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The Ultimate 90-Day Checklist for Freshman Offices

The first three months have been a whirlwind–here's a checklist to make sure you're on the right track.

March 28, 2019

It's been almost three months since the new Congress was sworn in, and most offices have been on the go since day one, especially Freshman offices.  After an election with so much turnover, it can be easy to overlook the little things. However, it's important to take a moment to check in with your staff and your district office for a quick health check. Here are six reminders for Freshman offices as we make it to the 90-day mark of the 116th Congress.

1. Set up your office

The first three months have likely been busy setting up your offices both on Capitol Hill and your district. Now is the time to make sure that you've filled all vital staff positions and that your district office has what it needs to run on a daily basis.

2. Acquire all necessary hardware and software

Next on the agenda is purchasing and setting up all IT systems and software. Leidos offers IT hardware purchases as well as a House IT Services (HITS) monthly maintenance plan–combine both and receive on-site hardware installation. Once all of the necessary hardware is acquired, your office can focus on software needs and, perhaps most importantly, your CRM provider. It's important to thoroughly evaluate your CRM needs to choose the product that has everything you know you need and maybe a few features that you didn't even realize you needed. Once your CRM is up and running, be sure to establish contact and begin building a relationship with your office's IT Consultant (ITC). Introduce your ITC to the office so that everyone on staff knows who to escalate issues with.

3. Train all office staff on IQ

At this point all staffers should be trained on IQ, including and especially Legislative Correspondents, Staff Assistants, and Communications Directors. Staffers should know how to create form letters, reply to messages, create documents, assign responses to advocacy campaign messages, and be able to remotely access IQ. Legislative Correspondents especially should be well-versed on IQ mail management.

4. Establish daily internal processes

After physical office spaces are set up, major roles are filled, and everyone is trained, your office needs to focus on establishing internal process that will allow your day-to-day happenings to run smoothly. At the 90-day point in your term you should have established protocol for processing Member meeting/speaking requests, handling voicemails, responding to letters/emails, logging phone calls, approving form letter language, and booking D.C. tours for constituents. Your office should also compose autoreply language for responding to inbound messages and service requests.

5. Integrate communication channels

First and foremost on every office’s agenda is setting up all modes of communication and integrating them into their CRM. Make sure the webforms on your Member’s website are properly linked to your CRM. Once you have all of your social channels up and running, be sure to connect those accounts to the IQ Social Media Center, so you can easily receive and respond to messages, monitor your feed, and view analytics all within IQ. Finally, before beginning any type of outreach, your office will need updated voter data imported directly into your CRM. Build up your database with the best 2018 election voter files and email lists, then easily import this data into IQ. 

6. Create a constituent outreach strategy

Once all of your channels are smoothly integrated and you have your voter data updated and stored where it is easily accessible in your CRM,  it’s time to focus on strategy. Your office should send out its first enewsletter to constituents, hold a Telephone Town Hall, distribute a press release, and set up your Eventbrite and IQ integration, so your calendar is always synced as your office begins planning events. Your office should also have a preliminary social media strategy in place to reach your constituents through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. as well as a draft calendar for when to promote certain topics and issues to your constituents via all of these channels.

Amid all the hustle and bustle of the Hill and at home in your district offices, it can be easy to forget those small, yet vital, things that need to get done to ensure that your office runs smoothly over the next two years. Need a hand? Contact your Leidos IQ contact or email today!

Click here to download a printable PDF of this checklist for your own office!

Social Media Best Practices for Congressional Offices

Build your social media brand in three easy steps.

February 26, 2019

In this digital age, social media presence has become a critical component to building a brand. Whether you're starting a small business or running a Congressional office, chances are you're on social media. In fact, according to Quorum, members of Congress posted from official social accounts over 500,000 times in 2018. If you combine this with Pew Research Center's finding that about half of Americans have engaged in civil or social activism via social media (as of 2018), it's easy to see how platforms such as Twitter or Facebook can be tools for political change.

And, because this technology is so new and ever-changing, there's not necessarily a guidebook telling you what to do. Despite the unpredictable algorithms and analytics, social media strategy is much more simple than it may seem. For instance, take the big three: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. While they all serve very different purposes, the basic steps to gaining a following on each platform are fundamentally the same. Here are three strategies to maximize your time spent on social media.

1.Post Regularly

On social platforms with mysterious and ever-changing algorithms, the best way to get exposure is to post consistent and quality content. But don't just post anytime, it's important to plan your posts strategically, by targeting the times and days of the week that your audience is most active. As a general rule of thumb, you want to post when users are likely to be scrolling on their phones, such as before and after work hours or around lunch time. For example, a consistently good time to post would be at noon on weekdays. To help you stick to this targeted time, always try to schedule out a content calendar. Even if you don't know exactly what you're going to post, you can set reminders for important events or information about issues important to your Member. 

As you start to post regularly, you may notice that some posts receive more engagement than others. There can be a lot of reasons for this, but one of the most obvious is that engagement may depend on the type of content you're posting. Does it include images or a link? Hashtags? Your followers may be drawn to different types of content, so it's important to vary your posts.

2. Engage Meaningfully

Just as it is important to post on a regular basis, it is also important to engage on a regular basis. After all, social media is social by nature. Another Pew Research Center study shows that a majority of Americans see social media as a tool for publicizing worthy causes and gaining the attention of elected officials. Therefore, liking, sharing, or retweeting are all ways to point your followers to the other content and accounts that you support.

However, the truly meaningful part of engagement happens when you respond to individual comments or direct messages. Commenting and messaging are much more personal forms of communication on platforms where it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Responding to a follower's reply or DM will show that you took the time to address their concern and will help you build a relationship with that person. Furthermore, taking the time to communicate with your followers individually will help to create a community on the platform. 

IQ users can easily monitor what is going on in their accounts through the social media stream and respond to incoming social messages all directly within IQ. Whether someone tweeted at you or sent you a direct message, these interactions can all be stored and connected to an IQ contact record for future reference.

3. Track Analytics

The only way to know if your content is reaching your audience is by checking analytics. Analytics are readily available on most social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and are usually pretty easy to interpret. Luckily for IQ users, all of your social media analytics can be viewed within IQ, so you can find the stats on your reach and engagement all in one place.

You may ask, why do I need analytics when I can easily see how many likes and shares I got by looking at the original post? Well, analytics reports are also going to tell you the hidden numbers of a post, i.e., how many people saw the post and didn't engage with it. If 10 interacted with your post and only 12 people saw it, then that's a great engagement rate. But, if your post only got a couple engagements and it was seen by thousands of users, then you may have a problem.

Another reason to track analytics is bench-marking. Tracking your reach can help you set goals, such as growing your audience or increasing your engagement, and keep you accountable for achieving those objectives. If you are losing followers or your engagement is decreasing, being on top of your analytics can also help you catch problems and capitalize on opportunities.

Maintaining a strong social media presence is easy, yet often undervalued. Unlike designing a new website, building your brand on social media is a process that is never fully complete. There's no doubt that you'll meet obstacles along the way, but using social media to communicate with your constituents can go a long way towards gaining their trust. Spending a little time every day to create a strong community on your social channels will show that your office is accessible to the people it serves.

Want to learn more about how IQ can help you build your social media presence and engage with your constituents? Contact us for a demo today.