As the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) holds its annual policy meeting this week and its annual conference approaches in September, the group will undoubtedly face the question that other perceived “old guard” black organizations like the NAACP and Urban League continue to face: Is the organization still relevant in the so-called Obama age?
Though the answer for those three organizations is an obvious yes, for the CBC, the answer is resounding. When the Caucus was originally founded nearly 40 years ago, the organization had 13 members. Today it has 42 members, all of whom are elected officials. All members have to be relevant to the taxpaying American voter in general, and to African-American voters in particular. The CBC has a constituency to whom it must answer on a regular basis. For this reason, and with a black president occupying the White House, the organization is more relevant than ever.
So if relevance isn’t the issue, then what is? Quite simply, the issue is modernity. When you do a google search for Congressional Black Caucus your first hit is not the CBC but, instead, their foundation’s website. This is confusing and clearly doesn’t maximize the power of new media. This is further driven home by the CBC’s website url, an extremely cryptic http://thecongressionalblackcaucus.lee.house.gov/.
Furthermore, athough the CBC has an assortment of YouTube clips, they aren’t thematic. Nor is there an electronic newsletter that one can subscribe to.
Yet as pedestrian as their approach to new media is, their “old” media strategy seems lacking as well. When is the last time the CBC got serious coverage by any of the large media outlets?
Still, all is not lost – the CBC does have a Facebook presence with nearly 14,000 friends.
It is still important for the CBC to use new media tools to present its good work to its constituents. For example, the CBC’s website features a section entitled “42 Bills to Watch.” Each bill is in a different stage of progress. The CBC should sort those bills by region and category (e.g. Economic Development, Education and so on). Once that is done, they could utilize Twitter to inform concerned citizens about the status of each bill proposed and submitted. Similarly, whenever an important meeting is held or an issue is debated by a CBC member, they should Tweet about it, not merely as individual political representatives but as a unified Caucus.
Though this sounds fairly basic, it requires discipline and commitment to execute day after day. The good news is that unlike many who want to delve into new media, the CBC already has an abundance of content that they generate almost daily. They simply need to mine it and repackage it for their constituents. If they do this, then all comments and concerns about their relevance will become irrelevant.