Digital Communications Tour: Doing More with Less

This morning I attended GovDelivery’s Digital Communications Tour in Washington D.C. This half day event, part of a multi-stop tour, is the place to learn best practices and strategies on government communications and digital government from public sector experts. Speakers included Steve Ressler, Founder of GovLoop, Scott Burns, CEO and co-Founder of GovDelivery, Tim Fullerton, Director of Digital Strategy, US Department of Interior, and Darryl Madden, Director, FEMA’s Ready Campaign for Emergency Preparedness.

The first keynote featured Steve Ressler and how to do more with less. With increasing demands for government services, staggering deficits, rapid technology change and a huge population that is retiring, we cannot do the same thing and expect better (or even the same) results. So what do you do? Honestly you can’t do more with less – you can either do less with less, or do more differently. Steve outlined 10 tips that agencies can do:

  1. Rethink Learning- The days of 5 day, expensive conferences may be over for government. Many agencies are going from in-person learning and training events to virtual or social trainings.
  2. Buying- Agencies need to think differently and be creative about buying and managing. In fact, many are looking to third parties to meet these needs.
  3. Increase revenue- Budgets are tight and agencies need to think differently about how to raise money. Many programs, such as Adopt-A-Highway, have corporate sponsors that underwrite many of the costs.
  4. Eliminate Unnecessary Services- While many are adverse to change, some services can be changed, and for the better. For example, many agencies, such as Social Security Administration, have eliminated a lot of paper communications to reduce costs.
  5. Rethink Office Space- Many agencies are encouraging telework so they can shrink their office space to reduce costs.
  6. Fire Your C Team- What employees would you fight to keep if you learned they were going to your competitor? This is a good way to determine who you need and who you can live without. In times of budget cuts, you have to make the most of your resources and make tough decisions. Steve compared this to the book “Moneyball” and the Oakland A’s. Sometimes you have to make controversial decisions, and move people around to maximize your available resources.
  7. Rethink Service Delivery- Do certain agencies or programs need to be open 9-5 everyday? Agencies can still meet the needs of constituents and deliver great service, but differently. Think outside the box about how you can get to people in a more efficient, cost-effective way.
  8. Eliminate Unnecessary Processes- Do less with less. In every agency there are certain processes that exist because it’s the way things have always been done. Keep what is necessary and beneficial to doing your job, and cut what is not.
  9. Focus on the Big Impact and Cut the Rest- Look at your communications channels to see what works and what doesn’t. Agencies don’t have time to do everything well, so focus your time on what has the biggest impact.
  10. Rethink Procurement- Many agencies are stuck in silos and don’t talk with other departments (or even know what they do). Breaking down these silos and increasing communication can lead to reduced waste and efficiency.

In a time of reduced budgets we need to think and do things differently. Implementing some of these tips can help your agency overcome budget challenges and finally do more with less.

For more information on citizen engagement, be sure to visit the Citizen Engagement Resources Page.

GovDelivery is the #1 sender of government-to-citizen communications, serving over 550 government entities worldwide and more than half of major U.S. federal agencies. Organizations use GovDelivery to send over one billion messages every quarter on a broad range of topics including national emergencies, health alerts, tax policy changes and more. Check out their User Group on GovLoop.

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Joe Flood

Excellent write-up! Steve is an excellent speaker – I really enjoyed the event. I hope that some of the decision-makers in government have a chance to look at these recommendations. An example Steve used was the “red folder” – documents had been routed around in a red folder for years without anyone asking why this was necessary. Government is full of these outdated procedures that need to be revised.

Ressie Mull

Hi Amy,

This is a really good posting! In the Department of the Air Force, we do a lot of our meetings via teleconference now. In order for you to travel you have to state that the travel could not have been conducted via teleconference. Travel costs have been a focal point for a lot of agencies. I also agree that everyone needs to look at their people to ensure they are maintaining a high work ethic.

Alicia Dickerson

I attended the half day event and was also furiously trying to scribble down Steve’s top ten tips while attempting to live tweet the session. Thank you for providing these tips. I think they provide a great starting point for thinking creatively about how to provide services in an incredibly challenging budgetary environment.

James Hammond


Great Job. For quite sometime i have had the same sentiments…more webinars, more Skype sessions interviews and Google hangouts. Technology will save us all.

Rod Trevino

James, good point. Unless your agency is full of dinosaurs who think technology is some form of sorcery that is being conjured by an evil power. Or, they just are so backwards when it comes to technology or ability that you cannot utilize the wonderful technologies that exist to bridge these issues. Case in point, I am running an Intel Centrino processor with 2 gb of ram. I am running Office 2010, Captivate 6, Camtasia 8, Articulate Stuido, Photoshop CS5, Snag-It editor, Windows XP, all the background security software, and everything else. To say my system trudges along is an understatement. Heck, my son has a laptop with 16 gb or RAM. Technology will save us, but the people have to embrace it.

Tim J. Clark

Among the barriers in leading change is overcoming the variation in the communication and interpretation of the message. Example being the discussion on what you can and cannot do with more or less.

When you solve a problem, aren’t you often getting a better solution with less resources?

FedEx had a marketing message a few years ago that could be summarized in the statement that their customers expected perfection and they wanted it cheap. I think this sentiment is universal. One or more customers will always expect more for less and if you cannot provide it, someone else will. Thank goodness for a free enterprise system that rewards innovation.