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Capitol staffers prefer traditional means of communications

Legislative staffers in the Capitol rely on one-on-one communications, and nearly nine out of 10 say in-person visits are the most effective way of getting their boss’s message out.

Even in an era of rapidly expanding social networking and a vast flow of information through Internet websites, political staffers say they prefer face-to-face visits, written letters, emails, and telephone calls – in that order – as the preferred method of communicating.

In fact, traditional media remains the preference for most communicating with constituents, members and others.

Those are some of the findings in an unusual survey of staffers’ communications and technology preferences conducted by StrategyOne for Edelman, an international public relations and communications firm, and Capitol Weekly. The questionnaire was posted for several weeks and the findings were compiled last month.

The California staffers said their members are using Facebook and blogs in dramatically greater numbers – a five-fold increase in Facebook over the past three years, from 17 percent to 91 percent, while there was a four-fold increase in blogs during the same period. Email also has grown in use over the past three years.

But they also expected those levels would decline over the next three years, while the use of YouTube and instant messaging would increase dramatically.

Since 2010, similar surveys of political staffers have been conducted in Washington, D.C., London, Brussels, Paris and Berlin.

A total of about 300 people have responded to the confidential questionnaires. In Sacramento, there were 30 responses, surveyors said, evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. Questionnaires were available online and respondents submitted their answers via the web.

The questionnaire and its findings will be available next month at Edelman’s website, www.edelman.com and at Capitol Weekly’s site, www.capitolweekly.net. The goal of the questionnaire was to get a snapshot of the communications preferences of political staffers, to identify which communications methods they use most commonly.

Among the results for contacting constituents:

With few exceptions the most preferred ways to contact constituents is via personal meetings (100 percent), speaking events (97 percent), television appearances (93 percent) and newspaper columns (93 percent).

Of 18 methods of communicating with constituents, radio advertising ranked 11th (62 percent) and print advertising ranked 12th (59 percent), ahead of blogging (13th place at 52 percent), while micro-blogging (such as Twitter), ranked 14th at 45 percent.

Of the 18 communications preferences described, podcasting ranked 18th at 7 percent.

Preferred method of contacting members of the Legislature:

In-person visits (87 percent), followed by written letters (80 percent), emails (73 percent) and telephone calls (72 percent. Interestingly, the use of the telephone did not rank in the top 18 methods of contacting constituents.

In contacting members of the Legislature, about one in every two staffers said they write letters to the editor of the local newspaper, and about a third said they go to the member’s website. About 3 percent said they use YouTube.

Not surprisingly, social media and social networking use peaks during lunchtime and after work hours. Before 10 a.m., the traditional online news sources are preferred, while after 10 a.m., “their attention shifts to social media, with sizeable spikes at noon and after 6 p.m.”

Seven out of 10 Capitol staffers say the most effective means of communications from lobbyists is the one-page briefing paper, followed by statistical research from NGOs (47 percent) and verbal briefings (37 percent).

The most trusted online sources for policy analysis was the Legislative Analyst’s Office (30 percent), state agencies, such as the Department of Finance (20 percent), Rough & Tumble (20 percent), the Flash Report (13 percent) and Capitol Weekly (10 percent), various newspaper websites (10 percent), the L.A. Times ( 10 percent) and the state legislative website, 7 percent.

About a third of those surveyed said text messaging or other “mobile interaction” was effective with members.


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