Interested in learning more about the strategies our quiz recommended to other teams? Scroll through to learn our beginner, intermediate, and advanced strategies for identifying legislative champions, bill tracking, and engaging legislators and staff.
Identify Legislative Champions
Beginner — Use biographical data and committee/caucus memberships
Begin looking through the biographies of newly elected members to identify aspects of a person’s life that would make them a likely champion or threat to your organization’s issues. For example, which members were doctors before entering politics and may be more likely to act on healthcare legislation? Or which members served in the military and may have a different perspective on veterans’ issues?
Then, once the members are assigned committees, look to which new members sit on your key committees. Or, which other members have new committee seats or leadership positions. Building strong relationships with new members in elevated positions is just as important as engaging with freshmen legislators.
Finally, look at caucus memberships. While caucuses have significantly less formal legislative power than committees, membership in an issue related caucus is an indicator of where a member stands on that issue.
Intermediate — Track social media conversations
You’ve looked at the low-hanging fruit for legislative champions and threats, such as committee positions, but you can go further and find other relevant legislators by tracking how often and in what way they discuss your issues on social media.
There are two kinds of data trends you want to look at in terms of volume of dialogue — who speaks about your issue the most overall, and who has had spikes in conversation. The overall leaders in dialogue volume will be your primary targets. However, members who may not be consistently loud on your issues but have major spikes may have a newfound interest in your issues or new dynamics in their districts.
In looking at social media to identify legislators who are interested in a particular issue, you can also identify whether they’d be a champion of the issue or a threat based on the language they use in conjunction with issue keywords.
Advanced — Use news monitoring and a stakeholder survey to identify new champions
A member’s district’s priorities are a major indicator of the issues that a legislator will care about in Congress. So, to understand the district and the member’s priorities, read their newspapers. With a news monitoring tool, you can get a pulse of the district’s views on your issues by how they are discussed in a legislator’s local publications. With that knowledge, you can understand more about whether they’ll be a champion or a threat to your issues.
A second strategy used by more advanced teams to identify legislative champions is a stakeholder survey. It’s possible that someone in your organization’s network—employees, donors, community partners, etc.—has a personal relationship with a stakeholder. Maybe they were classmates in college, grew up on the same street, or have some other connection that would put that stakeholder in a position to engage the legislator on the issues. With a more personal connection to your organization, a legislator is more likely to turn into a champion, even if they weren’t one before.
Beginner — Set up keyword alerts on social media as well as legislative text to never miss a mention of your key issues
The first step to effective legislative tracking is identifying the critical bills in the first place so you can then influence the process. Setting up keyword alerts on bill text and titles is a no-brainer in this case, but you can take it a step further.
Bills get added to congress.gov after they’ve been formally introduced, but at this point in the process, the wheels are already turning on making that bill a reality. If you want to engage, you may already be behind. So, we recommend tracking social media for mentions of issues you care about to stay ahead of legislation. Many legislators will post on social media announcing that they are going to introduce a bill before they formally do so. With immediate alerts on these posts, you can get ahead on your engagement.
Intermediate — Create a central dashboard for your team to monitor legislative movements
A central dashboard provides one source of truth for what bills your team is working on, where they stand in the process, where your organization stands on the issue, and who on your team is responsible for leading that issue. You can organize bills in whatever way is easiest for your team — by priority, by issue, by assignment, or your team’s custom workflows.
This system is especially important if your team is monitoring a large volume of bills. Tracking boards help you quickly visualize the landscape and decide how to spend your time. This can help you focus on your highest priority bills — or the bills that are moving forward — when you don’t have time to act on every bill that falls within your policy landscape.
Advanced — Report on how your efforts move the needle on legislation to be proactive rather than reactive
If your team is advanced, you’re likely catching many of the bills you need to know about, but are you effectively analyzing your team’s ability to impact that legislation? By reporting on the correlation between your team’s actions and the results of legislation, you can optimize your strategy toward what behaviors are associated with successful outcomes.
To do this, track your interactions and efforts throughout the legislative year. This should include things like meetings, emails, phone calls, and other engagements. Then, at the end of the period you’re reporting on, create a spreadsheet with a column for your team’s activity with each member and columns for each member’s legislative activity on your issue—like their social media dialogue, bills sponsored or cosponsored, and bills enacted. Then, plot the data points on a scatter plot. Did members you engaged with more frequently talk about your issues more in official statements or introduce more legislation? If so, what kind of interactions was your team having with that legislator, and who on your team owned the relationship?
With these insights, you can identify what is working and apply those best practices to the next round of engagement.
Engaging Officials and Staff
Beginner — Send an email newsletter based on monthly content themes
Your team probably regularly emails with Capitol Hill when you want to schedule a meeting or have an ask of a legislator on a particular bill, but are you emailing them outside of those asks? We recommend creating a regularly scheduled email newsletter that includes valuable, interesting content rather than requests to sponsor or vote a certain way. Instead, use this space to share your company’s story and to make clear why it is important to that official.
To make planning easier, you should create a policy reputation calendar that uses monthly themes to drive your emails. For example, in November, align your messaging with Veterans Day and share your company’s corporate social responsibility efforts that support veterans in legislators’ communities.
By consistently sharing your brand’s story, legislators will be more likely to engage with you when you do have an ask because the connection to their communities will be even more clear.
Intermediate — Add segmentation into your email newsletters based on issue or role
Not all of your audience is interested in everything your organization is working on. If you send them too many messages that don’t appeal to their interests or relationship with your organization, they may begin to tune you out and miss the messages that are in fact relevant.
To create lists segmented by issue, there are a few different strategies your team could use to identify who belongs on what list. The easiest way is to add staffers to lists based on which issues they are responsible for. To grow this list, you could track who responds and engages with specific issue content and gradually build your lists over time based on their engagement and your conversations with those stakeholders. For example, if someone registers for a healthcare event or replies to an email about your work on healthcare, add them to your healthcare issue newsletter list.
To take it to another level, you can add a secondary dimension to your lists, such as the level of issue sophistication. For example, the staffers who work on your issue and whose boss is on the relevant committee, you could send more advanced content, whereas if someone works on your issue area but their boss is not on the relevant committee, they could get less in-depth content.
Advanced — Incorporate virtual events or site visits into your engagement strategy
Events provide a more memorable experience for legislators than an individual email, so they are more likely to absorb the takeaways you share, even if they are virtual instead of in-person. Virtual events also allow you to expand who participates. Without geographic restrictions, you can invite employees or staff members from across the country to contribute.
Additionally, participating in an event is a greater time commitment for a legislator or staffer than reading an email. Opting into that experience with your organization and committing that time can be a strong indicator of their interest in you and your issues.