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:
- Information on Issues
- Constituent Services and Casework
- Promoting Accountability to Constituents
- Legislative Process Information
- District/State Information
- Floor Proceedings
- Diversity of Communications Content
- Diversity of Communications Channels
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)