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Interaction, Interconnectedness, and Interoperability: the Success of VYou on Constituent Communications

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.

 
 
 

ABOUT CMF

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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.