Consider developing a newsletter
Newsletters are effective ways to explain to your voters exactly what is happening in your state house or local office. I’m going to use the newsletter of Democratic Kansas official Heather Meyer of Overland Park, who provides a rundown for her constituents of the committees she serves on, how she believes the session is moving along, and what actions are being taken by Republicans in the house.
Several state officeholders near me send these out for state senators and representatives in both Kansas and Missouri, and they give me a pretty good guide as to what is happening.
These newsletters can come at some length, but they can also come in different formats to give voters a better idea of what is going on. Texas Rep. Gene Wu has used videos to keep his constituents up to date on what is happening in Texas.
When you offer either form of communication to your voters, they have a better understanding of what you are doing.
Hold town halls
Town halls are an incredibly effective way to communicate with your voters. It allows you to share information with your voters, but also allows voters and some local press to ask questions that focus on the issues they care most about in your work. Responding to these issues in a newsletter or videos can be meaningful, but part of your strategy should be to take some time to meet with your constituents in person. Just like the example above, legislators promote a town hall and encourage their voters to attend so that they can learn more about what is happening in their government. This makes for more informed voters and better advocates. It also insulates you against negative advertisements during campaign season, as the more voters know who you are, the less likely they are to believe baseless attacks.
On the flip side, failure to hold town halls or communicate with voters can create a narrative you want to avoid. It allows your opponents to show you as out of touch, unwilling to talk to your own voters, or afraid to debate the positions you've taken out in the open.
If you aren’t willing to talk to your own voters, there can be serious consequences; your lack of ability to get behind your positions in front of voters makes you look evasive and does absolutely nothing to insulate you against attacks later. Instead, it invites fear, uncertainty, and doubt as to where you stand and what you stand for when it comes time to vote.
Summary: listen, share, and learn
There are a few key items to remember about communication outside of a campaign. Listen to your own constituents and try to be responsive when you can. Share information before your constituents ask for it about what you are working on and government developments so that they aren’t surprised and they understand you are involving them. We are losing a lot of local media coverage, and if you aren’t telling your voters directly then the first time they will hear about an issue will be through a negative attack ad. Instead, empower your voters to be your cheerleaders who are proud of what you are doing. Finally, learn from your voters. You are not always the smartest person in the room. Sometimes, even the Democratic elected caucus can miss something in your community. Reaching out to your community members can provide you with information that you might not receive otherwise.
How well do your representatives communicate with you?
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