A blog about digital government, communications, citizen satisfaction & engagement, GovDelivery, and other e-government issues
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It’s the beginning of 2014 and, no surprise here, everyone has a different opinion on what should make the “best of” and “worst of” 2013 lists. Whether it’s the best tech innovations in government or the worst social media gaffes, everyone has something different to add. It’s not easy to sum up an entire year’s worth into a neatly pre-packaged list, and there isn’t often a clear-cut winner or loser. But there are usually some common themes that run through these lists. Our top seven most read Reach the Public blog posts from 2013 are no different.

A few trending digital communication themes touch our seven most read blog posts. Government communicators face increasing pressure to manage communications across devices and platforms—from their websites to social media to emails to mobile friendly designs—and the most read blog posts stay true to these trends. The following seven posts sum up tips to update your website, implement responsive design for mobile users, send more engaging emails, and what technology trends are in and what ones are on their way out.

So take a minute to relive what you and your peers in government read the most from GovDelivery’s Reach the Public blog last year for some key takeaways to bring into your 2014 government communications strategy.

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7) Top 10 (Easy) Ways to Make Your Emails Work for Mobile

Ranging from scaling back email column size to text size, this blog post summarizes 10 quick and easy ways to optimize emails for mobile devices. With more and more people accessing their emails on multiple devices, including mobile, this post is definitely worth another look to boost your mobile email strategy.

6) Need To Brighten Up Dull Content? Take A Cue From 1-800-GOT-JUNK

Optimizing emails and websites to achieve higher engagement with citizens is important—but so is the actual content in those emails or on those webpages. If you want a refresher on updating your communications so that your stakeholders not only receive your messages, but read and take action because of them, check out this post on transforming your average business content into something new and exciting.

5) Great Government Websites – Benchmarking The Best

A good website isn’t just a bonus for government organizations anymore, it’s a necessity. If you know your website could use a little sprucing up, you should start by reading, or re-reading, this post. The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) regularly benchmarks websites according to Americans’ overall level of satisfaction in a variety of industries. This blog post takes a look at a few local, federal and international public sector samples of high quality websites.

4) Is There A Best Time To Send An Email?

It’s no wonder that email is still the cornerstone of most digital marketing practices—more than 144 billion emails are sent around the world every day. So optimizing your emails to be sent at a time when they are more likely to be opened, read and incite action has been a top of mind topic for many of our blog readers. Check out this blog post again to learn more about the research that has gone into determining best response rates.

3) Do RSS Feeds Still Matter?

When Google announced it was closing down Google Reader, many bloggers were quick to declare the demise of the RSS feed. Moving into 2014 nearly a year after the Google Reader shutdown, RSS feeds are still a thriving component of many communication strategies in the public sector. This post takes a look at how some government organizations use RSS feeds to provide an automated, simple way to reach more people with their messages.

2) How To Make Your Website Mobile Friendly With Responsive Design

One of the recurring themes in our most read blog posts, and a possible nomination for the buzz word of the year, is the phrase “mobile friendly.” Making your emails and website available to be viewed and interacted with in as many ways as possible is a no-brainer. Take a look at this post for some specific tips on making your website more accessible to your stakeholders.

1) Need A New Look? 2013/2014 Website Trends That Matter

Our top read post on Reach the Public stayed true to the themes our readers have been interested in all year: optimizing communications across devices and emerging digital communication trends. The website trends covered in this post even do a little predicting—reviewing what digital best practices are likely to become commonplace in the new year. Take a little time to double-check that you are implementing, or at least aware, of these digital trends so that you’re providing a consistent experience that citizens have come to expect when interacting with any website.

So there’s our top seven list of most-viewed blog entries in 2013. What do you think? Did any of these posts stand out as particularly useful in your organization? Or do you have another post to add to the list? Let me know in the comments!

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As we wrap up 2013, we’re excited about what’s around the corner in 2014.

It’s the time of year where everyone puts out predictions for 2014, but at GovDelivery, we want to know what you think. Instead of listing out all our predictions for the new year, we’re interested in learning what public sector trends you think will make an impact on your organization.

Click here to take our short survey

All responses will be kept confidential. Once we’ve compiled them, we’ll share the results here.

Everyone here at GovDelivery wishes you and your family all the best this holiday season!

Despite a deluge of freezing rain and snow in Washington DC this week, GovDelivery’s annual Federal Digital Communications conference marched on. With more than 450 people tuning in via webcast and in-person, 6 speakers, 250+ tweets with an estimated impression of 1.2M people, and a lot of networking accompanied by a few bad weather horror stories, the event this week added up to a great success. Nearly 97% of attendees said they would recommend next year’s event to a friend based on this year’s format and insight!

If you were unable to join us, we missed you. But over the next few weeks you can expect to pick up on some of the conversations generated from the event. (As a side note, we are going to test our luck with the weather in Washington D.C. once again on April 23 as we make another “Digital Communication Tour” stop at the Grand Hyatt. Stay tuned for details on registration for that event!)

There was a lot of knowledge sharing on trends in the digital government world at the annual event—enough to fill a small novel (or a piece of art, as shown by the visual notes here). Instead of giving you another play-by-play of the event, here’s a timeline of some of the top tweets event attendees tweeted using the #govd13 hashtag. Read through what your peers had to say about the event and visit our event page for more detailed updates with videos of the speaker sessions!

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When GovDelivery first entered the Federal market in 2003, we were a small company serving mostly local governments and a few state agencies.  With our team based in Minnesota we were told to “avoid Federal government like the plague” because we would never be able to serve such a confusing bureaucracy as a small company based out of the Midwest.  What we found was something entirely different than we expected: a city and many agencies packed with passionate and committed communicators yearning for the latest technology to help them support large and complicated mission objectives.

We also found tough customers with high expectations.  These customers wanted proofs of concepts and case studies, deep security documents, and demonstrable service level commitments.  It took us a year to get our first pilot client — the Office of Recruitment at the State Department.  Now, we serve every Federal department in some capacity and are the largest outside referrer of traffic to that first client (see referral stats here) as well as to newer Federal endeavors such as HealthCare.gov.

What we learned along the way is that the information our clients wanted to share and the stories they wanted to tell the public were powerful indeed.  Our clients knew intuitively that these stories could drive better outcomes, and our role was to bring the technology and insight to the table to help bring this belief to fruition.

PaulSmith-LeadwithaStoryWith stories in mind, we are bringing in Paul Smith, author of Lead with a Story, as the keynote speaker for GovDelivery’s Digital Communication Event next week in Washington, D.C.  There are over 900 people registered for the event, and they are in for a treat.  Lead with a Story is a masterpiece, and I am confident that Paul Smith will deliver a keynote worthy of his excellent book.  Stories matter.  As Paul says, they move people to take action, change behavior, and interact in new ways.  They are also memorable when so many other forms of modern communication can be forgettable.  Stories play an important role in a communications strategy oriented around driving awesome results.

I look forward to hearing from Paul and the other speakers next week including some amazing government communicators and technologists who will sit on our panel. Join us! I can’t wait to see you there.

Public trust in government has been on the top of the radar lately following the U.S. government shutdown. In the height of the shutdown, Gallup released poll results showing that only 18 percent of Americans were satisfied with the U.S. government—that’s the lowest the satisfaction rating has been in Gallup’s history of asking the question (which dates all the way back to 1971).

This deflated public trust can have negative consequences for any public sector organization. So what can you do as a government communicator to build stakeholder relationships that will overcome trust barriers? One method of building public trust and satisfaction that you are probably already doing (while possibly not to the fullest extent) is improving your digital communications strategy.

In our Citizen Satisfaction White Paper, we feature a report from ForeSee, a customer experience analytics company that digs into the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) E-Gov Satisfaction Index. According to the ACSI visitors who are satisfied with their experience visiting a “federal government website rate their trust in the agency 60% higher,” and satisfied citizens are 49% more likely to give feedback than those citizens who were not as satisfied. This means that an effective and engaging online presence can actually help agencies improve public trust.

So, what are some ways you can improve your digital presence to better public trust in you government organization? After reviewing some of our experiences working with over 1,000 government organizations, we’ve pinpointed three strategies that can help you improve your organization’s customer satisfaction:

Use multiple channels to get your message out
According to ForeSee’s report, the online experience (satisfaction of 75) continues to be the preferred way for citizens to engage with federal agencies. Consequently, providing multiple options online for your stakeholders to interact with your content plays right into the citizen’s digital. By sending out updates via email, text message, social media, RSS, and more, you offer more opportunities to link stakeholders back to your website where they continue to solidify a relationship.

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Don’t forget to promote it
Just sending out your message through diverse channels is only half of the story. You also need to promote the channels you’re sending through so your stakeholders know where to find you. Put links to your website, email or text message sign up forms on your social media sites and vice versa.

Give the power back
Give your stakeholders the option to decide not only where they engage with you online, but what the content is that would like to have communicated. Offer targeted topics that provide information to the varying interests of your stakeholders—that way you can always ensure that you’re sending a message that is relevant to your customer.

By following these three simple rules, you will be able to better meet the needs of citizens with communications that help build public trust in your organization. If you’d like more information on building trust digitally, download our white paper, Customer Satisfaction and E-Government: The Digital Investment Pays Off.

If three is company, then three hundred is one heck of a party. At last year’s Federal Digital Communications event, “The Transformative Power of Communications,” over three hundred attendees listened to presentations and panel discussions by some of the industry’s leading experts. Featuring a keynote address by Peter Sims, best-selling author of Little Bets, the topics ranged from understanding the benefits of risk and failure, to the changing landscape of digital outreach tools.

thumbnailScott Burns, CEO and Co-Founder of GovDelivery, said in his presentation that “the current state of communications is a milkshake of tools.” We couldn’t agree more with his delicious metaphor. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are like the sprinkles and chocolate syrup on the email and SMS sundae, and are changing the way government agencies engage with the public. But as Scott goes on to note, communications isn’t really about the tools; it’s about the people. While the main purpose of the event was to provide attendees with new insights and information about a variety of digital communications tools and strategies, it was also about fostering a sense of community and collaboration among government agencies.

Which is exactly why we’re so glad that nearly 90% of event survey responders stated that they “anticipated a need in [their] agency to better collaborate with other programs, other agencies, and/or the public.” As Scott discusses, building a strong, wide-reaching network is one of the most important steps in developing an effective communications plan. We’ve said it before and it definitely bears repeating: you might have the most interesting message in the world, but if you don’t have a network to share it with your message isn’t going to do much good, no matter what milkshake of tools you whip up.

Our CEO said it best, “The reason we exist as a company is to help you communicate.” From website overlays and subscriber management to cross-promotional programs and SMS strategies, we offer our expertise openly and freely to help your unique organization better connect with its stakeholders. But we also exist to help you better connect with each other, too. Since over 80% of survey responders responded that they were either “likely” or “very likely” to recommend the 2013 event to a friend, we’re excited to see what kind of connections are made this time around.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to meet and connect with other government professionals at this year’s Federal Digital Communications event, “The Power of the Message.” Featuring a keynote address by Paul Smith, author of the best-selling book Lead with a Story, a panel discussion with government communications experts, and a presentation by our own Scott Burns, the morning will focus on the power of storytelling as a means of driving mission value and engaging stakeholders to take action.

For more information or to register for the event, click here.

For government communicators and IT professionals, driving traffic to the website is one clear metric that can be tracked and analyzed over time as a measure of success. And, with Google Analytics and similar tools, you can point to increased Web traffic as part of your success as an IT professional or communicator.

But in this era of digital noise, you can’t trust that simply building a good website will produce the traffic you want. If you work for a larger government organization or program you may have the budget to run a massive advertising campaign to attract visitors to your site, but if you’re like most public sector organizations and programs, you’re faced with decreasing budgets and a strong push to drive mission goals and prove value.

That’s why we believe in not just promoting your website and the content you have for the public, but also in the need to build direct digital connections with your stakeholders and nurture a relationship with them over time. That’s where digital outreach can really impact your goals in clear and measurable ways. In a recent Washington Post article on Healthcare.gov , the reporter found that:

GovDelivery…was the number-one source of referral traffic to Healthcare.gov in September and October. That means when a user came to Healthcare.gov from a link on another site, that site was frequently Govdelivery.com — more often, even, than the websites of Medicaid, the White House, and the Department of Health and Human Services…[So] all that traffic to Healthcare.gov from GovDelivery? It came through…email…Not Facebook, which accounted for roughly 2.6 percent of traffic. Definitely not Twitter, which drove only 1 percent of Healthcare.gov’s visitors to the site…

In addition to being the number-one referrer to Healthcare.gov, the service has also managed to sign up more than 1 million subscribers for the Department of Health and Human Services’ ACA email list, a company spokeswoman said. (The department’s goal is 7 million.) [emphasis mine]

Healthcare.gov screenshot

The folks in charge of running and maintaining Healthcare.gov and the marketplace recognized that they needed not just a one-time hit, but a true digital connection to communicate with stakeholders on a continual basis. Since 85% of adults with a household income of less than $30,000 and 93% of adults with a household income between $30,000 and $49,999 use email, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, it only made sense to connect with those stakeholders through digital channels.

But what does this mean for you? To start, do you know how engaged your stakeholders are with your communications? Does your website get the traffic you want it to? If individuals come to your website to seek out more information, do you know if they are coming back to check out your new content? Are you reaching all of the stakeholders you want to be reaching? These questions are inextricably linked. Reaching more stakeholders enables you to drive more website traffic, just like Healthcare.gov. And by allowing stakeholders to sign up to receive specific topics through digital channels they prefer, you now know what’s important to each individual and how they want to receive it, so you can proactively communicate relevant information when there’s something new to share. Over time, these interactions deepen your relationship with stakeholders and help build trust.

Thankfully, if you’re a GovDelivery client already, you’re in good hands. The Washington Post also reported that:

GovDelivery definitely falls in that “digital outreach” sphere…[it] is the contractor that powers just about any email alert you get from a federal (and in many areas, local) government agency. Think weather alerts, emergency notices, small business newsletters — those are all run through GovDelivery…

With more than 1,000 government organizations of all sizes across the US, UK, and Europe currently using the GovDelivery platform to connect with more than 65 million stakeholders worldwide, we’re ready and excited to help you build and maximize those stakeholder connections to meet your mission or program goals and drive real value.

For more strategies & tactics you can implement easily check out our recent Essential Digital Strategies Guide for Government Communicators . Or contact your Client Success Consultant  to find out what you can do with the GovDelivery platform to boost your outreach.

By Amy Larsen, Client Success Consultant

Time is something that communicators never have enough of when it comes to their work: building their audiences, managing their brand, staying current with content, meeting the demands of their stakeholders, etc. Many times the government communicators I work with are  balancing an ever-expanding task list between a few key team members, each working to draft press releases, communicate with the media, keep the website current, prepare emergency communication strategies, respond to inquiries, and manage social media – just to name a few! Sometimes it can feel like an uphill battle, especially as demand for digital content and services grow and stakeholders expect to find everything online.

Luckily, today’s communicators have more tools to help them wrangle the different aspects of their job into a well-oiled information machine. And with a few quick strategic changes, they can save more time than ever before while meeting citizens’ needs on a consistent basis.

Here are three key steps you can take that will help you cut down on the time spent communicating,  increase your reach through more channels, and most importantly, connect to more stakeholders.

GovDelivery_ChannelsIntegration – Most clients that I engage with agree that it is no longer enough to only use a single form of communication to reach their diverse base of subscribers, but they also are not sure where the extra hours will be found to manage multiple communication platforms. While it may seem like an impossible feat, there is a solution.- Make your content channels work together in one simple process. You may have 8,000 subscribers to an email list, 10,000 Facebook fans, another 3,000 twitter followers, and another 50,000 people are viewing your website each month. Does that mean a neverending login-test-post-comment-update-edit-repeat cycle for your team? It doesn’t have to. By leveraging  tools that are specifically geared toward making your channels work together, you can cut down on the number of different channels you have to access to post your content, while maintaining a consistent style and voice throughout all your communication channels.

There are various tools out there for communicators to leverage. GovDelivery’s digital communications platform allows content that originates on one channel to be effortlessly communicated across all of your networks with one click.  And social media engagement tools like HootSuite are also helping more communicators manage their social media outlets from a single dashboard that measures the responsiveness of their audience. Furthermore, content management systems can be leveraged to push content from one channel to another with proper programming and permissions.

Collaboration_RSSAutomation – What’s better than channels communicating with each other, you ask? Channels that communicate with each other automatically. With little or no manual process at all, government agencies are able push content to multiple channels through RSS (Real Simple Syndication),  APIs (application programming interfaces), or other feeds to replicate content from one channel to another. RSS feeds are handy because they often come as a built-in feature in most content management systems, and they make it easy to send updates to subscribers whenever a Web page’s content changes. The standardized feed can then be easily read by email clients or web browsers, allowing subscribers to get information without having to continuously check Web pages for content changes.

While RSS feeds are great, APIs take automation a step further by allowing a feed from a Web portal or database to be pushed directly out to applications that interpret and deliver content to subscribers.

A great example of this is Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). WSDOT recently connected their traffic alerts to an API that automatically pushes alerts to subscribers when road conditions in their region are impacted by weather, construction, or traffic congestion.

Social media outlets like Twitter have some great 3rd party automation options as well.   Twitterfeed is a tool that allows you to automatically post content from a blog or Web page to Twitter, making the process of posting and promoting your new content as easy as a simple click of a button.  Another great tool is WordPress’s Tweet Old Post plugin, which helps drive traffic back to older, but still relevant, pieces of content on your blog.

Coordination – Communication, done correctly, is a lot of work. To maximize your output, you’ll want to make sure that all of the work you and the rest of your agency does to reach your target audience is following some sort of unified, coordinated strategy. I’ve encountered a lot of clients who have brand-building rockstars on the communications team who work to create consistent brand image, but they often struggle with other departments within the organization independently creating and sending content through various channels with inconsistent strategy. An uncoordinated communication strategy can sometimes chip away the work that others are doing to build a consistent image and reputation for the organization, and might even be duplicating efforts of other departments. How do you address this without putting sole responsibility on one team to communicate on behalf of all departments? With coordination and standardized expectations for everyone who is responsible for communicating with your stakeholders. Marin County, CA has done a great job with this by creating a Social Media Responsibility Guidelines document, along with a best practice Social Media Playbook. These serve as mandatory training guides for anyone using social media on behalf of their department, and help promote consistent, coordinated channels of communication, each working toward the same goal. The County communications team in Marin keeps an eye on the communication efforts of individual departments without having to bear the full weight of all content creation and output themselves, meaning more of their time is free to focus on their top goals and objectives for continued public engagement and service.

By integrating channels, automating output and coordinating content generation among various players in an organization, government communicators can continue to be one step ahead of the game when it comes to meeting stakeholders’ needs for information and service.

 

In our recent webinar, “Accelerate your Outreach for Maximum Impact” our GovDelivery Engagement Consultants had dozens of questions from webinar attendees. We’ve pulled out some of the most critical questions, providing a transcript of the question and detailed answer.HandsRaised

Q: My organization is new to reaching out through digital communications. How exactly do you connect digital channels with project goals?

A: The first thing you’ll need to do is figure out what your project goals are and how to connect them with your digital communications tools. You shouldn’t just reach out through Facebook and Twitter because someone tells you you’re supposed to. You need to figure out why you’re reaching out through those specific channels, what audiences you’re trying to reach, and what metrics you’re going to use to measure success. You need to have a strategic approach for why you’re reaching out through email or Twitter and what different success factors you’ll be looking for with each type of communication. Putting project goals together with the different tools you’ll be using to reach those project goals helps you look at the whole picture. Email and social media are just tools for completing your mission objectives.

Q: My agency doesn’t reach out to the general public — only to a select group of people. What does an outreach acceleration process look like to me?

A: The outreach process doesn’t change for you just because you don’t reach out to the general public. Even if you’re only reaching out to a select group of people, all of the best practices we talked about today still apply; you just have to be more targeted in your message. If you do have a more targeted audience that you’re trying to reach, in some ways it’s even more critical that you reach them because they might not have a lot of other sources. For example if you’re the National Institute of Health and you’re reaching out to a very niche group of scientists, you might be one of the only places they find that specific information. So even though something you send out might not apply to the average person, the best practices still pertain. You’re just going to have more targeted groups sign up for your information that you’ll have to continue to reach out to.

Q: This all seems great, but how can I convince my manager of the value of this kind of outreach acceleration?

A: A lot of the tactics and data points we presented in this presentation should be useful in persuading your manager. The fact that over 92 percent of adults are online interacting through email is a really powerful statistic. There are also a lot of great government websites like www.howto.gov that offer information about why your organization should be on social media, certain social media policies you might consider implementing, and what kinds of communications tools people are using. Again, you’ll need to connect your project goals with how these tools can be used to achieve them and how you’ll measure their success. Really push the point that these are tools that the public is already using; you don’t have to hunt people down. They’re free opportunities, at least with social media, to reach out and connect with people and influence certain behaviors. The more people you reach the more effective you’re going to be in meeting your projects goals.

Q: How does intensive outreach link to behavioral change?

A: The more people subscribe to your information, the more likely they’ll receive it on a regular basis and the more likely they’ll take action. So if you’re sending out information about getting a flu shot, maybe the first four or five times someone receives it they won’t take any action, but maybe on the sixth time they will take action. For the campaigns you’re trying to promote the most, continue to send consistent messaging and eventually people will take the action that you want them to. When you have massive amounts of people getting information you just increase the number of people who are actually going to do what you’re hoping they’ll do. Maybe they’ll get a flu shot this year because of an email, and maybe they’ll also get a flu shot next year and then the year after that they’ll also get their family to get flu shots. That’s the type of behavior change that we’re talking about. With outreach acceleration you’re really trying to create a community of people who are interested in your information and reach out to them on an ongoing basis.

Q: When you talk about segment, does that mean you have to analyze your target audience first and then set target audience profiles that help you choose the outreach mechanism?

A: What we mean by segment is that, as a government organization, you’re not necessarily always sending out information that’s critical to everyone. You’re trying to reach a targeted audience in a targeted way. Yes, you should figure out who you’re communicating to and who your key stakeholders are and why they’re coming to your website to begin with. What information are they really interested in? Then, based on who your key stakeholders are, you should set up different opportunities for people to sign up. You can have a sign up for general, public information, but maybe you also want to have a sign up specifically for scientists, or a sign up for people who’ve said they’re interested in family assistance. Through GovDelivery you‘ll set up different topics, really as many topics as you want, and send information only to those people who subscribe to a specific topic. The more targeted you make your information—and again this is something we keep coming back to—the more you’re going to see success with people engaging with your information, clicking through those links, opening those emails and downloading documents. Figure out who your key stakeholders are, give people opportunities to sign up for information based on that key stakeholder group, then send targeted information.

Another tip on the topic of targeting: if you have Google Analytics installed, look at who’s coming to your website and match that up with the different sign up topics you’re offering. If people are coming to your website looking for a certain kind of information and you’re not sending out that kind of information, maybe that’s something you can reconsider. If you know what topic is really popular, put it at the top of the list when someone goes to sign up for different topics. So, in addition to targeting more specific people, there’s also ways to prioritize the different topics that you’re offering.

Q: So you can measure subscribers, but how do you measure the next steps of awareness and engagement?

A: Through GovDelivery we do have metrics that track message analytics. Yes, you’re able to track how many subscribers you have total and how many subscribers you have subscribing to different topics, but once you send out a message you’re also able to see how that message has performed. You can see how many people opened your email, how many people clicked on a link and what links they clicked on. You’re also able to manipulate the system to see what message has worked the best and had the best penetration in the community that you were reaching out to. We give you enough information to see who’s clicking on your links and who’s opening your emails and then tie that back to your project goals.

Q: You mentioned that on the sixth time someone gets an email they might go get a flu shot. What can organizations do to make their messages more compelling in driving those actions?

dl_th-bp_emailguideA: A great source of ideas for that is our Email Best Practices Guide, which we have a link to in the webinar. In addition to talking about effectiveness and efficiency we have a whole section on engagement. We provide tons of examples for you on how to make your message more interesting and relevant and how to construct the most impactful bulletins.

Q: Is there one GovDelivery tool that you would recommend as best for increasing subscriptions?

A: The overlay has statistically shown to have a huge impact. Many organizations we’ve worked with have seen, on average, a 250 to 500 percent increase in new subscribers just from implementing an overlay. It’s something that is so simple to do, but has such a large impact on your subscriptions. The overlay is a very simple, unobtrusive box that pops up when someone visits your website. Visitors can easily “x” out of the box if they’re not interested, but once they do sign-up for information the box will no longer pop-up when they visit your website. The idea is that if people are already showing up to your website, why not enlist them to come back for more? Why not present the opportunity for them to easily reach out and connect with you? It’s by far the most effective tool we have.

This is just a small portion of a great Q&A, following a thorough webinar presentation. View the full webinar now.

Though Harold and the Purple Crayon  will always be a timeless classic, the term “storytelling” probably conjures up images of kindergarten carpets and night-lights rather than innovative marketing tactics.

34th Deauville Film Festival - RecountDespite this, the concept of storytelling in communications is actually making a big comeback. As this article on the Content Marketing Institute website, “Corporate Storytelling from Kevin Spacey” notes, audiences are moving away from the traditional means of marketing and consumption and demanding better stories and better delivery. Kevin, who stars in the Netflix hit original series House of Cards, argues that the success of the show and its non-traditional method of delivery prove that companies should give the audience “what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in.”

That’s all well and good for television, sure, but what does it actually mean for your government organization? Well, a few things. Let’s take a look:

Customers want useful content

Seems like a no-brainer, right? Unfortunately many organizations get so caught up in proving they know how to use Pinterest or Twitter that they forget what’s at the core of their communications plan: useful information. Government agencies are uniquely positioned to provide stakeholders with information they can’t find anywhere else. And in the world of social media, content is king. So does that mean you should just throw everything you’ve got on Facebook and hope for the best? Not exactly.

But they also want the best content

A big part of communicating well is figuring out what you want to communicate. Just because you have all the statistics on sparrow migration in the Midwest for the last thirty years doesn’t mean you should share them. Narrowing in on the best stories is essential to a good communications plan. But don’t you need a huge PR budget and loads of fancy data to figure out what the best stories are? Nope! Your stakeholders tell you what they want every single day through link clicks and email opens; the question is simply whether or not you’re paying attention. The data for what your audiences want is there, you just need to collect and analyze it.

And they want it delivered in the best way

commcircleNow that you’ve got an idea of your most popular topics, what do you do with them? According to Kevin and the Content Marketing Institute, how you deliver your stories is just as important as the stories themselves. Don’t be fooled into thinking everything has to be boiled down into 140 character Twitter sound-bites to get noticed; different stories warrant different delivery methods. Some stories need to be longer to be truly impactful and that requires a communications channel that allows for depth and complexity – something not available when you’re limited to 140 characters. The truth is audiences want to engage with content in different ways, and different channels of communication – email, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. – provide different unique opportunities.

Want more? You can learn about incorporating storytelling into your government communications plan at our annual Federal Communications Event: The Power of the Message. Featuring a keynote address by Paul Smith, author of the best-selling book Lead with a Story, the event will focus on utilizing storytelling techniques to help you better meet your organization’s mission goals.

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