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

 

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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.

 

By Amy Larsen, Client Success Consultant

When I talk with state and local government organizations that are interested in communicating more with the public, there is a usually a pretty consistent idea on what kinds of information should go out to citizens. Far and away the messages we see most frequently from state and local agencies include council and committee meetings and agendas, upcoming events, emergency updates, and news releases. These types of communications are vital to government transparency and community preparedness, and public information officers that are committed to the regular communication of these key types of information do their stakeholders an invaluable service.

But too often, public communication stops with these essential communications, without expanding the message topics to other departments and programs, where great stories are often hiding in plain sight. We often talk about why storytelling is a great asset in communicating – but what types of stories do your residents want to read?

I usually recommend that communicators consider including some new programs in their outreach plans every year, focusing on the offices or departments that have a high amount of interaction with the public. These regular communications help to drive more stakeholder participation and further the mission of each group.

Here are a few examples across the spectrum of state and local government of how both subscribers and departments benefit from storytelling:

1. Stories about Police and Law Enforcement Programs police1
I receive regular updates from my Precinct Inspector at the Minneapolis Police Department– the officer in charge of monitoring and preventing crime in my neighborhood. When I signed up for these updates, I had no idea that I had a Precinct Inspector, or what he did. Through regular communications from Inspector Schafer, I’ve gotten tips on keeping myself and my property safer, what to look for to prevent crime in my neighborhood, and have been alerted of criminal activity.  I’ve also learned that overall crime in my area is down by 7% this year. Before I received these updates, I had no visibility into how my neighborhood was functioning with regard to crime and law enforcement. Not only do these updates give me the information to be safer and more aware of potential risks to safety, but I feel more connected to my community and confident that my neighborhood is becoming a safer place to live. This direct communication with citizens is something that any police, Sheriff, or public safety department could achieve by implementing a subscription process that allows key communicators to reach a target audience of stakeholders.

2. Stories from Animal Control and Animal Rescue agencies animal1
Who doesn’t love stories about adorable dogs and cats? Some of the most visited sites on the web like Buzzfeed, Huffington Post and Reddit have been attracting explosive traffic for years using cute cat videos and stories about rescued puppies to lure people to land on their site and continue to click through to more pages. Why not harness these techniques to drive increased numbers of adopted animals and donations to local shelters in your community? Oakland County, Michigan began seeing an increase in adoption rates after their animal services team started communicating through email and social media about stories of pets waiting for homes.  San Diego County features a pet of the week update to people subscribed to their County News topic that often attracts hundreds of views in less than an hour, which is often more visits than the typical animal in a shelter gets in an entire day.  The City of Louisville, Kentucky created Paw Personals, a weekly newsletter from Animal Services with playful descriptions of animals waiting for homes to help alleviate overcrowding in shelters through more adoptions. If your animal services team is not communicating regularly to drive action, it might be time to think about how to incorporate the story of local animals into your regular messages to the public.

3. Stories from Health and Human Services organizations health1

Valuable health and safety communications often travel from public health organizations to hospitals and health providers to then disseminate to patients and visitors, but what about the residents who aren’t visiting health care providers regularly? How do they get the information they need to keep themselves and their families healthy? In Minnesota, we frequently deal with extreme cold, so this winter, the Minnesota Department of Health sent out extreme cold safety videos in multiple languages to hundreds of at risk residents, helping to increase the visibility of cold weather shelter programs. In Arizona, Maricopa County automatically alerts citizens if air quality levels reach a point that might be dangerous to residents in certain areas, keeping citizens with respiratory concerns safer. King County Public Health offers personalized SMS/text message updates on how residents can learn more about enrolling in health care by attending events in their neighborhoods. These are the awesome types of stories that can be shared with the public to demonstrate your organization’s commitment to health.  If your organization’s goals for this year include a focus on increased citizen well-being through health education and outreach, start by building a community of engaged stakeholders to connect with regularly through a multichannel communication approach, and share what you’re doing to keep them healthier.

When I talk with GovDelivery clients about setting their communication plans for this year, I often encourage them to think outside the box when it comes to the types of information they’ll be sending to their stakeholders. Where are the untold stories of your organization? What types of successes could be shared on a regular basis? Chances are, you won’t have to look far to find them.

Which messages coming from the public sector made the greatest impact in 2013? What topics saw increased interest from the public? Which government organizations reached more people than ever by networking with their peers?

Our year-in-review digital communications reports take a look at the 6 billion messages sent out by government organizations to sum up some of the best in public sector communications. In 2013, over 1,000 government organizations directly reached more than 60 million people (that’s 20 million more people than last year) through digital communications. Take a look at the sneak peek below of some of the top messages sent to these millions of people or check out the full reports hereInfographic sneak peek

State and Local Trending TopicsIn state and local government messages, the outdoors, legislature, local employers, and energy effi­ciency were hot topics among people signing up to receive information from organizations.

Federal Citizen/Customer EngagementAmong federal agency communications, the Securities & Exchange Commission, FoodSafety.gov, Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Justice, and the Veterans Health Administration saw some of the highest message engagement with their constituents.

UK & Europe Messages that the Public SharedIn UK and Europe communications, vehicle taxes and recalls, Mars, energy efficiency, and weather related messages were shared the most by the public with their friends.

Want to see more trends from public sector communicators and their audiences in 2013? Check out our infographics page for the full reports: http://bit.ly/GD-infographics.

A recent Guardian article highlights how local authorities are ideally placed to improve citizens’ lives through proactive public engagement. This article focuses specifically on smoking cessation and how local authorities have diverse resources that enable them to both protect children from the harms of tobacco and encourage smokers to quit.

The article focuses on five approaches local authorities might use to support smoking cessation, from backing anti-smoking legislation to providing support services. However, local authorities can apply these useful tips to any programme, be it public safety, public health or virtually any public service. Of the approaches listed by the article authors, a quick win with long-term impact is the implementation of (anti-smoking) campaigns and marketing strategies. By promoting the benefits of smoking cessation and raising awareness of council services, local authorities can encourage smokers to quit and protect children from starting the habit. As communications teams cross-promote local with national campaigns (i.e., “Stoptober” and the “New Year Quit”), the public is engaged at multiple touch points.

Local authorities and central government organisations understand that when it comes to public health, proactive and targeted communication campaigns can improve public health and safety by raising awareness, preventing illness, and informing the public. To ensure their campaigns are successful, government organisations are establishing performance measures to evaluate their communications efforts.

But how can local government evaluate programmes and demonstrate results?

In Stearns County, Minnesota, the Sheriff’s Office was looking for new ways to engage and raise public awareness related to crime prevention. One of the essential resources the Sheriff’s Office expanded upon was making it easier for the public to submit tips. Stearns County partnered with GovDelivery to simplify the tip submission process and to better market the service. Whether using a computer or a mobile device, people who had signed up to receive updates from the Sheriff’s Office would receive an email from the Sheriff that would highlight submitting a tip through different channels (phone, email, or a Web form). Just thirteen minutes after sending their inaugural message, the Sheriff’s office received a tip via email from a subscriber. A simple message format with a clear, engaging call to action has allowed the Sheriff’s Office to increase crime prevention, empower the public, and decrease crime rates. Learn more about Stearns County’s efforts here.

With regards to health, cutting-edge government organisations at a national and local level are using email, text, and social media to promote public health and better living. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is also using GovDelivery to conduct direct outreach and marketing to support its smoking cessation program, BeTobaccoFree.gov. The Department is currently reaching 26,000 people with messages around additional resources and programs to help interested parties stop smoking.

These examples demonstrate the power government has when it comes to promoting public health and safety. Local authorities should be harnessing their communications resources to enhance public safety, public health, improve services, and engage (and empower) the public. Establishing measurable results not only bolsters public trust and saves funds, but can dramatically improve public health and safety programme outcomes.

No matter how hard I try, I can’t help but be a fan of reality competition shows. Dancing with the Stars, The Voice, Big Brother…you name it, I’ll probablyYoung girl in living room with flat screen television admit to watching it. The “secret sauce” in these shows that makes them so addicting for me is the component of audience participation. On Dancing with the Stars, I can send a SMS/text message to keep my favorite celebrity dancing another week. On The Voice, I can send a tweet within only a few minute window to “instant save” a contestant from the chopping block. On Big Brother, I can check a box on a web form to say what house guests will eat for a week if they lose a competition. The idea that I can directly participate in the show, often in real time, makes it enjoyable and exciting for me.

The entertainment industry isn’t the only place that fosters more and more audience participation. Retailers like Modcloth have a “Be the Buyer” program that lets consumers vote on which clothes should be sold on their website, Doritos features fan filmed commercials as their Super Bowl ads, and brands across industries have social media teams to engage with stakeholders’ complaints, questions, comments, and more around the clock.

So it’s no surprise that when citizens interact with government organizations, they have different expectations than 20 or even 10 years ago.  Technology and participatory marketing are a part of everyday life—that trend has changed expectations for the public sector. If citizens can send a text message to keep their favorite celebrity dancing on TV another week, why can’t they send an SMS or email to alert their cities of a pothole? If they can check an airline app for their flight status, why can’t they do the same for their hunting license status? As technology continues to permeate every area of citizens’ lives, both personal and professional, expectations for citizen to government interactions are shifting.

So how do you not only accommodate these expectations, but do so in a way that fosters a better citizen experience with your government organization?

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Featured Speaker: Ruthbea Clarke

We’re hosting a webinar on January 28 at 12 p.m. CST featuring Ruthbea Clarke, Research Director of the global Smart Cities Strategies program at IDC Government Insights, to address this idea of building a successful citizen engagement strategy using digital communications technology. Ruthbea will provide quick tips that public sector organizations can use to achieve greater citizen engagement and subsequently, satisfaction.

You can register for the Citizen Engagement in the Digital Era webinar here. In the meantime, if you have any tips to share about how your organization (or maybe just your favorite competition show if you’ll admit to it too!) is fostering audience engagement, write in the comments below.

GovDelivery client King County, Washington recently kicked off a new mobile communications initiative to spread the word about their healthcare offerings and services. Here is a guest post from King County on how text messaging is helping the organization reach more people. 

An innovative new texting program is making it a little easier to find in-person help with the Washington Healthplanfinder website.

It takes time — and some comfort with online shopping — to navigate the Healthplanfinder website, where residents can compare plans and enroll. For people who’ve had trouble with the website, or are unable to get online, King County has trained more than 600 in-person assisters, real people who can help folks make tough decisions about insurance.

Some King County residents are already receiving texts about health enrollment help in their area. Text King plus your zip code to 468311.

Some King County residents are already receiving texts about health enrollment help in their area. Text King plus your zip code to 468311.

Now, King County residents can use text messages to meet up with one of those in-person assisters.

People can text “KING” plus their zip code to 468311 and get information about opportunities for help in their area. For instance, this weekend, the Healthplanfinder Mobile Enrollment Tour is visiting Kent (Saturday, 2-5 pm). If someone in Kent can’t make it during those hours, they might text “KING 98032″ to 468311. This person will get additional upcoming times and locations where they can find assistance in Kent – all sent directly to their phones.

Someone who lives in Capitol Hill might text “KING 98122″ and receive times and locations for Central Seattle.

A similar idea proved valuable to connect people with a nearby flu-shot during the 2009 pandemic flu scare in California.

Subscribers get a text message each time there’s a nearby enrollment opportunity — so a secondary benefit is getting that occasional reminder to sign-up for insurance.

The program isn’t just about convenience either – it’s about equity. Young, low-income people of color use text messaging more than any other demographic. These people are also a lot more likely to be uninsured, and they’re the people the Affordable Care Act can help the most. Where the Internet and traditional media fall short, text messaging fills in the blanks.

The program is currently offered in English, but a Spanish version will be available by the end of the year.

Other health jurisdictions, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, are offering text message programs, but none this robust.

“This program, like any good text message program, is designed to provide customized, valuable information that will encourage people to take action,” said Public Health – Seattle & King County Public Information Officer Hilary Karasz, who has spent several years studying text messages as a tool for public health practice.

Congratulations to Carl Haggerty for winning the Leadership Excellence award from the Guardian’s Public Leaders Network! Haggerty is the Digital Communications Manager at GovDelivery client, Devon County Council. He champions and develops the digital agenda within the council and oversees the council’s corporate web presence and intranet. We were lucky to have him as one of the featured speakers at last week’s annual UK Digital Communications Event, Reaching More People.

The Guardian featured an article on Carl last month describing his merits that won him the Leadership Excellence award:

“The award goes to Haggerty for his energy and openness in building on his belief that local government should be both open and digital, and for his work in a part of the country – rural south-west England – not always renowned for its innovation. Haggerty… is responsible for developing ways to engage and involve local people and encourage greater democratic and community participation”.

Carl’s energy for building an open and digital local government was evident in his presentation at “Reaching More People” where he spoke about the current state of local government. While organisations are facing the challenges of moving to digital services, Carl also said there’s a huge opportunity right now in public sector communications. “We still have a huge role to play in terms of providing public information”, Carl said. Ensuring that communications are designed with a “user-driven” mentality is one of the top priorities in the changing digital landscape.

In his presentation, he noted, “There’s a shift for us to think about how we really focus on user needs not just assuming that someone turns up on a council’s home page and then starts there and navigates through some kind of glorious organisational structure. But actually it’s about putting the user first and the organisation is kind of irrelevant in that point. If we have a role to play to provide public information we should do it. If we have a role to provide a service we should do it. And if we have a clear role to provide information and advice that help people find services in their local community we should do it”.

Carl reviewed three main principles that are “reusable” across organisations for communicating with audiences. Communications should be:

  • User-driven and evidence based
  • Targeted and personalised
  • Digital by Design

ReusablePrinciples

The idea of moving to a self-service, self-help communications strategy is one that Devon County Council has been successfully putting into practice. If you’d like to hear more from Carl and his tips on developing an “open by default, digital by design” government communications strategy watch his presentation here.

Congratulations to Carl on the award and an engaging presentation last week! You can follow Carl or the Devon County Council on Twitter or visit the council’s website to learn more about what they are doing to improve their digital agenda.

Achieving cost savings, citizen engagement, and more effective services in their communities

2013 was a transformative year for the adoption of innovative technology in government. And some GovDelivery clients were at the forefront of these technology movements. Last week, Government Technology announced the winners of the 2013 Digital Cities awards. Coordinated by the Center for Digital Government (CDG), this is the thirteenth year that local governments across the United States were recognized for “progress on information and communication technology practices made over the past year, return on investment, and a city’s demonstrated ability to innovate and leverage creative practices” (GovTech).

Achieving a high return on investment through digitization of services has been a growing theme in the local government market. Todd Sander, the executive director for the CDG said, “Cities that are investing in technology are seeing huge cost savings that are critical to operations and their ability to meet higher demand for services. These cities are true innovators and we applaud them as they work in the spirit of collaboration to provide extraordinary value to constituents, despite budget setbacks.”

Many cities and counties are putting time and effort to building innovative online services, but those services aren’t as impactful if people don’t use them because they don’t know about them. Outbound communications are critical to driving usage and engagement of these digital services.

One of the winning cities, GovDelivery client the City of Palo Alto, Calif. is using technology to drive key city projects, like: “PaloAlto311, the city’s online reporting site for infrastructure issues, and its web platform for near real-time notifications on city permits” (GovTech). Palo Alto also uses GovDelivery’s digital communications platform to increase digital outreach and awareness around other key city projects, including the Zero Waste initiative. The Zero Waste initiative ensures the city can continue to conserve resources and minimize paper waste. Palo Alto maximizes the impact of the Zero Waste program with electronic communications to promote these important city initiatives, such as safe recycling of old documents through document shredding events. Find more information on the Palo Alto Zero Waste initiative here.

PaloAltoEmailPaloAltoWebPalo Alto is one example of many local government organizations making the most of digital outreach and technology for the benefit of their stakeholders. We at GovDelivery are so excited to congratulate Palo Alto and a number of our other clients on their hard-earned awards!

Congratulations to GovDelivery Clients:

250,000 or more population category:

2nd — Louisville, Ky.

3rd — Riverside, Calif.

9th — Baltimore

10th — Raleigh, N.C.

125,000 – 249,999 population category:

7th — Tacoma, Wash.

Less than 75,000 population category:

1st — Palo Alto, Calif.

2nd — Fayetteville, Ark.

7th — Auburn, Wash.

For the full list of 2013 Digital City Winners or to find out how your organization can be nominated for an award next year, visit here.

How a Police Department established an online following more than eight times the size of their city’s population

Brimsfield OH Police

It’s not every day that a small police department makes an impact in their community and across the world through digital communications, but that’s exactly what’s happening in Brimfield, Ohio. The Brimfield Police Department (PD) has a city population of only 10,000 people, and yet their Facebook page has nearly 89,000 likes. That means that an audience more than eight times the size of the town is engaged in the day-to-day communications of the local police force. This robust social media following is causing a wider effect on the town with housing up 30 percent over last year at this time. Digital communication is putting this small town, and their police department, on the map. That’s the kind of success any government communications team would dream about.

So how can you replicate the success of the Brimfield PD through your digital communications plan for social media, email messages, website updates and more? After comparing a recent interview with Brimfield police chief David Oliver with our own government clients’ communication success stories we think we have it narrowed down to three key communication principles: be consistent, be relevant and be engaging.

Be Consistent

The message I’ve always said is if you’re going to do it, do it. You have to be consistent — and we are. Between 6:30 and 7 a.m., we have a good morning message with weather and traffic and we poke fun at people with birthdays. People rely on it. If I miss it, you see the messages — “Where’s the chief today? Can’t go on without the message.” It’s been comical on that end. But the expectation of our followers has built quite a relationship. Our followers know that good news or bad news, we’re going to tell you the truth.

One of the keys to any digital communications strategy is consistency. The Brimfield PD has a social media schedule that they stick to every day. They post entertaining “good morning” messages with daily updates about the town. The police chief also posts up-to-date information with the latest news (good or bad) from the police department.

The positive impact of consistent content scheduling is clear: by posting frequently on social media, sending out regular newsletters, or routinely updating online content, your followers will know exactly when and where to expect information from you—increasing the odds that they will see your messages. Additionally, by consistently updating these digital channels you provide more opportunities to drive traffic to your website and your information.

Be Relevant

I think like a citizen instead of like a police chief. After almost 20 years on this job, one of the things I see are public officials who tend to think from the perspective of their responsibilities instead of thinking about Mrs. Jones on Breyerwood Lane who wants to know why she’s hearing sirens. If a huge crash delays traffic, I can post what to use as a detour. We’re becoming an information-now society. People don’t want to wait until the 6 p.m. news and chances are it won’t be there anyway. When you tell people what happened or what’s going on, it gives them a sense that everything is okay.

The Brimfield PD is giving their followers timely information that they look for from a police department. They also pepper in some humor to keep the content fresh and interesting. They know “Mrs. Jones on Breyerwood Lane” wants to know the scoop on local police-related disturbances, so that’s what they provide.

Government organizations, like Brimfield PD, have the benefit of being able to offer information no one else can. When you are writing online content, think about what your unique information is in relation to what your audience might be looking for. And don’t forget to reference any and all analytics you can get your hands on to ensure you’re broadcasting the messages that are relevant to your audience’s actual needs and interests—not just what you think their needs and interests are. One of the great tools GovDelivery provides in its digital communication management tool is the option to allow subscribers to pick the categories and topics they are most interested in learning about. Data like this can help set the stage for the theme of updates this audience is most interested in.

Be Engaging

…All of this has helped the community understand that we’re a team. If we’re going to reduce crime, the people have to be willing participants. People have become very protective of the department, and that’s huge for us. Some people use the private message function to leave a tip or to tell us about a nuisance in their neighborhood. We wanted to have any means of communication available so our department is the most functional operation it can be. I think the paradigm is shifting a little bit toward using social media as an outreach tool rather than just picking up the phone to call the police department.

The Brimfield PD is using digital communication as a two-way street. Getting their message heard is vital to the Brimfield PD’s mission, but hearing from their community is an important component to that mission.  Instead of just spewing out facts, they are encouraging interaction with the community by allowing members to leave a tip in a Facebook message or starting a conversation.

By encouraging your stakeholders to not only listen, but talk back, you provide an opportunity to build a relationship. Another police force, Stearns County’s Sheriff’s Office, embedded multiple options for citizens to submit tips to the Sheriff in all their email communications with County residents.

Through social media posts, email messages, blog comments, website forums and more—you can provide an opportunity for your audience to participate in your mission. Just don’t forget to broadcast those engagement opportunities out to your stakeholders.

Learn More

You may not be able to amass an online community on the same scale that Brimfield has overnight, but the basis of their marketing strategy is something that can be applied to any local, or broader, government organization to improve outreach and citizen engagement. Just remember to keep your digital content consistent, relevant and engaging and you are well on your way to developing a more robust relationship with your stakeholders.

If you’re looking for further reading on digital communications in the public sector, take a look at our white paper on integrating social media in government communications here. And if you have any suggestions, comments or questions about successful digital marketing tactics you’ve seen in government, comment below!

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