Getting Grassroots Voices Heard on Capitol Hill: Personalization is Paramount
By Ami Neiberger-Miller on Tuesday, February 8, 2011
A new study called Communicating with Congress: Perceptions of Citizen Advocacy by the Congressional Management Foundation offers helpful insights for organizations and ordinary people who want to have their voices heard in the corridors of power on capitol hill.
The survey was conducted October-December 2010 and included 260 congressional hill staff members. Some of the key findings:
- Personal visits by constituents to member offices on capitol hill or in the district matter – a lot. 97% of the staffers said a visit to the Hill office (and 94% to the district office) by a constituent would have “some” or “a lot” of influence on a Member of Congress who was undecided about a particular issue.
- Grassroots voices at a local level through town hall meetings and letters to the editor are heard – When asked about strategies directed to their offices back home, staffers said questions at town hall meetings (87%) and letters to the editor (80%) have “some” or “a lot” of influence.
- Snail mail and email letters carry similar weight. Nearly identical percentages of staffers said postal mail (90%) and email (88%) would influence an undecided member of Congress.
- Encourage grassroots advocates participating in campaigns to personalize any provided form letters. More than half of the staffers surveyed (53%) felt that most advocacy campaigns using identical form messages are sent without constituents’ knowledge or approval. While this perception is not true, in this age of online opt-in email campaigns fueled by online databases, this survey finding is a glaring reminder to communicators. Remind anyone using a form letter to contact Congress to add personalization before hitting send. It really does matter.