Whether serious (how will your state fare in the allocation of federal education dollars) or frivolous (is your Member of Congress a Yankees or a Mets fan), constituents are genuinely curious about the views of their elected officials. Unfortunately, the opportunity to pose these questions doesn’t often present itself.
Enter VYou, the online Q&A forum where online participants can conveniently upload questions to celebrities, experts and even their Members of Congress … if that Member has decided to participate, he or she can answer the questions posed by their constituents in an audio-visual format.
As an emerging media platform, there still aren’t many Members of Congress who utilize this tool for constituent communication. But a notable exception is Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) who has posted over a hundred video responses since the creation of his VYou profile in April of this year.
We were struck by Senator Grassley’s wholesale embrace of this technology and so reached out to his office. “Representative government is strengthened by dialogue between constituents and elected representatives,” Grassley stated. “VYou allows constituents to ask questions day and night.”
He went on to say, “I like the opportunity to provide direct responses to questions in a way that’s similar to the Q&A I have during town meetings with Iowans. It’s important to have conversations about the issues and VYou is one way to communicate. I’d recommend it to others as a way to be responsive to constituents.”
In speaking with Senator Grassley’s communications office, we learned that the office staff, too, finds it to be a useful tool because it’s interoperable with other social platforms, which makes it helpful in assisting the Senator’s media management.
From the inception of CEO Steve Spurgat’s innovation, Tim Casey, VYou’s DC representation, was optimistic about the future VYou had on Capitol Hill. He notes, “At its core, the platform functions as a Q&A, but offers the participant a significantly more intimate experience. Instead of a canned YouTube clip or written paragraph explaining the Senator's position on an issue, the participant, with VYou, is able to view the Member of Congress' personal response with all the nuance and inflection of a live interaction.
“As Members answer more questions, their library of responses begins to serve as a fully formed reflection of their positions across a broad spectrum of issues.”
Casey also notes that many offices have indicated their intentions for adopting the VYou platform after the election cycle, during the lame duck session.
Though VYou is fresh to the social media marketplace, other Members have begun to capitalize on its versatility, including Keith Ellison (D-MN), George Miller (D-CA), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Sander Levin (D-MI), and Laura Richardson (D-CA). CMF believes that this is a really interesting and innovative means for communication, and we look forward to following how this impacts the democratic dialogue.