Alex Treadway of National Journal Group, Inc., the moderator, began by introducing the panel.
Steve Dwyer - Technology Director, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer
Pepper Pennington - Press Secretary, Congressman Tom Feeney
Jonathan Levy - Legislative Assistant, Congressman Rahm Emanuel
Stuart Shapiro - President, iConstituent
Mr. Treadway introduces the topic, and then precedes to tell us how some consider the current state of Congress as "under siege" in the sense that the number of Lobbying groups has been expanding exponentially of late. And with this increase in lobbyists comes a large increase in electronic communications. This is also combined with a noticeable decrease of direct mail.
John Levy spoke first and discussed how important it was to monitor costs, whereas it was so expensive to call your people, while an e-newsletter allows for a much cheaper and much more effective way to contact your constituents. The newsletters are much more effective if they include both what the politician does in Washington in addition (and perhaps more importantly) what the politician is doing in their own district.
Pepper Pennington spoke next, and discussed the ability to e-mail the constituents of the politician she works for a survey. They were able to get a lot of responses and feedback on the survey because with e-mail it was so easy to get feedback without much interference, and then, they were able to modify the survey according to the responses and feedback from the politicians followers.
Steve spoke next and discussed more about individual e mail, and like Alex, he showed that congressional e-mail traffic into Congress has increased exponentially, and how the congressmen still try to keep things formal, while the congressmen are still trying to read as many e-mails as possible. He says that a lot of the e-mail traffic comes from Advocacy Groups who send out mass e-mails. He says that these emails are often just blocked, because they are mass e-mails and are identical and time wasting. To help in blocking these, a filter was added to cut down on traffic. Some ways that Congressional Offices can improve their eCommunications are to handle e-mails automatically, respond with e-mails to e-mails, reallocate more staff members and funds to constituent communication and provide more means of online communication and finally to work with advocacy groups to receive their data in a better way.
Essentially there are a number of different ways for Congressmen to refine their systems to be able to handle the growing number of communications, but some of the best that were discussed here were the correct and efficient use of e-mail systems and newsletters.