With CQ Roll Call’s New Service, the Expert Is Live and In Person

Chris Frates will be that expert

If a live event hosted by a news organization provides a one-off opportunity for an in-person interaction between a publication and its public, CQ Roll Call’s new product, Enlighten, turns that one-off into its raison d’être.

The service, announced today, provides clients who sign on with a monthly, in-person briefing around two subject areas, presidential policy and health care. The live meetings are supplemented with a weekly update and a monthly report that includes analysis as well as vote and legislation tracking, all drawing upon the work of CQ Roll Call’s newsroom.

Leading the briefings is Chris Frates, CQ Roll Call’s first Enlighten analyst, who signs on after 20 years spent in positions that have included correspondent with CNN’s investigation unit, National Journal correspondent and Politico reporter.

As he describes it, Frates is there to “essentially have a conversation with each set of clients, where I go into their conference rooms, into their offices, and talk with them once a month and say, ‘Here’s what I see, here’s what you need to be looking for, so here’s my expert opinion on how these things are going to play out.'”

The discussion is definitely not one-sided. Clients will not only have an opportunity to ask questions, their questions and particular interests will inform the scope and focus of subsequent meetings. “Because we are eliminating the space between expert and the audience, it’s completely interactive,” says Frates, “and that’s such a high value proposition to be able to talk to some of the most thoughtful leaders in the nation.” The target audience for this is primarily, but not exclusively, C-level executives.

What we kept finding is the personalized touch that clients needed was really everything.
Eric Hammesfahr

As the team sees it, Enlighten is the answer to a number of modern-day information problems, staying on top of the labyrinthine, mutable nature of government policy to information overload. “As we were going through the discovery phase,” says Jay Hunter, CQ Roll Call’s editorial product strategist, “clients kept telling us they were overwhelmed by the current amount of information. Every company like CQ Roll Call provides great in-depth policy analysis, but we really want to offer them that differentiated or personalized information.”

The twist is that the solution relies on the old-fashioned house call.

When Enlighten was in the testing stages, says Eric Hammesfahr, vp of professional services, “what we kept finding is the personalized touch that clients needed was really everything.”

“For clients, customization was key,” he says. “The ability to ask our analyst questions and lead a discussion, the ability to decide on their perspective, what legislation they want to follow, not letting us drive it but letting them.”

The verticals the Enlighten team has chosen as the targets for personalized elucidation were picked as much for their timelessness as for their timeliness. “At the end of the day, health is something that continues to happen over and over. It’s not something that’s tied to one administration, or one Congress, or anything else,” says Hammesfahr. “It’s one of those topics that continues to pop up. It’s also very personal to people, so that makes it live a longer life as well.”

Frates agrees. “When I came to Washington and started covering health care, I had a very well-respected senior health care source tell me, ‘you know, Frates, you make health care an area of expertise you’ll never want for work in Washington.’ That’s pretty much proven to be true over the decade I’ve been here because it never goes away.”

And executives’ interest in the topic will continue to exist, according to Frates, because “it’s one-fifth of the GDP of this country. Any change to it, whether it’s minor, or whether it’s huge–like we’re seeing with the health care act–is going to be important to so many Americans, and so many businesses and interests here in Washington that to be on top of that, to understand it, to explain it is always a perennial issue for many, many clients.”

The needs of clients will not only inform the direction the discussions on these topics will take, they will provide the context for deciding what additional topics the team will add in the future. “We’ll let the market tell us where we need to be,” says Hammesfahr, “but it will always involve harnessing the immense talent that we have in our newsroom.”