A generational change happened in the last election and the incoming class of lawmakers is going to look and operate much different than their predecessors.
For starters, these new lawmakers are, on average, a decade younger than their predecessors. They’re also more diverse and many are social media savvy. When it comes to advocacy communications, there’s a pressing question. Is there a better way to get information and your issue in front of new members that hasn’t been deployed in the past?
Communications methods, especially advocacy communications methods, are constantly evolving — even though it may seem like a glacial pace at times. Email is still essential despite questions of effectiveness. Social media is still essential despite a myriad of cross-channel concerns. Text messages have become essential despite privacy concerns. Now, you will see the occasional audible that may be necessary in the form of a blasted fax or direct mail piece. But there hasn’t been a systemic innovation in the actual communication toolset in recent memory.
Keep in mind, no matter what changes with its occupants, Congress is still institutional, gradual and calculated, which is what the advocacy community must also replicate in order to fully connect with 116th. Five or six members using Instagram Live isn’t a wave, nor is it a reason to shift your entire budget from one bucket to the next right out of the gate. The advocacy community needs to be adaptive, but not reactionary or hastily preparing for some major institutional change that may never occur.
The best way to communicate with Capitol Hill come January will likely come from similar channels or parts of the toolbox that were used in the 115th Congress. It’s up to the advocacy community to provide the craftsmanship and attention to detail in the applications and utilization of those tools.
If you are going to shuffle your member outreach, start by testing. Operate with a constant feedback loop, and gather intelligence on the new members and their staff. Their preferences and responsiveness will be revealed soon enough.
And hit the ground running in January. Some new members are already fundraising for their 2020 reelection campaigns. If you haven’t already, it’s time to reach out.