Digital Communications Tour: Driving Mission Impact with Government Communications

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 second keynote featured Scott Burns, CEO of GovDelivery, and how to increase citizen engagement and further your agency’s mission with digital communications. Most agencies want to increase awareness or change behavior, but this cannot be done simply by putting an announcement on your website. Agencies need to actively get information to constituents and with the rapid change in technology, there are many ways to do this in a smarter, more effective way. During his presentation, Scott discussed the need for organization wide buy-in and focused on three important aspects of communications:

Why does reaching people matter? Many government agencies’ mission is simply to provide people with valuable information. Having this information is only the first step as reaching people and providing the information in an easy to consume manner is just as important. For example, USDA released changemyplate.org to provide the public with accurate and up-to-date information about nutrition and healthy living. What is noteworthy about changemyplate.org is all of the outreach that USDA did to inform people about the new website. Another reason it is important to reach people is for organizations that deal with emergency management. The recent events in Boston are a prime example of how alerting people with accurate and real-time information can save lives.

How do you build an audience- As Scott noted, agencies should focus on building an audience everywhere and make it easy for people to sign up for their information. When you go to the Gap they ask for your email address so you can receive alerts. Why is it not the same when someone visits a government website? Pop ups, ads tied to searches and “sign up” messages are incredibly effective ways to capture interested people’s information. One benefit of communications in the public sector is that agencies are rarely competing with each other. This means agencies can help each other spread information through cross-promotion and the more places people can find your information, the better.

How do you reach people and convert them to action- COPE- Create one, publish everywhere is a common phrase people use in digital marketing. As Scott noted, cross-promotion, re-purposing content across your communications channels, and giving people the opportunity to sign up for specific information is important to engaging your audience. Most importantly, government agencies should focus on delivering the best content where people are, whether that be Twitter, Facebook or via email.

New tools are enabling government agencies to “reach the masses” more effectively. This includes converting many paper communications to digital. For example, the number one mobile application is email with 50% of people sending or receiving an email on their phone everyday. For government, this may mean changing processes and testing new ideas, but the impact will be worth it.

For more information of 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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