How have elected officials shifted their communication due to pandemic?

Before the pandemic, Elected official communications were relatively autonomous and traditional, with in-person meetings and a small staff managing responses to constituents via phone, mail, or email. While both AOC and Donald Trump dominated in social media in recent years, outreach among other members was relatively small.

The Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) found that elected representatives changed their communication methods in response to the pandemic.  The pandemic is similar to the 2001 anthrax attack in changing how we communicate with Government.  In 2001, the Congressional postal mail system was shut down for five months after five people were killed by anthrax mailed to government offices by Bruce Irvine, a scientist at Fort Detrick’s biodefence lab. This shutdown made the post and fax obsolete overnight.  Yet, even once the mail was restored, almost all (80-90%) of constituent communication continued via email.

With the COVID-19 Pandemic, in-person meetings and town halls were almost instantaneously abandoned to observe social distancing.  Elected officials started using zoom and telephone town halls to communicate with their constituents.  Many other government services shifted quickly to digital to allow the government to function during the disruption. These digital changes have dramatically improved access among working citizens, reducing barriers of time and travel. It is unlikely that this shift will be abandoned after the pandemic has improved the ability of the government to adapt and serve more efficiently than before.  

There were many errors in health communications during the pandemic, with state and federal data having massive (~30%) discrepancies. These errors led to the growth of misinformation, reduced confidence in government, and increased public fear and confusion about the pandemic risk.  The ongoing tensions between the White House, State, and Local Governments, with the resulting varied responses, also added to both confusion and increases in cases and deaths.  The Covid-19 Pandemic taught us that government communication must be highly effective and well-coordinated to help manage pandemics, avoid social chaos and widespread damage.  
One of the actions that congressional members can do to help is to use their website and social media to convey accountability to their constituents.  CMF used surveys from 2015-2020 to understand how to improve voter trust in Congress.  Overall the survey found that voters support members’ decisions when confident that Members are acting on their ideals, not outside influence.  One way of gaining this trust is by explaining how members voted on major issues and, more importantly, why.  Most voters stated that it would help increase trust “a lot” by publishing this information alongside donor information. 

As we move forward as a country, we will build upon the greater access afforded by the technology that has been rolled out during the pandemic.  At the same time, we must be more vigilant about the growth of misinformation and how minor errors in communication can cause significant harm to society. Alongside this, we can take advantage of the opportunity to increase trust in elected representatives.  The ability for one’s voice to be magnified is something to be both celebrated and feared depending on how we choose to use this power.

iConstituent’s new GovText Engagement Platform poised for the future

Cloud-based software platform aligned with the future of citizen engagement

Washington, DC, May 11, 2020 – iConstituent’s GovText platform ( is the future of constituent engagement.  While COVID-19 brought the trend of one-on-one engagement via electronic communication to the forefront, this was only the latest progression of a larger communication shift.  Citizens are highly engaged but are less likely to respond to traditional messaging platforms, such as TV, Radio, and Townhalls.  Citizens have come to rely on electronic communication, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Whatsapp to organize grassroots movements.  As an example, during the nomination debate over the Secretary of Education, one congressional leader office tracked 1.3 million attempted calls to their main number, in one day.  In contrast, a typical congressional town hall has less than 50 constituents attending. Electronic communication, such as GovText, is the most effective method for officials to engaging with their constituents, because they can reach out broadly, yet have one-on-one communications with every respondent.

This communication trend is only going to accelerate as Gen Z and Millennials graduate into voters.  These generations are used to communicating most often electronically and have come to expect always-on availability from businesses, government, and their peers.   Engaged citizens have demonstrated their preference for frequent digital communication, versus traditional in-person town halls, which are infrequent, difficult, and costly.  They are going to expect that officials continue to engage on a daily basis via electronic platforms, such as GovText.

“Elected officials need a way to engage with their constituents, and GovText offers a way to communicate both quickly and effectively.  By using a platform where each communication helps develop the big picture, officials can enhance their engagement despite social distancing” said iConstituent’s VP of Sales, Michael Cohen.

GovText is a critical tool for public officials to rapidly engage with their constituents on a one-on-one basis.  Given the diverse demographics of the United States, GovText is ideal for providing pin-point communication with at-risk populations, prioritizing issues, and allowing for critical alerts to be quickly broadcast to the affected population.

With 18 years of experience in citizen engagement, iConstituent provides modern tools for public officials to easily and effectively communicate with their constituents. The company has a complete portfolio of methods for local governments to engage citizens over their key issues. iConstituent is used on a daily basis by Federal, State, and Local governments to map issues, identify concerns, and prioritize their resolution.


Maria Ochoa, Investor Relations


iConstituent’s new GovText Engagement Platform used by State of Illinois


Washington, DC, May 4, 2020 – Elected members of the Illinois State Government are using iConstituent’s GovText platform (  Given the need for clear and accurate communication, members of the Illinois State Government have turned to GovText to engage with their constituents.  GovText allows members to engage with constituents both one-on-one and in broadcast, making them able to keep their finger on the pulse of the community, despite social distancing.

“Elected officials need a way to engage with their constituents, and GovText offers a way to communicate both quickly and effectively.  By using a platform where each communication helps develop the big picture, officials can enhance their engagement despite social distancing,’ said iConstituent’s VP of Sales, Michael Cohen.

GovText is providing the Government of Illinois with a critical tool to connect, engage, and respond to citizens rapidly.  Given the diverse urban and rural population of Illinois, GovText is ideal for providing pin-point communication with at-risk populations, simplifying case management, and allowing for critical alerts to be quickly broadcast to the affected people.

Founded in 2002, iConstituent provides innovative engagement tools for public officials to communicate with their constituents. The company’s portfolio of services offers practical ways for local governments to identify the critical needs of their citizens. iConstituent is used daily by Federal, State, and Local governments to map issues, identify key concerns, and prioritize their resolution.

Maria Ochoa, Investor Relations


iConstituent’s new GovText Engagement Platform depended on by East Palo Alto – GovText helps communicate to diverse communities


Washington, DC, April 27, 2020 – The City of East Palo Alto is relying on iConstituent’s GovText platform ( during the COVID-19 Pandemic.  East Palo Alto has always been a multicultural city with 72% of the population speaking a second language.  GovText provides rapid and focused engagement to diverse communities when traditional communication, such as town hall meetings, is unavailable.

“Elected officials need a rapid way to engage with their constituents, and GovText offers a way to communicate both quickly and effectively.  GovText allows everyone with a cell phone to communicate, one-on-one, with their government, sharing critical information, and keeping people engaged.” Said iConstituent’s VP of Sales and Product Strategy, Michael Cohen.

GovText is providing the City of East Palo Alto with a critical tool to rapidly connect, engage, and respond to citizens.  Given the ethic diversity of the City of East Palo Alto, GovText is ideal for providing pin-point communication with at-risk populations, simplifying case management, and allowing for critical alerts to be quickly broadcast to the affected population.

iConstituent provides innovative engagement tools to public officials and local governments to communicate with their constituents. iConstituent helps local governments identify the key needs of their citizens, creating individualized, synchronized and effective communication flow systems.

Maria Ochoa, Investor Relations


Los Angeles City Council members use GovText™ to communicate with constituents during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Los Angeles City Council members are using our GovText platform during the COVID-19 pandemic to stay connected to constituents. In these uncertain times, being able to communicate quickly and effectively is critical. The LA City Council has been using texting as a form of communication for quite some time, however many of the systems failed to meet citizens’ needs; for example, only 5% of the city received alerts during the La Tuna fires.

Because GovText allows two-way communication, people are more inclined to opt-in, providing Council members more immediate contact with their constituency. As an added benefit, it also can be used to broadcast alerts. Using the platform’s unique two-way communication capability enhances member’s engagement despite social distancing requirements.

We want to congratulate the Los Angeles City Council in their bold and proactive approach to keeping their constituents informed and in touch during the Coronavirus outbreak. Using GovText aids the council in pinpointing hot-spots and addressing issues in a timelier manner.Press Release Pic

iConstituent Launches GovText Engagement Platform and offers free texting services for COVID-19 outreach

To help elected officials, government agencies and school districts engage their constituents in the wake of the COVID-19/Coronavirus outbreak, iConstituent is offering free use of its GovText Engagement Platform platform through April 30th, 2020 (up to 5,000 messages). Qualified U.S. federal, state, and local elected officials, governmental agencies, or schools may use iConstituent for outreach activity regarding COVID-19/Coronavirus.

GovText can be used to:

  • Send information and updates about important precautionary measures to at-risk populations; and,
  • Inform citizens on government assistance programs; and,
  • Check in with the elderly population to combat loneliness; and,
  • Send information about COVID-19 testing locations and protocols; and,
  • Seamlessly connect to telephone town halls, Facebook Live, YouTube events.

GovText is different because it sends outbound texts rapidly without requiring staff resources. Texts still come from a local area code and our platform provides full support for instant two-way conversations with constituents.

iConstituent’s GovText Engagement Platform is specifically designed and built for government use. Using GovText, government entities can quickly connect, engage and respond with its citizens in a hyper-personalized, one to one, way. iConstituent is used by Federal, State and Local government with offices in Washington, DC and Los Angeles, CA.

Any qualified entity can get started today by visiting

iConstituent Helps Federal, State Officials Reach Constituents Like Never Before

From programs that track public sentiment trends across time to streamlining town hall invitations, the expansion of iConstituent’s services to federal and state executive leadership is a hallmark of the company’s client base growth, according to CEO and co-founder Zain Khan.

iConstituent’s data tracking products allow a Congressional staff, or a state executive’s staff, to track trends in voter sentiment across time. The use of integrated heat mapping, which uses color (rather than height or width as in bar graphs) to visualize trends and comparisons, provides a common reference point for staff to come together and use such data to predict upcoming political battles, form strategic narratives, and check their assumptions against the reality of aggregate data on constituent sentiment.

The use of visual communication is not new for iConstituent. Maps have played a unique and interesting role in the company’s CRM product navigation, with the platform’s dashboard displaying a map that connects the top tags of the week to the geographical location they came from—a similarly accessible visual representation of trends and geography.

The company has also announced new text messaging functionality for inviting constituents to upcoming town halls and other functions. Recent news stories of lawmakers “ditching” town halls has caused concern that these important meetings may be in decline, a bad sign for democracy.

“We think town halls are important for members of Congress to attend, but you know, we generally always think constituent communication is a good idea,” said Aaron Stowers, Client Success Manager. “We’re happy to make it easier.”

Helping staff where help is needed most: The company’s clients now include the lieutenant governors of two of the country’s most populated states, and a growing number of federal clients. Incoming constituent communication can be overwhelming, and must be handled quickly, often with scant staff resources.

One of the biggest challenges for both federal lawmakers and state government offices is caps on staff—sometimes fiscal, sometimes statutory. Staff limits, whether by federal law applying to federal positions, or the laws of particular states, can tempt chiefs-of-staff to deprioritize constituent communication. Budgetary limits can have a similar consequence. So iConstituent services can help even two or three staffers handle large amounts of incoming communications quickly. Similarly, iConstituent speeds up communication with local agencies like the DMV, social services, DOT, and more. iConstituent also emphasizes helping staff move off of shared email inboxes. Those shared accounts can create inconsistency issues in cases of staff leave or turnover. The company’s products similarly consolidate otherwise disjointed forms of tracking (think of miles of different spreadsheets). If done right, the end result can be quicker response times, quicker data retrieval, and more efficient use of precious work time.

“Experienced staffers will tell you that slow communication slows everything else down,” says Khan. “We help speed things up.”

iConstituent was founded founded in 2002 to help public officials communicate with their constituents. The company’s expanded services for federal and state government offices and elected officials are part of an overall expansion in its profile of service reaching tens of millions of constituents across the country, said Michael Cohen, VP, Sales and Product Strategy.

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Social Media and British Politics

The current political crisis in Britain stems from a combination of causes, but surely the role of social media in British politics is an exacerbating, if not primary factor.

The 2016 Demos study on the role of digital politics in the United Kingdom found that half of adult British social media users actually used social media for political activity during the previous general election — and, in fact, more people used social media for direct political purposes than those who did equivalent political engagement offline. Almost three-fourths of people surveyed who had gone the digital route politically reported feeling “more politically engaged, in one way or another, as a direct result.” But that engagement was accompanied by something a little more nuanced: those who used social media for political activity reported being more likely to “act on their political convictions” as a result of social media engagement. This included voting, but it may also have included all kinds of political engagement. Between 2015 and now, some parties had a steep learning curve, but now they’re on board — even training their engagement specialists to ignore online trolls.

According to The Guardian“Political parties nationally spent about £1.3m on Facebook during the 2015 general election campaign; two years later the figure soared to £3.2m.” Now basically unregulated (although that could change), platforms are the new UK political debate stage, used to target voters with both specificities of profiles and generality of aggregate data. Instead of campaigners going to people personally, speaking to them, listening to and transcribing their viewpoints, social media offers, in mass data form, aggregate profiles of people who will vote. The next step is often to target ads, en masse and not very critically, “pounding” voters with non-nuanced, non-dialogical messaging to influence their views. Elected officials and candidates can’t realistically opt-out of such methods. You have stories like that of Ian Lucas, a Member of Parliament from Wrexham, who reports that he feels trapped: “I have to use Facebook in my job to communicate,” Lucas told the BBC… “If I don’t, I know that I will not be competitive as a candidate.

What all of this collectively forms is a picture where political candidates, and officials running for reelection, are “trapped” into using a method that reaches more voters and often reinforces their political commitments via social affirmation — but that risks discouraging face-to-face communication and privileges politically provocative ideas over interpersonal dialogue.

Social media can be a powerful tool of personal, dialogue-oriented campaigning, but that outcome is far from inevitable. It takes time, and staff, to turn FB likes and comments into invitations for activists to get more involved in the political process. It’s basic economics (almost) that encourages advertising geared toward very general (and thus distorted) messaging. In a context such as Brexit, where British society is already very fragmented and often confused, that appeal to the lowest common denominator may become the predominant political method, and UK voters will continue to sacrifice critical dialogue about their relationship with the EU in return for simple, and ultimately ineffective, answers.

Be Right There, Just Need to Text the Mayor

Constituent services have been providing various communication features via SMS for some time. The question being asked now is what a system of individual constituent access to quick communication with government offices would look like.

It would look pretty good! Here’s a roundup of texting and SMS as tools of good government-constituent communication—as well as an accountability and transparency check.

The turn to SMS results from demands all over the world, not just the United States. The online discussion site New Tactics reported some time ago that Kenya and other countries were fielding demands for reliable government news and information sources. SMS can “transmit vote tallies to prevent tampering, track the budget, make the Parliament and Legislative Information System more accessible to citizens,” and monitor referenda and elections. Although anti-corruption and other transparency web sites (such as India’s have facilitated the exposure of corruption, SMS allows quicker, more convenient, multi-user/diverse platform communication—more like a conversation than a message board.

SMS messaging is also more likely to be non-monetized, since it’s tied to existing messaging platforms. Non-monetization is another key value of government-constituent transparency. Recently, Arkansas Representative Rick Crawford “announced the formal launch of his new text messaging platform” establishing a direct link between the elected official, their office, and their constituents—everyone in the district. “This system has been adopted by Crawford’s office after the recent news about Facebook’s abuse of personal data and possible manipulation of those who use the platform to engage with constituents,” which Crawford wisely interpreted as a problem of monetization—with the rather uncontroversial understanding that, whatever its other virtues, the profit motive probably shouldn’t govern communication between elected leaders and the people.

This same value is reflected in the other virtue of SMS—that it can more easily be used for communication, not propaganda. The individual, person-to-person nature of the communication actually makes propagandizing inefficient. People can tell when the message they’re receiving is a boilerplate, and they’re likely to be using an SMS interface to get specific questions answered, or weigh in on an issue. iConstituent keeps all those constituent communications in one place in a CRM designed specifically for government.

The shortage of good media for direct constituent communication impacts vulnerable and marginalized communities more than privileged ones, as “local governments can be ignorant about constituents’ changing needs and interests – especially marginalized communities that have been historically ignored or under-represented. Local governments may produce services that they find interesting or please national politicians without any feedback from the people they are expected to serve.” But “targeted two-way communication between local governments and their citizenry” is shockingly easy to implement through text messaging. Essentially, people just need a phone number, and the government offices need interface technology to field the

A new CRM for a new generation of government leaders.

Earlier this year, we set out to recreate our business from the inside out and this started with the belief that positive change and evolution would occur with the right people and culture. So, we revamped our engineering team and moved our company HQ to a WeWork, and began from scratch. We threw away all our prior beliefs, failures, and perceptions, and focused on a new future for iConstituent. We then took the bull by the horns and developed a new tool for today’s government. Today, I am excited about what the future holds for our company and the changing landscape I see in the govtech space.