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How to Successfully Communicate Digitally – 5 Lessons Learned

How do you get your message through the wild west that is currently digital communication? Think about it, TV and Radio news bulletins have been replaced by text-messaging, Twitter, blogs, Facebook and Google+ updates. There are millions if not billions of tweets and facebook posts alone, so it is almost impossible to break through the noise.

But there are ways to be successful. GovDelivery has worked with 1,000 public sector organizations of all levels worldwide, and sussed out some communication keys to success. Mary Yang is the Senior Communications Manager at GovDelivery. She says the most successful government communicators employ strategies and tactics necessary to reach and spark conversations with citizens, subscribers, friends and fans on an ever-increasing number of platforms.

Yang recently wrote a guide Essential Digital Strategies Guide for Government Communicators. We sat down with her to pick her brain on the best lessons learned for government communicators.

Q. Can you tell me why you wanted to write this guide?

A. In our conversations and partnerships with thousands of government communicators, we found that many of them wanted to know what their peers were doing with regard to communications and what strategies were most successful. At the end of the day, I think everyone wants to be better at their job. Working across all levels of government, we get a great perspective, and we thought putting that information into this guide and making it available to everyone would be beneficial.

Q. The guide is broken up into a few different parts, with each section focused on a high-level strategy, and then you offer supporting tactics under each section. Can you tell me a few takeaways?

A. As a communications professional myself, I think some of the most critical takeaways would be: am I reaching all the people I need to be reaching? And am I connecting and utilizing different communications channels – from the website/blog to email to social media – to provide a unified voice and message? Together, these two strategies can create exponential impact. If you think about communicating with 1,000 people versus 5,000 people, you’re going to have a bigger impact with the larger audience. And then, delivering that same message through multiple channels that allow recipients to share that content with their networks only amplifies your message’s reach and impact. I think if you’re a communications professional that’s looking to measure their impact, you have to be thinking of these two pieces together.

Q. One of your suggestions is to make it easy for stakeholders to subscribe. That seems simple, but it is often overlooked. What are some simple suggestions?

A. Every time you are online, on any decent website, someone is asking you to subscribe to receive newsletters and information. I think that government communicators need to be thinking along these lines. Put a sign-up box on your home page, and then find the top 5 most-viewed pages on your website, and put sign-up boxes on those pages, too. If you have a blog, put a sign-up box on the blog. GovDelivery has a number of other resources available, for free, that are dedicated solely to helping government communications professionals increase their outreach. You can find out more on govdelivery.com/resources.

Q. Why is cross-promoting so important?

A. There are some really wonderful aspects of social media that you don’t get from more traditional communications channels; but the truth is that social media companies determine if your fans/followers see your posts and updates. Ask any communications professional, and they will tell you that they’re concerned enough about if their messages get read. With social media, you encounter yet another barrier to getting your information in front of the people who may need it. That’s why cross-promoting your communications across all the channels you’re using is so important. Ensuring that the fans you have on Facebook, for instance, know that you offer email or text message updates that are more personalized can help your organization meet mission goals with communications. Relying on social media alone isn’t going to cut it.

Q. Today’s government communicator needs to be able to….?

A. Reach more people with the information they want in the ways they want it. There’s so much information out there, so much noise, and so many different channels available now. How can you stand out? By connecting with all the people you should be connecting with and giving them the information they want delivered in the channel they prefer. If you’re not doing this, it’s extremely difficult to get them to listen and, ultimately, to act – and that’s what government communicators need to be able to do with their messages to drive mission value.

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