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 officials and staff.
Identify Legislative Champions
Beginner — Use biographical data related to your issues
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, look to which new members sit on your key committees. Or, which members have new committee seats or leadership positions.
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 dialogue
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, legislators 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. For example, when discussing immigration, some legislators tend to use language like “family” or “citizenship” while others use language like “security”, thus indicating two different perspectives on the same policy issue.
Advanced — Use news monitoring to identify potential champions and threats
A legislator’s district’s priorities are a major indicator of the issues that a legislator will care about in the legislature. 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 secondary benefit to news monitoring along with identifying your potential legislative champions is you can turn neutral legislators into champions. By reading their local publications, you’ll be able to reference local dynamics that will help sell your pitch on why they should care about your issue.
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 one step further.
Bills get added to state legislative websites 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 gather and share intelligence
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. Dashboards 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 legislator’s legislative activity on your issue—like their social media dialogue on your issue, 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 — Create a newsletter to engage outside of just when you have a legislative ask
Your team probably regularly emails with state legislators when you want to schedule a meeting or have an ask 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, consistently 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 — Segment your email newsletter by issue to share more unique content to relevant legislators
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 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 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 — Organize virtual events
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.