Summary of Chapter 14: Managing Constituent Communications
*Excerpt from Setting Course: A Congressional Management Guide
, copyright Congressional Management Foundation.
- use a proactive strategy to reduce
the volume of incoming constituent
mail. Keep constituents informed through a
comprehensive and user-friendly website and
regular e-mail and social media updates.
- assess the priority of mail in your
office. It is counterproductive to assign mail
a high priority and then fail to devote the
resources to answer it appropriately.
- adopt the CMF Mail System, which
enables an office to answer 85% of its mail
with pre-approved form letters in about one
- recognize that timeliness is of the
utmost importance to constituents. A
prompt one-page response is more desirable
than a longer, more detailed response
received several weeks later.
- treat mail backlogs as an office
problem, not an individual staffer’s
problem. It is the Member’s reputation at
stake, not the staff’s.
- adhere to a consistent and timely
process for the logging and coding of
constituent interactions. Such a scheme
will enable you to better track and respond to
the needs of constituents.
- answer e-mail with e-mail. It can make
the difference between meeting constituent
expectations and appearing out-of-touch.
- ignore the differences between
e-mailers and postal mailers.
E-mailers expect a faster reply and shorter
responses than postal mailers.
- discount the concerns of e-mailers.
Most of them are just as committed to
their issues as traditional postal writers.
- view mail as simply something to
react to. If you do, you will become a
content provider instead of legislating,
conducting outreach and district/state
projects, and meeting the larger needs of
- fail to establish clear mail policies.
Consider the desired turnaround; the
quality of replies; which mail to answer;
and the degree of Member involvement.
- allow the Member to slow the mail
approval process. When the Member
regularly functions as a mail logjam, ask
him to rethink the priority of speedy mail
turnaround, or come up with a strategy to
approve mail more quickly.
- violate House and Senate rules
governing mass communications
and e-mail — both solicited and
unsolicited — which can result in Ethics
Committee investigations, financial
penalties, and harmful press coverage.