Communicating With Congress: The 3-30-3-30 Rule

At a meeting a few weeks ago, Alex Treadway of National Journal’s Policy Council mentioned using the “3-30-3-30” rule when communicating with Congress. It sounded like an excellent model, so I asked him to go into some detail for e.politics.

I wish I could say that I invented the term but I did not. Here’s the background:

Over the first year of the Policy Council, we began working with many associations and corporations to build microsites that put their best foot forward in terms of their advocacy messaging to Congress. In a few meetings, I began to hear people refer to a “3-30-3-30 rule” in reference to how they provide advocacy information online. We then began verifying it with congressional staffers, both informally and through some of our surveying. Here’s the basic idea:

Three seconds: a headline that grabs congressional staffers’ attention. Not the ordinary title people use for their site documents, but instead actually thinking clearly about what’s in it for the staffer, i.e. “district-by-district” or “state-by-state info on X issue,” etc. In other words, how you would quickly describe the document to a staffer if you were on the elevator in the Cannon Building between floors 3 and 4.

Thirty seconds: A very simple overview of the issue, its background and the position of your organization. Very short, if possible keep to 3 or 4 paragraphs.

Three minutes: A one-page policy brief that overviews the issue in slightly more detail. Think of this as the one-pager the staffer will print and hand to the Member of Congress. Some of our members actually create this in .pdf form.

Thirty minutes: The deeper white paper providing everything staffers need to be fully informed on the issue. Congressional staffers continually tell us that although they are swamped, you shouldn’t assume that they don’t want to dig as deeply and as broadly as they need to on an issue. This includes providing archival material and links to additional resources to help provide a full picture of the issue.

Apart from the 3-30-3-30 rule, it is always helpful to provide contact information by issue topic so that staffers can email or call directly to get additional information or to clarify the nuances of the issue. Because political journalists are big users of online resources, it is always advisable to provide a separate media contact to help direct them to the best possible resource for their questions.

Alex Treadway is Director of Member Services for National Journal’s Policy Council.


Written by
Colin Delany
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