A communications blackout does not mean that your office has to be completely silent for three months. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Blackout periods are a great opportunity for Members to meaningfully communicate with constituents, both individually and in larger groups. Here are some ways that your office can stay vocal during a blackout.
Send a 499
During a blackout, Members are prohibited from participating in any type of mass communication–in other words, any unsolicited communication that reaches 500 or more people. Therefore, Congressional offices are able to send out communication to lists of 499 people as long as each 499 does not consist of "substantially identical content." IQ makes it easy for offices to send 499s, via printed mailing, enewsletter, and more. Check out more blackout rules from the Franking Commission.
Reach Out to Subscribers
The one exception to the 499 rule is that Congressional offices are allowed to send outreach to groups of 500 or more constituents as long as those constituents have subscribed to receive communications from you. It's important to make sure that your office has a clean and up to date list of subscribers at all times, so you can start communicating with them regularly both during a blackout and throughout the year. Want more subscribers? Here's how you can boost opt-ins for your office.
Respond Directly to Constituents
While you will have to take a break from mass communication during a blackout, Congressional offices are still able to respond directly to constituents. Blackouts are a great time to catch up on constituent correspondence and service requests.
Be Active on Social Media
Despite restrictions to more traditional forms of outreach, Members are still allowed to stay active on social media during a blackout. Looking to revamp your social media strategy? Check out our blogs on social media best practices for Congressional offices and understanding social media analytics.
Optimize Your Website
During a blackout is a great time to focus on your office's website, and how it can be better optimized to serve your constituents. It can be as simple as adding a newsletter opt-in to your home page or as complex as executing a total website redesign. As the first thing that a constituent will look for when they need something from your office, you want your website to be accessible, user-friendly, and on brand.
Refresh Your Data
When you can only send communication to a group of 499 people or less, you want to be sure that the constituent contact information you have is as accurate as possible. Blackout periods are a great time to refresh your voter data list and import that information into IQ. When you buy your voter data through Leidos, you get the highest quality data imported directly into IQ.
While they may seem like hassle, blackouts are a great time to go back to basics: serving your constituents. Your office is not meant to be silent during this time but rather engaging meaningfully with individuals and smaller groups, to serve your constituents to the best of your ability. Check our blackout calendar to start planning ahead for your office.