Getting an audience—whether it’s citizens or colleagues—to engage with information and act upon it is often a difficult task. But it can be done. At GovDelivery’s most recent event in the Digital Engagement Breakfast series, Inspiring Employee & Citizen Engagement Through Learning Experiences, industry and government employees gathered to learn more about how to engage with audiences and make trainings more effective.
Amy Rogers, director of the Treasury Executive Institute (TEI) at the Department of Treasury, and Scott Santoro, training advisor to the senior counselor at the Department of Homeland Security, discussed their agency experiences with developing and implementing training programs.
Andrew Krzmarzick, Vice President of Learning and Development at GovDelivery, set the stage for the panel. He established a common goal for many organizations: getting someone to do something, whether that is attending a training or visiting a website. But it’s not as easy as it seems, and many organizations face challenges in achieving those seemingly simple goals.
Using a travel metaphor, Krzmarzick listed four parts of a communications journey that organizations most often lack:
- A vehicle. Having a message is not enough; you have to figure out a way to get the message to your audience, whether it’s through email, text, social media, a website, or another communications vehicle.
- An audience. Maybe you have a great message and a way of communicating it, but there is no one to communicate to. You need to develop your audience, or fine-tune an existing audience base to focus your message.
- A destination. So you have your vehicle and your audience; now, where should they be going? A website? A training session?
- A plan. Once your audience is at the destination, what should they be doing? Are there clear directions to lead them to your goal?
In response to those goals and challenges, GovDelivery’s personal goal is to provide support through innovative technology and talent, such as a communications cloud with interactive text messaging, digital engagement services, and a learning platform and community.
Even with the appropriate technology, understanding how to improve trainings can be challenging. A Workforce article outlined key tips for increasing e-learning completion rates. Tracking performance, creating a social dimension, and launching a communications campaign made the list. As Krzmarzick noted, the famous Field of Dreams quote does not apply here: if you build it, they won’t just come. Having a methodical approach to getting your audience to sign up, show up, and complete trainings is key.
That was a challenge that Amy Rogers faced with the expansion of TEI. When TEI was originally developed in the 1983, it was very exclusive, centered on in-person events with book authors in Washington, D.C. The events were intended solely for executive-level staff within Treasury. However, over the years, the program has transformed and expanded to keep up with changing trends in government training, such as a dispersed workforce and a more complex world.
With these challenges in mind, Rogers and her team turned to third-party services to help develop TEI’s learning platform. She developed a list of business needs and potential solutions. She had her content, but she needed a “vehicle” and an audience. Any service she used needed to be cost-effective, procurable, and offered opportunities to expand TEI’s audience. GovDelivery provided the necessary technology, know-how, and audience base to help TEI achieve its goal of equipping and transforming future government leaders.
Scott Santoro faced a similar challenge in DHS’s Blue Campaign, a program to prevent human trafficking, protect victims, and prosecute traffickers. DHS is the only Cabinet-level agency with a department-wide effort to end human trafficking, and with 22 component agencies and 95 interagency training partners, effective training is a major concern. Santoro manages the training programs for law enforcement officials so that they can identify signs of human trafficking and know what steps to take after it has been identified.
In addition, the Blue Campaign involves a public awareness movement, working to demystify the signs of human trafficking and counter erroneous perceptions. This project has spread widely. For example, hospitality employees in Prince Georges County, Maryland, will now be required to take awareness training. In Santoro’s case, he knew what the destination and subsequent plans were, but like Rogers, he needed a vehicle that could handle the scope of the project. GovDelivery provided that vehicle, offering video and interactive training lessons for a variety of audiences.
To highlight what an effective communications vehicle can look like, Krzmarzick provided examples of the work GovDelivery has done with TEI and the Blue Campaign. TEI now has a new website, a huge leap from its previous lack of a web presence. On the site, users can easily register for training courses and coaching programs. For the Blue Campaign, GovDelivery created the training materials, including video sessions and interactive modules.
Krzmarzick also demonstrated GovDelivery’s interactive texting services. Panel attendees answered questions about communications challenges they face through text message, and Krzmarzick displayed the real-time results. 97% of respondents said they were missing something in their training engagement, and of the four options—a vehicle, an audience, a destination, or a plan—most said they lacked a communications vehicle.
Often, agencies view their methods and their goals too microscopically or too telescopically. By adjusting their perspective and employing new technology, agencies can improve their training methods and more effectively engage their audiences.