Today, governments have access to terabytes of data that have the potential to affect the way citizens live, work and grow. As a result, getting this information out to the right citizens, at the right time, through the right channels should be a top priority to government communicators. The trick is figuring out how to do so in an efficient and effective way.
In order to explore how governments can get the most out of their communication strategies and data, GovLoop sat down with Ali Bay, Deputy Director of the Office of Public Affairs, Department of Public Health in the State of California, Susan Fanelli, Assistant Director, Department of Public Health in the State of California, and Brian Paget, the Technical Director of Adobe Public Sector for a recent online training.
Communication Strategies and Tools
During the discussion, Paget explained that the biggest thing that governments need to focus on to foster a successful communication strategy is the right technology and tools that will allow agencies to get the right message, to the right people, at the right time. He explained there are three main elements to this: personalization, user generated content, and digital marketing.
Personalization. Personalizing content addresses the putting the right content in front of the right people prong of digital communication strategies. “Personalization allows your users to reduce the number of clicks it takes to find a service, decrease the cost it takes to serve citizens, and improve your one-on-one relationships with citizens,” Paget explained.
The best way to do this is by leveraging data and segmentation. There is a lot of data that can be gathered based on people’s interactions with different digital properties. By looking at this data you can see how, where, and on what device people are interacting with content, which can then inform how your agency delivers content.
Additionally, the more data you gather on an individual, the better you can be at segmenting and delivering the right message to the right person. Segmentation breaks down and aggregates data to discover target audiences that can be engaged and marketed to. For example, you could have a retiree segment or a new to the workforce segment. “Segmentation allows you to look at your user base and see who your audiences are so you can use that to inform information delivery,” Paget said.
User-Generated Content. This type of content is exactly what it sounds like—allowing users of your website to generate content for your website. This content can come from all over the social media world. Paget explained, “There is an explosion of social content that is out there and user generated content is much more trusted and memorable than other forms of content so it makes sense to use it.”
However, user-generated content does need to be effectively managed to protect your agency’s brand. Paget recommended a management pipeline that starts with discovering the content, moves to organizing the content and publishing the good pieces, and ends with fostering engagement with the content. “Ultimately, allowing good user generated content on your website allows people to trust your website more and allows you to engage your audience at their level through a bunch of free content,” Paget said.
Digital Marketing. The final prong to a good digital communications strategy is digital marketing, or effectively getting your message out into the world while keeping your messaging consistent across channels. The three main ways to do this are buying search words, displaying adds to your target audience, and targeting audiences through social networks. Paget explained, “we don’t really think of ourselves as marketers in government, but marketing campaigns that use data to identify and segment their audiences effectively ensure that they are targeting the right people, with the right message, at the right time.”
California Department of Public Health
California’s Department of Public Health is an excellent example of a government organization employing the above tips to foster and effective digital communications strategy. Here are a few things they are working on:
- Zika Campaign: With the recent outbreak of the Zika virus, California has had to communicate information to certain groups of people in order to prevent further spreading of the virus. “However, one of our biggest messaging challenges is the Zika campaign because, while the virus does have serious health consequences, it only affects a small portion of people,” Bay explained. As a result, the department has had to come up with clever messaging campaigns. Bay explained that this includes using infographics, posters, and social media in partnership with medical providers and other private sector partners to get the message about the virus out there.
- New Homepage: The Department of Health is also working on revamping their homepage. Bay explained that they are hoping to launch the new website in the coming months and have worked hard in creating a platform that is audience focused. A few of the new features include a search system and tabs that are intuitive and guide users to the information they need to know. “We’ve also created a really clean graphic design aspect to the website that makes the information accessible and highlights what programs are doing without making the user do too much digging,” Bay said.
- Mobile Apps: One of the department of Health’s most successful apps is focused on informing Women, Infant and Children (WIC) users. Fanelli explained that they did some research and found that many users only have access to the internet through their mobile devices. “As a result, we created a mobile app that allows WIC users to understand where they can go to qualify for WIC and where to locate grocery stores that accept WIC benefits,” she said. However, they are not stopping there. Fanelli explained that they want the next version of the app to include nutritional information and other useful tools so WIC users can have all their needs met through one application.
Still have questions? Listen to the full online training here.