Building Trust & Effectiveness in Congress
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How to Build an Award-Winning Congressional Website

In preparation for the 113th Congress Gold Mouse Awards, we have compiled a series of blog posts to let congressional offices know exactly what we’re looking for in an award-winning website. With our contest getting underway in September, now is the perfect opportunity for your office to get around to those long put-off updates to your site. What better way to spend an August recess? Over the next several weeks, we will be highlighting each of the 10 different categories we use to evaluate sites and the specific criteria for each. We’ll also include an example of one of the award-winning sites from the 112th Congress that demonstrates this characteristic.

10 Characteristics of an Award-Winning Member Website:

  1. Information on Issues
  2. Timeliness
  3. Usability
  4. Constituent Services and Casework
  5. Promoting Accountability to Constituents
  6. Legislative Process Information
  7. District/State Information
  8. Floor Proceedings
  9. Diversity of Communications Content
  10. Diversity of Communications Channels

Characteristic #1: Information on Issues

Questions to be answered:

  • What are the key issues before Congress?
  • What issues are important to the Member and/or are important to the district/state?
  • What is being done in Congress on those issues?

The specifics we look for:

  • The Member’s stance on national issues, and the way the Member voted on high-profile legislation.
  • Details on the Member’s position on national issues, perhaps referencing major proposals by party or Executive Branch leadership.
  • The personality, interests and priorities of the Member and the district or state.
  • The depth and quality of the information provided on each issue.
  • Clear but brief explanations of votes—offering a degree of accountability.
  • The Member’s specific accomplishments in the current Congress.
  • Write-ups, videos or other communications on Member priorities that offer some degree of detail about the impact of their proposals on the district, state, or nation.

Note: CMF has encountered Members and staff who have suggested that offering any level of detail on a Member position, vote or priority is politically disadvantageous—that, in essence, the office is offering up “opposition research” which could be used against the Member in a political campaign. Ironically, the opposite is true. Members who display a degree of transparency and accountability not only better serve their constituents, they benefit politically by applying a degree of honesty and clarity to their work. Moreover, in an Internet dominated political age, if a Member does take a controversial position on an issue, it is reasonable to assume that a political opponent could easily access it—whether or not it is posted on the Member’s website.

Award-Winning Example: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

 
 
 

ABOUT CMF

Inside of Capitol Dome

CMF is a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to helping Congress and its Members meet the evolving needs and expectations of an engaged and informed 21st century citizenry.

Our work focuses on improving congressional operations and enhancing citizen engagement through research, publications, training, and management services.

Read more about CMF

PROJECTS

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Communicating with Congress The Internet forever changed how citizens and Congress interacts. The goal of this project is to facilitate a more meaningful democratic dialogue.

 

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Gold Mouse Project
Congress should effectively communicate with and serve citizens online. CMF assesses congressional websites to identify best and innovative practices that can be more widely adopted by the House and Senate.

 

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Inside the Hill
Produced by Founding Partner Fleishman-Hillard, this video series allows you to hear directly from Members and staff on how technology is changing the way Congress works.

 

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Life in Congress
This novel research project by CMF and the Society for Human Resource Management has two goals: identify the factors that motivate congressional staff and shed some light on Congress as a workplace.

 

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21st Century Town Hall Meetings CMF seeks to continue our innovative work in this area by conducting comparative research on in-person town halls, online town halls, and telephone town halls.