AL Politician Talks to Constituents Via E-Mail

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Congressman Bob Riley of Alabama's Third Congressional District is using rich media e-mail to talk to his constituents. In fact, his second e-mail constituent update is scheduled to go out this month.


Riley's first rich media e-mail - dubbed eGram - features a 44-second personalized video message in which Riley invites viewers to link directly to his site at www.house.gov/riley. Last month, this effort produced a 21 percent open rate, according to eCommercial, Aliso Viejo, CA, the company that produced eGram. Ninety-one percent of those viewers clicked-through to at least one of eGram's four functions, according to Scott Altman, a spokesman.


The second eGram will inform Riley's constituents of the results of an online survey on the site. "We wanted to share the final results with our constituents and thank them for participating," said Dan Gans, Riley's chief of staff. The survey asked constituents which of five issues - such as reducing federal taxes and passing HMO reform legislation - Congress should address first when it reconvenes.


The eGram has allowed Riley's staff to address its constituents' concerns by gaging them at the Web site, rather than hoping to touch upon the right issues with direct mail, according to Gans. "That's the beauty of it. The congressman does not have to guess what issues constituents want to hear about, because we can put the full gamut of issues up on our Web site, and the constituents can pick and choose [what interests them]."


Riley's e-mail list has increased by 50 percent since December, according to Gans, who declined to give the exact number of people on the list or the number of people who filled out the congressman's survey.


eCommercial's technology also enabled personalization of the eGrams. That's what sold Riley on its technology, according to Gans. "It's just a lot more personal than a direct newsletter. [Recipients] could almost hear, touch and see the congressman."


"This is the kind of thing consumers want," said Ross Teasley, vice president of marketing at eCommercial.com. They want to understand political issues in a way that's accessible to them, he said. Since the eGrams are opt in, it's a voter-driven process. Riley's staff collected the names and e-mail addresses via direct mail, and a weekly column that appears in newspapers throughout Riley's district, asking constituents if they wanted to receive e-mail updates on various issues. As of Jan. 18, no one from the original list who received the eGram had unsubscribed, said Gans.


eCommercial is actively pursuing politicians with sales staff who only handle the political marketplace, according to Teasley. The company plans to open an office for that purpose in Washington this year. eCommercial also launched an eGram campaign for presidential candidate Steve Forbes.
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