As a legislator, I work hard to communicate with my constituents. I communicate with two goals – to get the feedback that I need to represent my constituents effectively and to give my constituents information that they want.
I thought I’d explain the key communications tools that I use and solicit your feedback on any ways that my approach can be improved.
WillBrownsberger.com is the hub of all my communication with constituents. Anyone can browse WillBrownsberger.com to get an understanding of current state legislative issues and my views on them. Anyone can give me feedback through WillBrownsberger.com, either by posting a new subject, or by commenting on an existing post, or by using a contact form to send my office a private note of concern.
When I am seeking feedback on a new issue, I go wide – posting at WillBrownsberger.com, notifying my entire my news list of the post, submitting op-eds to the paper, posting to community email lists and social media, and seeking every in-person opportunity I can to put my thoughts in front of my constituents so that they can react.
When I am trying to provide useful updates or information, I communicate in a more targeted way to people that I believe have an interest in the particular issue. On the email list, people express their interests by choosing to open or click emails on a subject. For example, if I’m sending notice of a second meeting about an issue, I may only send it to people who opened the notice for the first meeting.
I also get indicators of people’s interests through emails that they send me. The majority of my incoming constituent correspondence comes from bulk emails – those links you click that say “Tell your legislators to vote for X”. My office uses a piece of open source software that I have created called WP Issues CRM. It is a published plugin for the popular blogging software, WordPress, that powers WillBrownsberger.com. WP Issues CRM scans my Senate office inbox and groups incoming bulk messages so that I can reply to them in bulk. It also keeps a record of the subjects that people have contacted me about so that I can notify them of later developments of interest to them. Good automation of the bulk correspondence allows me to spend more time on replying to personal emails.
I make relatively limited use of facebook and twitter and those are not reliable ways to reach me. When I do post on social media, it is usually with the goal of encouraging participation in a discussion at WillBrownsberger.com.
If you want to make sure you are notified when I’m seeking feedback, please subscribe to my news list at WillBrownsberger.com/subscribe.
If you feel that you used to be on my news list, but are not any more, that is quite possible. I never want to send messages to addresses at which they are not opened – for two reasons: First, I do not want to be that irritating person in your inbox who for some reason keeps sending email. Second, I want to preserve my reputation with the email vendors like Gmail, Comcast and Verizon – they track open activity and if people are not opening messages from me, they are likely to classify me as a spammer and then no one will see my messages.
My news list service, Mailchimp, gives me statistics on whether messages we send are being opened. Our policy is to periodically run programs to unsubscribe email addresses at which messages are not being opened. Anyone can subscribe or resubscribe at any time at WillBrownsberger.com/subscribe.
I’d be really grateful for any suggestions at all about how I can communicate better.
Thank you for all the kind words below. We’ll keep at it. I did get some suggestions here and by email which we will work on:
- A couple of folks suggested briefer pieces. I probably don’t want to get much briefer — writing is how I work through some of the issues and some people like the completeness — but I’ll work on making it easier to get the drift from the lead or a summary box.
- One person encouraged me to continue to keep up our (limited) facebook/twitter communications. We’ll work on trying to at least get notices of posts out in those media. We will also look at another suggestion — the inclusion of like buttons on posts. We stopped doing that several years ago because they tend to interfere with a smooth page load and they weren’t used that much. But we’ll revisit it as a technology issue — it would certainly help our facebook presence to have like buttons.
- One person encouraged me to speak more to national issues — I’m tempted to do that, but on national issues, I’m less qualified to speak. I have feelings (strong ones), like everyone right now, but I’m not sure my state-government vantage point privileges me to much national insight.
- A couple of people made the technical point that email open statistics are unreliable and tend to understate open rates, so that in my zeal to not to annoy people and to maintain an active list, I might be dropping people who are actually active. This is true and something I worry about and will continue to struggle with — it’s a balance to strike.
- Perhaps the most important challenge, which one person highlighted, is to reach beyond the universe of people that are already on my list or reading my local papers. I know that there are many different groups of people that aren’t hearing from me and we will continue to look for ways to be in touch with new people in all walks of life — in person and in new media.
Thanks again for the positive feedback.
Dear Will —
You got redistricted out of my neighborhood (or the other way around), but I’m glad to remain on your mailing list. I don’t get to vote for you, but I appreciate and learn from your open communication. Keep up the good work! I’ll vote for you again when/if circumstances allow.
I think what you do in the way of communication is top notch! I wish there were more in government who took such a thorough and thoughtful approach.
Legislation is hard work. I know from my experience on Town Meeting here in Arlington, which I participated in for 16 years. I know it takes extra time to sit down at the end of the day and summarize what’s going on for a report to constituents … and then read the responses! I wholeheartedly support your efforts. As another respondent said, your district was redrawn to exclude me, but I still read and respond to your communications.
I’d say you do a really exemplary job at communications. I usually open your e-mail, comment if I wish to say anything, and am happy with the results. I cannot recall any other legislator providing your level of communication who represent or who has represented me.
I greatly appreciate your efforts. Especialy conveying your critical thinking on key issues – much better than rehashes of party lines. It has helped me make informed votes on critical issues.
I absolutely applaud you for your communication. Frankly, I only wish I could some how bottle it and transfer it to your colleagues! Over the years I’ve moved around multiple districts in the greater Boston area, and I’ve never been able to get one tenth the amount of useful communication I get from you from any other legislator. While I’m not currently in your district, you remain my go-to source for Massachusetts legislative news.
While I’m mostly joking about wanting to bottle your communication skills, I’m quite serious in wishing there was a way for you to make it easier for your colleagues to adopt the standards and approaches you take.
You communicate better than any other politician I have ever interacted with, so keep it up!
This was really helpful as I never knew how easy it is to use the website to communicate with you. As others have said, your comms efforts are sensational and I have yet to encounter a pol like you in this area. Thanks for asking for feedback! Now, to sign up for the email list…
Do seminars for the other representatives. What you’re doing is truly “best practice”
If you were a teacher they’s make you give seminars.
Many thanks, Will. The manner and methods of your constituent communications, including frequency, content, comprehensive understandable explanations of pending issues and legislation, and tone are a model of the species; can’t imagine any possible way to improve what you provide to us.
Will, you have always been a great communicator. I appreciate your care, quick response, and your mannerism with your constituent. Thank you!
Will, I think your way of communicating with your constituency is exemplary. I echo others in saying I wish others in Congress and the State House would copy you – and that you weren’t quite so unique in this regard. It’s also important that you’re adding in-person informational activities to the mix: for example, next weekend’s public meeting on criminal law reform. Thank you.
I think you do a terrific job considering issues thoughtfully and communicating them to your constituents.
Bravo, Will. You have done an exemplary job of maintaining transparency, high level communication, and invitation of your constituents to weigh in with their opinions. Would that all of our other elected representatives did half as good a job as you do. Please keep it up!
I think you are communicating a lot – in the Globe – on the email system – at town hall forums you sponsor on issues -also in keeping people informed of your views through local papers like the Belmont Citizen – you are also responsive to concerns I have raised at least – I think at this point in time it is also important to give your views on larger issues from time to time – and particularly in relationship to what is happening with the Democratic Party in Mass – it might help too to print what others are saying to you on issues – so I am satisfied with your communication style – not into tweets or facebook myself – I also think legislation is for the long haul – so you relate to that really well – but might welcome your comments on the budgetary process happening locally – statewide and nationally – Ann
You are already doing a fantastic job of communicating. I only wish other legislators followed your example. Keep up the good work.
Thanks for the effort you make to keep us informed, to explain your position and to let us know the outcome of Senate actions. You’re doing a great job of keeping in touch!
You need a like button on the comments below. That is seriously the only suggestion I can make to the best communicator I’ve come across. You are open, inclusive, not bothersome. You SHOULD teach others at all levels of government how to engage constituents and keep the lines open.
As you know, I am not even a constituent of yours but I find you newsletter so enlightening on issues affecting our state that I am a avid follower.
Please keep it up!
You have so many raves already that this may be superfluous, but working on the principle that a person can never receive too much positive feedback, I want to add my voice to the compliments.
All legislators should be as communicative and responsive as you are. I appreciate both your articulation of your position on issues as well as your request for feedback.
I love your communication, Will, and wish that other representatives would also be as open as you.
I’m not even in your district, but I depend on your amazing communication to understand the issues. Your emails are spot on, Will. Thorough, thoughtful and interesting. Keep up your amazing work. Deeply grateful.
Will, You do a wonderful job of communicating with you constituents. I wish I was nearly as proficient as you are. Maybe you should offer a mini-course to elected officials who are still catching up with the latest on-line communication tools!
You are a hard-working elected official whose efforts are appreciated by this elected official.
Email tracking is done by referencing image links in emails. For privacy concerns I disable images when reading emails so you will never see that I have opened an email. You may see that I click through a link though. just wanted to fyi about this.
Thanks, Nathan. Got it. Yes, the click through is both more meaningful and more reliable.
You are doing a great job Will. I hear from you more than any other elected official and appreciate it very much.
I appreciate what you are doing as far as communication. I enjoy getting your requests for input and hearing about your positions, whether I agree or not. I mainly read your emails and would not be active on Facebook or Twitter. I reply to your emails if I have time and if it is an issue I feel strongly about.
Keep up the good work.
If I already subscribe to your emails, do I need to check the subscribe box again?
Nope! You are all set.
Communication is accessible, direct, and easy to respond.
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