It is always difficult to measure the effectiveness of media campaigns. Traditionally, staffs have counted media clips or calculated cable news ratings when a Member of Congress partakes in an interview. While these methods produce a snapshot of exposure for a particular initiative, they do not present the whole picture and are not entirely quantifiable. Fortunately, the Web offers a host of new methods for communications professionals to evaluate messaging efficacy.
Congressional websites are in many ways the first impression Members of Congress display toward constituents. In addition, they can be a calculator to gauge the strength of communications campaigns. Staffers can measure daily website unique visitors and analyze changes when new initiatives are introduced.
For instance, if the communications director decides to emphasize online and television appearances as opposed to radio and newspapers, he or she can measure the new campaign’s success by quantifying website visitors. Other online measurement tools include Member Wikipedia page views, Facebook impressions, and Twitter retweets.
If a Member introduces a new bill or a scandal erupts, citizens will invariably scour the Internet for more information. For instance, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) came under scrutiny recently for admitting she failed to pay property taxes on her private plane. On March 22, the day the story broke, Senator McCaskill’s Wikipedia page received ten times more visitors than an average day, according to http://stats.grok.se/en/201103/Claire%20McCaskill. In addition, she had an exponential increase in her Twitter following, which now contains more than 50,000 followers.
Web tools give Members of Congress more avenues to measure the effectiveness of legislative and communications campaigns. These statistics can then be leveraged to make decisions on what legislative initiatives to pursue, what media outlets pitch, and how best to allocate a Member’s limited time – optimizing office operational efficiency.