A blog about digital government, communications, citizen satisfaction & engagement, GovDelivery, and other e-government issues

In 2014, around 100 U.K. government communication professionals were surveyed to determine the most important trends driving public sector communication with the public and stakeholders. GovDelivery published the results in an e-book, the UK Trends E-book. Here are some of the findings. trends-uk

Naturally, there were varied responses to our survey; however, communicators tended to share the top three trends overall:

  1. Focus on Results
  2. Implement a Multichannel Strategy
  3. Increase Outreach

Focus On Results

The goal of many government communicators is to broadcast their organisation’s mission so that more people become involved in their programs.

According to the survey results, 43% of respondents said that increasing stakeholder engagement was one of the top objectives for communications planning. When an organisation communicates its goals, it puts the public at the center of a communications strategy, allowing the public to take action on the messages they receive.

Over time, communicators can measure results with engagement rates, web traffic, subscriber rates, and social media shares or follows.

Implement a Multichannel Strategy

While email still stands out as the most effective channel of communication, a multi-faceted communications strategy is preferred by many communicators.

With a multichannel communications approach, different segments of the public are more likely to be reached. Again, with the recent surge in the use of smart phones, tablets, and other smart technologies, if you want to reach people with a message, you need to send it to them through the appropriate channels.

Increase Outreach

It seems fairly obvious that to be successful in any organisation you must be able to increase your audience size. Building on that, organisations must also engage that audience to create a participatory interaction.

In our recent survey, 78% of professionals said that increased outreach was of utmost importance. A popular and proven way of gaining more subscribers is the cross-promotion across the network of public sector entities. Collaboration opens up each organisation to a wider audience.

The GovDelivery Network gives government organisations the chance to connect with other public sector entities, meaning network partners can reach a wider audience by connecting with over 60 Local and Central government entities affiliated with the GovDelivery Network.

Download the Full UK Trends E-book

These 2014 public sector trends show how important taking multiple communication approaches is for any organisation. By emphasizing results, implementing a multichannel strategy, and increasing outreach, government communicators are able to expand beyond the current limitations of their organisations and make a difference with their messages.

Take a look at our UK Trends E-book to learn more about these trends in greater depth.

3-trends-fedWhat are the top priorities for government communications in 2014 at the federal and local levels? This is the question we posed to 350 government communicators. Take a look at what they said about focusing on results, implementing multichannel strategy, and increasing outreach in this infographic, or grab a copy of the federal government report or the state & local government report to read on your own.

Focus on results with a multichannel strategy

Boosting engagement and targeted messaging were the top two communication priorities at the federal, state and local government levels. However, other areas of focus differed between these levels of government. At the federal level, better content, mobile, and leveraging social media are being prioritized in that order. While at the local level, the priorities focused on mobile, leveraging social media, and better content. This trend indicates that state and local governments  are looking for new ways to “spread the word” on their content and make it available on mobile devices and social networks.

The majority of respondents from the federal government and local governments agreed that growing the size of their digital audience is a priority for 2014. They are also heavily focused on email and social media. However, the majority of respondents from both levels of government stated they have no plans to test email messaging. A few will experiment with content layouts or subject lines, but more than 57% at both levels of government stated they will not test email messaging in any way. This may be a priority to reconsider, since email messaging is a primary method of communicating with stakeholders—knowing what types of messages and content best engage those stakeholders is vital information. If federal and local governments want to better engage their digital audience, testing their email messaging to see what resonates with their target audience is a great strategy.

With both levels of government working to increase their digital audiences, one of the best strategies they can implement is to add an email subscription form to their websites, emails, social networks, mobile platforms, and more. In a constantly connected, digital world, not having a central place of communication tied to every one of your digital presences means you’re missing out on easy ways to connect with more of your audience.

Grab your copy of the 2014 Federal Trends Report or the 2014 State Trends Report and their accompanying infographics to learn more about what is going on with government communications throughout the year.

Have you seen the movie “Her” starring Joaquin Phoenix? In the movie, set in 2025, Phoenix plays a guy named Theodore, a lonely introverted man going through a divorce. Don’t worry, I won’t give anything away if you haven’t seen it yet. The part I want to highlight revolves around Theodore’s job. Theodore works for a company that hires professional writers to compose intimate, heartfelt letters for people who don’t want to (or can’t figure out how to) write personal notes to people in their lives. It’s a very interesting movie. You should check it out. Robot with envelope.

Looking past the sad commentary on society where a business like that could survive (and you probably don’t have to fast forward to 2025 to conceive of how a service like that would make it) I love the premise: hiring someone to create personal messages for you.

You see, in the marketing world there’s constant talk about the difference between doing Business-to-Consumer (B2C) marketing and Business-to-Business (B2B) marketing. Each way of doing marketing has its nuances and uses different strategies to get a compelling message to someone who would benefit from the product or service.

Add into the mix what our clients do, Government-to-Citizen (G2C) marketing, and the different ways of doing marketing start to become pretty complex.

With all the different strategies in B2B, B2C, and G2C, a new hybrid (evolution?) of marketing is starting to emerge. People who study these sorts of things are starting to boil down marketing strategy to its fundamental core. What they’ve begun calling this new strategy is: Human-to-Human (H2H).

Basically, H2H marketing seeks to take the confusion out of marketing. The goal is to try to utilize the same communication principles you use with your friends when chatting over dinner:

  • Don’t use buzz-words or jargon dumps. Get rid of the corporate robot-speak and engage me in a conversation.
  • Make things entertaining. Tell a story that moves me.
  • Don’t just tell me that this will make my life better, let me know why I should even care in the first place.
  • If a mistake is made, own up to it, ask for forgiveness and tell me how you are going to fix the situation.
  • Don’t assume that demographic information defines who I am.

If you think about it, this is what effective communication is all about. It’s not exactly rocket science, but those of us who communicate for a living seem to have lost our way at some point. It’s true for the private sector and it’s true for the government. We need to take a lesson from “Her” on this and start thinking about how we craft our messages as if we were composing them for someone we deeply care about.

Here are 7 tips to think about as you work to transform your communications to be more H2H friendly:

  1. First and foremost, people matter! Let’s face it. It’s the information age. We have lots of information that has to get out there. But simply dumping a bunch of information on someone is not a very good way to get them engaged. When you have important information to communicate, think about how you can make it appeal to systemic human desires like being part of something bigger than yourself, feeling connected to others, or our desire for adventure. Remember, people respond to vision. They rarely take action because of facts and figures. The Army understands this. Tourism departments get it. Think about how your organization can connect with people on a deeper level. Don’t fall into the trap of just dumping information out there and hope people will take it to heart.
  2. Think about your end goal. Speaking of people, think about what the end goal of your organization is. Is it to reduce crime? Is it to get more people to start small businesses? Is it to get more people to get tested for diabetes? Your organization, no doubt, has some fantastic goals and I bet all of them, in some way, are about making people’s lives better. If you can tie your communication back to these goals, it’s a win-win. The organization meets its mission critical goals and people take the actions you need them to take.
  3. Communicate with emotion and personality. I know how it is. Sometimes the way you communicate is out of your hands. You might be statutorily required to phrase something a certain way. You might have a legal department who needs to approve every word you write. In those situations, you might just have to resign to the way things have to be. But in all other circumstances, push back to remove boring tech speak from your communications. It’s not compelling and it doesn’t get you to that end goal we talked about earlier. And, let’s face it, life’s too short to not have a little good-natured fun every once in awhile.
  4. When thinking H2H, remember H2H=H+H: Humor and Humility. Take 5 seconds and think about the 3 friends you love being around the most. I bet boredom and arrogance are not words you associate with them. Levity brings the mood up and humility opens up space for forgiveness and acceptance. If you can establish an atmosphere of humor and humility you will go a long way toward growing your audience, moving them to action and giving you grace if an issue does arise.
  5. Images communicate what words cannot. As much as you can, include imagery in your communications. If you’re speaking, tell a relatable story. If you’re writing, include images about what you’re talking about. If it’s the web…well, if you aren’t using images on the web yet, we probably need to have a “back-to-the-basics” discussion. Did you know that the eyes can communicate information faster than any of the other senses? Check out this article about research MIT is doing about the processing power of your eyes.
  6. Design matters. At the heart of civilization is the compelling need to make organization out of chaos. Design is at the heart of who we are. It’s why everyone ooh’s and ahh’s over the latest Apple product or why people will pay money to go to an auto show. We like things that are beautiful. We like structure. We like things that are engineered to be simple. If your communications don’t look nice, people will write off the information. Spend the time (or money) to make things look good. It pays dividends in the long run.
  7. Deliver messaging that’s tailored to the specific desires of your audience. Always remember that you’re not simply the summation of your demographic information. You’re an individual and so is your audience. You need to find ways to deliver the most customized message you can to the recipient. When a friend tells you a story about her weekend, she tells you about specific details that she knows will be relevant to you. In doing that, it allows you to enter into the story. When developing your communications strategy, think about the data you will need to collect to give people exactly what they want and find systems that allow you to store and access that information so you can deliver something that’s relevant and compelling. Your audience will appreciate it and will be more likely to absorb what you’re telling them.

There you have it, my 7 tips for moving your communications to a H2H model. Tell me what I’m missing or how you’ve started to do H2H communications within your organization in the comments below.

By Ryan Kopperud, Content Editor – GovDelivery

Status quo methods of digital outreach often result in status quo audience growth results. Engaging a new and different audience requires innovative tactics, taking chances, and having some fun.

At GovDelivery, we offer a wide variety of solutions that help organizations expand their reach to all kinds of audiences. From cross promoting content through the GovDelivery Network, to using social media posting and sharing options, organizations are consistently extending their reach with GovDelivery. Catering to trends and adopting creative outreach methods often yield great returns on investment.

Many organizations have already begun enacting effective methods of creative outreach, especially in an effort to reach younger generations. Here are a few great examples of those who have found success in reaching youth audiences in our modern digital world.

Barack Obama - Between Two Ferns

The President Has a Sense of Humor

In an effort to promote Healthcare.gov, and the coming deadline to sign up for health insurance, President Obama recently made an appearance on the popular FunnyOrDie.com sketch comedy show “Between Two Ferns,” hosted by comedian and actor Zach Galifianakis.

If you’re connected to the Internet in any capacity, you probably saw the video itself, or at least mention of it. The unexpected appearance of President Obama was enough to draw attention, but the candor, comedy, and self-deprecation shown by both parties sent the sketch into full-blown viral video status. While the White House has already done an outstanding job reaching digital audiences through email, text messaging and social media, a White House Spokeswoman revealed that FunnyOrDie.com became the number one source of referrals to Healthcare.gov the week of the video’s release. To date, the video has now been viewed over 20 million times.

Most organizations don’t have access to websites as popular as FunnyOrDie.com, but sites like YouTube and Vimeo allow organizations to broadcast their own video content, which can be promoted through direct (email and text messaging) and indirect (social media) channels. The lesson remains: creatively marketing your message and going to where your audience already is, can have a huge impact on your reach. As proven by this video, a little comedy and a new spin can go a long ways.

The CDC and the Zombie Apocalypse

Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic

Zombies have always been a pop culture staple, from comic books to horror films, but with new television shows like “The Walking Dead,” the trend has made a recent resurgence.

Taking advantage of the fad, and appealing to a younger generation, the Center for Disease Control began a campaign to address public health and emergency preparedness based on a fictional zombie apocalypse. With zombie-themed posters, a website, a blog, and a graphic novel, the CDC committed to finding a fun and unique way to appeal to a certain audience, while still putting out the same valuable content they needed to.

Distributing health and preparedness tips through the vehicle of zombies allowed youth to have fun with learning, while making the information easier to digest for a younger generation. Needless to say, the campaign was a huge hit, and the CDC’s zombie content has gotten thousands of shares and comments since being released. Feel free to have fun with your content, especially when your goal is to educate your audience with tips and tricks.

Play and Learn with ChooseMyPlate.gov CDC My Plate Kids' Place

Promoting healthy diets and exercise to kids can be a difficult task. In an effort to engage youth and promote their organization’s mission, ChooseMyPlate.gov (a subdivision of the USDA), created a section of their website fully dedicated to the education and entertainment of kids.

With unique content including games, videos, songs, and printable activity sheets, ChooseMyPlate.gov created a safe space for kids to learn and spend time ingesting beneficial information, while better serving the organization’s mission.

In Conclusion

As evidenced by the above organizations, having a sense of humor, using creative marketing strategies, and catering to a younger generation, can have a huge impact on an organization’s digital outreach.

Going where the people are, not taking things too seriously, and playing off of trends, can have a great return on investment when done properly. If your organization is looking for a way to rejuvenate your content and expand your reach to a new and younger audience, consider taking a new approach, having fun, and spending some time outside the box.


This post is a continuation from last month’s blog answering some of the questions we received during and following our Citizen Engagement webinar with insights from Ruthbea Clarke of IDC Government Insights and Mary Yang of GovDelivery.

In the last post, we were able to compile the responses to questions answered during the webinar. Here are some of the questions and answers that we weren’t able to address live during the webinar because of time constraints.

If you’d like to hear more of the presentation Ruthbea and Mary gave, watch the webinar here or read the Analyst Connections brief here. The questions have been edited in some cases for further clarification.

Q: How might we address the resistance within public sector departments to innovative outreach tools?
As the mandates to “do more with less” continue to permeate the public sector, more innovative and digital-focused approaches to outreach take hold, even in departments who may be resisting the move to digital communications. If you’re trying to put digital communications on the top of the agenda in your department, start by crunching some numbers. Digital communications can be a huge cost savings (by replacing paper processes) as well as a revenue generator (by enabling you to connect with more people and automate revenue-driven messages, such as “renew your hunting or fishing license now”). Check out our “Customer Satisfaction and E-Government ” white paper for more information on how digital communications can help achieve tremendous cost savings, while improving citizen satisfaction. This may provide you with some leverage to push your organization to use digital communications to meet mission goals. 

­Q: How much are citizens engaging with local governments’ social media posts?­

Social media can be a great tool to connect with your stakeholders in certain situations, but the extent your social media posts are read, commented on, and shared may vary. Oakland County, Michigan’s animal services team used both social media and email to send out stories of pets waiting for homes, and they saw an increase in adoption rates. On the other hand, at the Power of Reach tour stop in Oakland, folks from the City of Sacramento talked about using the website, blog and email more heavily to reach stakeholders when they noticed their Facebook account started seeing less engagement as Facebook changed its Newsfeed algorithms. Still, it’s difficult to ignore social media, even if it’s not going to be place where your citizens engage with you. At the end of the day, local governments are going to have to employ a multichannel approach to reach and engage citizens. For more information on engaging social posts, check out this blog post.

Q: Can you give some examples of broad attempts to engage the public in two-way communications about government topics?

One example of great two-way government-to-citizen communications is the Stearns County Sherriff’s Office (check out the new infographic on Stearns County here). Stearns County sends regular public updates embedded with buttons depicting different tip submission channels: Phone, Email, or Web. Each button redirects to the Sheriff’s Office phone number, email address, or an online tip submission tool. Just thirteen minutes after sending its inaugural message with GovDelivery, the Sheriff’s office received a tip. A simple email format with a clear, engaging call to action has empowered Stearns County residents to report information to their office, engaging in a two-way dialogue that results in better crime prevention. ChooseMyPlate

Other strategies you can employ to engage in two-way conversations online are to like your followers’ Facebook posts, retweet your followers, respond to YouTube comments, respond to Yelp reviews or survey results, reply to citizen emails and blog comments, all in a timely manner. Organizations like Choosemyplate.gov (see the image to the right) and Michigan DNR even host Twitter chats where they take the time to engage with their audience.

­Q: Regarding the security of cloud computing: is it more secure, about as secure or less secure than non-cloud alternatives?­
It’s going to depend on the software you’re using and how closely that technology is monitoring and following set security protocols. The best answer is, it depends. Legacy, on-site software can be vulnerable to security threats, just as cloud-based software can. The cybersecurity stories in government news over the past year can prove how true that statement is.

When you dive into the cloud computing realm, you should ask the tough security questions. And if you work with a government-focused partner, security should be a top issue. At GovDelivery, the security of our cloud platform is taken very seriously. We have achieved International Security Certification 270001 from the British Standards Institution as well as G-Cloud Security Accreditation level IL2 in the U.K. We serve clients from the Department of Homeland Security to the Department of Defense. By aligning our software with rigorous security certificates and programs, we safeguard cloud security.

Q: Does citizen contact information become subject to public record requests?­
This truly depends on where you are located. On a federal level, this kind of information has been protected as an exemption in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

For states, there is no uniform policy, so this is something you may need to look into if you’re a local government employee. Many states have or are changing legislation to protect digital lists of citizen contact information, but some states have not yet broached the subject of digital records requests of this nature.

Do you have any other questions to add to the list? Comment below!

The changing face of facebook

By Amy Larsen, Client Success Consultant

 Facebook login screen circa 2004

Facebook login screen circa 2004

As a government communicator, how can you be sure you’re connecting with your audience with the continuously changing landscape in social media? A channel that is nearly ubiquitous in the world of online communications is Facebook. Boasting more than 1 billion monthly active users, Facebook continues to dominate the social media world and has its sights set on reaching “the next 5 billion” users, despite there only being about 2.7 billion people online today worldwide. Although relatively young (it just turned 10 this year), Facebook has been through a lot of changes and evolutions over the last decade, and its not always easy to keep up with them. I was personally thankful to see that creepy guy in the upper left corner of the login screen disappear for good around 2007, but the changes of course have been far more than simply aesthetic updates.

Let’s take a look at some of the most recent changes, and how they may affect you.

Most people know that Facebook has an algorithm to give each of its users a tailored experience on the site, but not as many know that this algorithm is constantly getting tweaked to not only enhance each user’s experience, but also to give more value and reach to its paying customers. So where does that leave Facebook pages or organizations with no budget to use to promote posts? More often, the answer is becoming …cue the crickets. Some clients that I work with have already reported seeing a dip in their reach and likes on Facebook as recently as January 2014.  Diminishing likes, fewer comments and lower overall engagement, even for pages that have large existing audiences, may be a reality that more government communicators will have to work around in the coming year.

Facebook has also changed the standard for the type of content it deems likely that your audience will actually want to see on their News Feeds. Content that is timely, relevant, succinct and inherently shareable will be more likely to appear in your audiences’ News Feed, while content that does not fall into these categories may go relatively unnoticed. Since Facebook has raised the standard on the content that is likely to be shared across your audience, it may be time to make a plan to adjust your strategy to align with these new standards for content. Pictures, videos, and shorter, less wordy posts have been recognized as more likely to get your audience’s attention on email and social channels.


Another notable change that the latest round of Facebook News Feed adjustments includes the ability for organizations to promote their content to people who haven’t liked their page by tagging pages or people that others have already liked in a post. For instance, if Bleacher Report tags the Toronto Raptors in a post, and I’ve liked the Raptors’ page on Facebook, I might see this post from the Bleacher Report, even though I’ve never liked the Bleacher Report directly. This cross promotion opens new doors for brands and organizations to promote each other, but it also may turn subscribers off if they suddenly see a lot of content from pages they haven’t previously liked.

With the frequent changes coming from Facebook, it will be essential for communicators to evaluate their content strategy to adjust to the changing environment – if your content is not getting noticed on Facebook, what are other channels you will use to reliably connect with your stakeholders? Email has consistently been recognized as the winning channel when it comes to directly connecting with subscribers, and Twitter at the very least will always display your content in your followers’ feeds, even if it only stays there for a few minutes. If you’re looking at your options for increased outreach this year, make sure to consider every method available to better engage with your audience, and be sure to stay informed on how to make these tools work for you.

In recent years, social media channels have taken the limelight as the preferred platform for communications and connectivity to the masses. Organizations wishing to disseminate information broadly and efficiently are embracing social media as one of their core marketing tools, even using outlets such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to pitch press releases to journalists. Many government organizations have followed suit, choosing to broadcast their press releases and other important messages via social channels.

Image by Place.it

Image by Place.it

While social platforms are an effective means of communication with stakeholders in both sectors, communicators know that every communications tool has a specific purpose and isn’t suited for every communications job, especially media relations.

Reporters and journalists’ opinions of social platforms vary. As they are the primary target of press releases, their perceptions should be taken with great concern. According to a recent article by PR Daily, journalists “view social media more as a tool for self-promotion than for connecting with sources… The biggest groups of respondents said they most often use social media for connecting with viewers and readers or promoting stories.”

Furthermore, social media lacks the authority and credibility that email holds. In the same article, reporters were asked to rank on a scale of one to ten their trust in information coming from social media. The predominant group (27.2 percent) gave it a five out of ten. According to PR Daily, reporters prefer pitches and press releases delivered via email: “Nearly half of the respondents—45 percent— said they’d rather not receive pitches through social media at all.”

The journalistic preference for email isn’t surprising. Consider the nature of email versus social media. Social media is transitory and dynamic in nature: it’s hard to keep up with the constant flow of information and easy to miss important messages. Email, on the other hand, is static and unobtrusive. It stays resident in one’s inbox, and can be easily stored, categorized and filed. It lacks the social chatter that may disrupt the focus and impact of a tightly packaged and delivered message. Responses are one-to-one and direct to the sender.

Press releases are staples in government communications. They enable journalists to continue to disseminate important government information to the public. Proponents of social platforms should take caution in using social media as the primary channel to deliver news stories to both journalists and the public. Traditional email communication allows for direct connection and information delivery that supports building a relationship with a reporter over time.

Our CEO Scott Burns closed out this year’s U.K. digital communications event with some important insights into something we’ve talk about often on this blog, “The Power of the Message”. As Scott notes in his introduction, the climate of public sector communications has changed a lot over the years. A decade ago, government agencies would talk about themselves and their services in a way that was very public relations oriented. Recently, however, that has shifted into a much more user-focused apwrofmsgpproach.

“What’s happened over the years is this incredibly exciting convergence of communications with service delivery and customer service”, Scott said. “Over and over you see the connection between communications and the reality of the mission you’re trying to serve; using communications as a vehicle for real and meaningful change”.

Public sector agencies are having to do more and more with less and less. Communications has been a big part of making that possible, and that’s because of how powerful effective messages can be. You can calculate the power of the message with math, Scott said, but ultimately, it all starts with the value of one message to one person.

So how do you increase the value of each connection? Scott focused on three key points.

First, you need to make your messages timely and relevant. “You can construct the best message in the world, but you’ll never beat the open rate of an email with the subject line ‘earthquake in San Diego’”. People care about what’s happening right here, right now, so positioning yourself as a reliable source for up-to-date information is essential. Second, you need to connect your messages to your mission. If you have certain areas of your website that drive more traffic but don’t necessarily have a lot of mission connectivity—like, say a section on the Social Security Administration’s website about the year’s most popular baby names—leverage those opportunities to drive people to other important parts of your site. Third, you need to promote valuable actions: pay your taxes, remember to move your recycling bins to the street, or participate in this seminar. Constructing a message that encourages action and engagement generates a level of learning that helps prevent further challenges later on.

Another key component to harnessing the power of the message, Scott said, is trust. Studies have shown that the more familiar you are with something, the more you trust it. If you want to create familiarity with your citizens, you have to connect with them on a regular basis. Another way to build trust is through stories. “People trust other people more when they understand their story. The same thing applies to organisations”, Scott pointed out. Finding the right balance between information and storytelling isn’t easy, but it is incredibly valuable if done right. Finally, trust can also be built by using a multichannel approach and leveraging your stakeholders’ trust in their peers. The more people that click that “Share” button on your site, the more you extend your network of trusted stakeholders.

But, of course, the best message in the world doesn’t matter if it doesn’t reach anyone. Reach is like the macaroni to your cheese, the peanut butter to your jelly, or, as Scott put it, “the flour that bakes your cake”. If you want to increase engagement and traffic to your website you’ve got to have reach. To do that, you have to balance individual message creation with a strategy for how you’re going to build your audience.

To learn more about the power of the message and how to extend your reach, check out Scott’s full presentation here.

For the elderly and people with disabilities, snowstorms can mean being trapped at home unable to get to work, to the food store, to the pharmacy, or have the mail delivered. It can mean that for days, you’re stuck alone in your home fearful of what might happen and that the stability of your health and life might be compromised.

For Colleen Roche (Board Chair at the Alliance Center for Independence, Edison NJ), a wheelchair user, a simple errand can become time-consuming and frustrating.

State laws deal with snow removal from parking areas, town ordinances deal with removal from sidewalks, but nothing addresses the clearance of curb cuts. I’ve literally spent hours on the telephone trying to figure out whose responsibility it is to clear the cuts and the street in front of them. A curb cut that piled with 3’ of snow is as useless to a wheelchair user as not shoveling at all. The generosity of Snowcrew volunteers to dig out their neighbors, means that accomplishing simple tasks like grocery shopping become possible again.

Isolation is one of the main contributors that leads many seniors and those with disabilities to face this situation during snowstorms. The good ol’ days of when neighbors knew and took care of each other are uncommon. There is hope and we have evidence that it is and will continue to change for the better.

We believe that people want to and will help out their neighbors. What is missing is communication and connection.

What has been done to help the elderly and people with disabilities during snowstorms?

To combat the issues of missing communication and connection, government organizations and community partners have formed snow teams. But their processes are hindered by legalities and their technology limited by budgets and the struggle to attract the volume of volunteers needed to accommodate the high demand for the service.

Today, it’s our honor to introduce you to www.snowcrew.org.

What is Snowcrew?

Snowcrew.org is a mobile optimized web app that connects people who need help shoveling with nearby neighbors “Yetis/Volunteers” who can and want to help dig out their neighbors.

Yetis shovel out people who are not physically able to shovel or cannot afford to hire someone to dig them out.

Each time it snows, whomever needs help shoveling can log into www.snowcrew.org and request “Shoveling Assistance.” Those who have signed up to help get notified that a neighbor(s) needs help. They can also “scout” to see who needs help via Snowcrew.org on their mobile phone or device of choice.

No middle man is required and citizens works together neighbor-to-neighbor to help each other out. Over the last 12 months, Snowcrew has helped resolve 260 shoveling requests!

What difference does Snowcrew make?

  • Snowcrew helps keep people healthy and financially sound -  When shoveled out, people can get to the pharmacy, food store, and medical appointments. Social security checks, medications and medical equipment are delivered.
  • Snowcrew increases resilience - When communities are connected and in service to each other they are stronger and better poised to prevent, respond to, and overcome challenges and disasters.
  • Snowcrew eases the burden on government - Citizens who have time and wish to pitch in to dig out public property such as fire hydrants, handicap ramps and curb cuts, and bus stops help to increase accessibility and improve quality of life.
  • Snowcrew fosters connection - Those who request and give shoveling assistance enjoy new connections, friendships, and experiences.

What do people who have been helped by Snowcrew say?

  • “I’m blown away; I have never received help like this from strangers before, and I’m honored to now call them my neighbors. So my deepest and heartfelt thanks goes out to all of you.” Nancy, Hardyston NJ who was trapped in her home for 4 days following a storm in February 2014.
  • “Just wanted to thank you and Bob for helping me as a neighbor to clear my car so I could make it to my doctor’s appt. It made an important difference.” Marcia, Jamaica Plain, MA Feburary 2014
  • “Someone came to help! thank you!” Michelle, Lincroft NJ February 2014

How can you get involved?

  • Go to Snowcrew.org and create a profile to volunteer or request shoveling assistance
  • Help us spread the word by retweeting our tweets and sharing our Facebook updates
  • Share this post to your networks
  • Shovel out cars snowed in and empty handicap parking spots
  • Check in on neighbors who are elderly and have disabilities

How did Snowcrew get started?

Snowcrew got started in 2009 when I realized one of my widowed elderly neighbors might be stuck in her home during a huge storm we had. The first version of Snowcrew used a Google map and a Google form. After I learned about former Mayor Cory Booker digging out his constituents after receiving a constituent tweet, I wanted to see if I could build on former Mayor Booker’s success by using technology to allow neighbors to engage each other online to get shoveled out simultaneously and in multiple cities and towns at the same time. Today, Snowcrew.org accomplishes this goal!

What technology powers Snowcrew?

Two leaders in government digital communication and Open Government power the Snowcrew.org solution. SeeClickFix built and operates Snowcrew.org and via its API it powers the “shovel request” submittal, “scout” mapping, watch area notifications, commenting and case management system. For neighborhoods where municipalities and community partners wish to formally adopt Snowcrew or are clients of GovDelivery, GovDelivery provides neighborhood and municipality specific automated emails and text message notifications when shoveling assistance requests are submitted.

Post authored by:

  • Joseph Porcelli – Founder and volunteer organizer of Snowcrew.org and Director of Engagement Services at GovDelivery
  • Carole Tonks, Snowcrew.org Advisor, Executive Director, Alliance Center for Independence, Edison NJ



The Port of Tacoma was looking for a digital communications solution to deliver relevant information to its stakeholders, and increase the number of those stakeholders that it was able to quickly and easily reach. Using GovDelivery, the Port of Tacoma overcame challenges in deliverability, automation and integration with internal systems. The GovDelivery Communications Cloud is now a critical part of the port’s activities to help reach more people, and in turn, drive business for the organization. “As our port continues to grow, we look to GovDelivery to help us drive our business and engage with the public,” Megan Anderson, Communications Specialist at Port of Tacoma said. Today, the Port of Tacoma has grown its outreach to more than 15,000 people to whom they have sent over 614,000 messages.

The Port of Tacoma is one example of many organizations in state and local government that are increasing their number of stakeholder connections, and consequently, accomplishing specific organizational mission goals (like driving new revenue and business development).

At our 2014 Digital Communications Tour, which stops at five cities across the country this spring, you’ll have the opportunity to hear more stories from other government communicators talking to the “Power of Reach.” Have you ever wondered how reaching 10X as many people could amplify your organizational goals? Do you know how to connect with more people using everyday digital communication tactics? How can your organization compel more of your stakeholders to take action and engage with your organization as a result of your communications?

Hear from public sector experts and private sector thought leaders as they answer those questions with trends, tips and tricks that you can implement immediately.

Find a stop near you in the list below and register for this free event to learn more about what you can do to apply the “Power of Reach” to your organization’s digital communications.


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