, to a cornerstone of government communication strategy.  That's why we're so pleased to announce the all new IQ Social Media Center.  At no extra cost, IQ users can access this suite of fully integrated dashboards, charts and graphs that allow you to monitor and analyze all of your social media channels from one place.  All without leaving IQ.  The Social Media Center takes a "big data" approach to social listening and analytics, giving you real time access to key performance indicators on every social channel.  Track engagement trends, monitor audience growth, watch trending topics in your community and gain clear, actionable insight into every conversation.  Like every other IQ app, the Social Media Center is fully integrated with the rest of the system meaning you can save and import every social media interaction for response and further analysis with just one click.  

 

Social media is here to stay as a government communications channel.  Shouldn't your CRM take it seriously? Choose IQ and be empowered to make data driven decisions based on a complete view of your communications landscape.

Earlier this month, the FCC issued a ruling allowing federal government entities and legislators—and their service providers—to dial mobile phones without prior express consent for official business purposes, including driving registration to Telephone Town Halls.

On Tuesday 7/26, the CHA issued a statement confirming this ruling and advising that Members may now begin conduct, or employ a contractor to conduct automated calls to mobile devices.

Here’s what you need to know:

1.  Franking rules still apply.

Automated calls to mobile numbers are still subject to blackout dates and cannot exceed 500 in total quantity within 90 days of an election where the Member appears on the ballot.

2.  No more scrubbing mobile numbers.

When building call lists for upcoming telephone town halls, you are no longer required to scrub out mobile numbers.  If you choose to continue to scrub mobile numbers and call landlines only, our team will see to it that it happens.

3.  Nearly half of all American households are mobile-only.

That includes 67% of young people (18-29), 59% of low-income adults and 56% of Latinos.  This ruling puts those demographics groups back within reach when holding your telephone town halls.

4.  Mobile numbers are still off-limits to campaigns.

As before, government entities and legislators are prohibited from calling citizens on their mobile phones for campaign or ballot-related purposes without the citizen's prior express consent.

5.  Offer an opt-out option at the beginning of calls

When you start including mobile numbers in your call lists, set up a keypad prompt at the beginning of each call that allows constituents to opt out of future calls.

 

To read the full FCC ruling, click here.  Contact us today with any questions or to schedule your next Telephone Town Hall event.

Millennials have taken the political world by storm, wielding serious electoral power for several election cycles already.  In fact, Millennials in America now outnumber Baby Boomers 75.4 million to 74.9 million.  With a voting share of 31%, Millennials’ voting power is roughly equal to that of Baby Boomers. However, Millennials have struggled to impact elections with the force that their voting share implies--studies show historically low voter turnout.  As The Atlantic said in February, Millennials are sometimes considered to be “all throat but no vote”. The question is, how can political candidates engage with Millennials during their campaigns and further activate them on Election Day? Candidates should consider the following tips in order to capture Millennials’ attention and convert political support into votes.

Be Transparent

Unlike other generations, 81% of Millennials answered “No” when asked if people can generally be trusted.  Breaking through Millennials' natural skepticism can be a real challenge.  Candidates should aim to be authentic and straight-forward to gain voters’ trust, loyalty and support.

Appeal To All Ethnicities And Races

According to the Pew Research Center, 43% of the Millennial generation is non-white, making them the most racially diverse generation in history. Researchers have also determined that the 2016 electorate will be the most diverse in history, making it more important for candidates to connect with voters of all different backgrounds.

Connect Online

Millennials are sometimes called “digital natives” due to the proliferation of technology since their births. Studies show that 90% of Millennials have at least one social media account, exemplifying that online participation has become the best way to reach, inform and interact with this generation of voters. More importantly, a personalized, active online presence will establish a connection with Millennials and can motivate them to go out and vote.

Target Your Topics And Issues

One in three older Millennials (ages 26 to 33) have obtained a four-year college degree or higher, putting Millennials on track for being the most educated generation in the country. However, 70% of Americans, spanning all generations, say that today’s young adults face more economic challenges than their elders. Financial and economic issues are just a few examples of the concerns Millennials will focus on when deciding whether to support or vote for a candidate. 

 

More tips on engaging with Millennials and every demographic in your community, get in touch with us today.

The 2016 election cycle has been unlike any other one we've ever seen before in the United States.  One of the many reasons is the heavy reliance on social media among candidates, sitting Members and constituents when engaging in political discussion.  Chances are, the emergence of social media as a major platform in politics is not news to you or your communications team.   With that said, the numbers are quite striking when we look at the power of sharing, online credibility, and how Congressional staff view the effectiveness of social media.  Here are six statistics that illustrate the increasingly important presence of social media in politics.

1.  92% of voting age Americans have at least one social media account.

Social media use among Americans 65+ years of age has more than tripled since 2010.
 

2.  40% of voting age Americans share political content on a daily or weekly basis.

This is in comparison to 54% of voting age Americans who share any type of content on a daily/weekly basis. 
 

3.  57% of Americans trust their friends most for political information on social media.

Only 41% of social media users in America trust political information coming directly from a Member or candidate.
 

4.  36% of American social media users trust traditional news outlets for political information on social media.

18% of Americans say they distrust political news from traditional outlets.
 

5.  76% of Congressional staffers say social media makes a  positive impact in constituents' ability to have real, meaningful interactions with the Member.

What's more, 70% of Congressional staffers think social media has made Members more accountable to their constituents.
 

6.  72% of Congressional staffers believe social media allows their office to reach people they could not otherwise connect with.

This figure is especially interesting in an election year when first-time voters are expected to play a crucial role in races across the country.

 

If your office uses IQ, you already know that our CRM platform is the only solution on the Hill that integrates with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Flickr.  In fact, we're the only CRM on the Hill that integrates with any social media channels.  If you're using another CRM, you may not be capturing these crucial interactions.  Contact us to learn more about how IQ allows you to capture, track, analyze and respond to social media communications.