While it is easy to believe that snail mail is irrelevant in the digital age, old-fashioned postal mail continues to be one of the most powerful mediums of congressional communication. Heaps of constituent letters articulating different concerns arrive in each congressional office every single day, and each item of correspondence is reviewed. Our Federal representatives value and respond to constituent communication, and because of this, every congressional office has its own protocol for organizing constituent communications, and its own method to respond to constituent mail. Congressional interns spend hours each day reading and sorting these letters, to make sure that the Congressional representative hears what his/her constituents are most concerned with.
We spoke with two former Congressional interns about their experience with handling constituent mail. From this, we gleaned a few tips and tricks about how advocacy groups can best leverage the power of snail mail.
Question 1: Do campaign letters really matter that much to Congress?
Intern A: The more letters we received about a certain issue meant that the issue was really important among the constituent base. Regardless of whether letter campaigns had identical text or if they were electronically varied, all letters about the same topic were treated equally in the mailroom.
Intern B: They were all read and logged. I worked in a district office though, so we forwarded all campaigns to the DC office.
Question 2: Do letters actually get read?
Intern A: Yes! Every letter gets opened, and gets answered.
Intern B: Yes, and all letters get recorded.
Question 3: What is more effective in getting your message to Congress? Mail or email?
Intern A: Both are effective. Emails will have a quicker turnaround rate because its all online, but no one can ignore a huge pile of letters about a certain subject. Some mail campaigns we received literally looked like a mountain of postcards.
Intern B: Yes, I agree!
While every letter matters in a congressional office and every opinion is valued equally, the more communications received discussing one topic, the more impact it will have to the Senator or Congressman/woman. The more the merrier truly describes how letter campaigns are handled.
Prompt supporters to write letters to Congress. For example with Muster, your supporters will be able to click a “Send Letter” button on behalf of your organization, and a printed, mailed, and automatically stamped letter will sent out from American mailing centers from your supporter. Technology like this provides a bridge between your supporter and the act of mailing, because they don’t have to print anything or buy a stamp. Everything is automated. And that is powerful.