A blog about digital government, communications, citizen satisfaction & engagement, GovDelivery, and other e-government issues
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Social media seems so easy. Getting a social media presence going is as simple as setting up an account and starting to post or tweet. It’s tempting to hire someone to get started – and check off that ‘social media’ box in e-government initiatives.

But this approach results in isolated social media outposts that don’t deliver the broad benefits that public sector organisations hope to see from new channels.

Measuring your returns

Any technology initiative in government, including social media, has to pass a litmus test: does it deliver a value for the taxpayer’s investment? It needs to either cut costs or improve service to citizens. And when efforts are isolated, it’s difficult to identify or prove their effect.

For example, does your social media presence reduce inbound calls? Deliver insight into citizen opinions?  Streamline or replace paper processes? Increase your reach to citizens?

Social media efforts are often isolated

In the private sector, marketing organisations have been the big adopters of social media. Corporations have been shifting marketing budgets from traditional channels to social media and other digital channels.

But even the corporate marketers are struggling. A recent CMO Survey by Duke University Fuqua School of Business indicates that while marketing organisations are increasing their spending on social media, these efforts are not well integrated into marketing communications.

 Source: The CMO Survey, cmosurvey.org, February 2013, Highlights and Insights, Figure 5.2]

On a scale of 1 to 7, the CMOs on average rate themselves a 3.4 in terms of integration of social media in marketing strategy. More surprising, this number has remained steady over the past couple of years, while the spending on social media has increased.

The importance of integration

In her recent paper “Integrating Social Media in Government Communications,” government communication analyst and blogger Liz Azyan suggests that the real, measurable benefits of social media come when you integrate it in broader campaigns. The paper gathers examples of government agencies using creative, cross-channel campaigns to improve service to citizens, including:

  • Proactively communicating with citizens over Twitter and Facebook about traffic, weather, and emergency issues
  • Using text messages or Tweets to alert people to updates available on a website
  • Collaborating with citizens in social media channels to improve public safety and identify rioters
  • Supporting and training volunteers helping within their own communities

In each of these cases, social media is part of a broader communication strategy.  To read more about integrating social media in digital strategies, download the paper.

Collaboration, customer service, and mobile communications top the list of trends important to state and local governments in 2013, according to results of a GovDelivery survey of more than 400 individuals in U.S. state, county and city government organizations.

Improvements to the three trends can help state and local governments fulfill their core missions more efficiently:

  • Better collaboration increases efficiency.
  • Better customer service through increased engagement with citizens and stakeholders results in organizations fulfilling their missions.
  • Expanded use of mobile devices helps government organizations reduce their costs while enhancing productivity, collaboration, and customer service.

There is overlap in these trends. An initiative to better interact with citizens through text messaging, mobile-optimized websites with self-service options, and integrated digital communications can address all three objectives of improving customer service, supporting mobility and improving collaboration.

Survey respondents identified the top priorities from a list of potential trends including today’s hot topics, such as big data, cloud computing and cybersecurity. Respondents were asked to look at these trends through three filters:

  • Trends taking center stage in 2013 (affecting their agencies and others)
  • Trends directly affecting their own work
  • Trends that their organizations were already addressing

While there are differences between state, county and city government responses, all levels of government shared the top three trends overall:

  • Collaboration with other agencies and with citizens
  • Citizen/customer service
  • Mobility and bring your own device (BYOD)

statechartFollowing is a brief summary of each top trend presented in a white paper about the survey that is available for download.

Collaboration is Critical

Collaboration tops the list in the trends taking center stage for most state and local agencies in 2013. The question was framed to include collaboration with other government organizations as well as citizens.

Social media use is increasing within the private sector so it comes as no surprise that citizens want to collaborate with their local governments on social media and other channels such as interacting with government organizations using their own devices.

Most of the surveyed individuals said that collaboration affected their jobs directly and that their agencies are already addressing this trend. Nevertheless, there is room for improvement, as reported in the white paper.

When asked if they use social media to find information that affects their own jobs and organizations, just over half of respondents said yes. Particularly in county governments, many respondents are not yet making use of social media for collaborative purposes.

In 2013, expect state and local government organizations to expand their use of digital technologies in support of collaboration:

  • Supporting collaboration with other agencies and citizens through pervasive social media channels
  • Cross-promoting programs and communications with other agencies through websites and digital technologies
  • Using dedicated communities and channels for inter-agency collaboration.

Customer Service is a Top Priority

For state and city government respondents, the top trend identified as affecting their own jobs and as being addressed by government was citizen/customer service. For county governments, citizen/customer service ranked second behind collaboration.

City governments have made the greatest strides in using social media to share news and information from their organizations. This is positive, as communication with customers is the first critical stage of customer service for many organizations.

Email and text messaging are other important channels for improving service through communications. Letting citizens subscribe to the information they need helps government agencies communicate more effectively and thus, serve the public more effectively.

In 2013, expect broader adoption of both social media and other digital channels in support of customer service initiatives across all branches of government.

Embracing Mobile Government

Expanding the use of mobile devices and phones is a major concern for government organizations at all levels. Internally, many employees want to use their own devices to access applications and data. Externally, citizens and constituents are embracing mobile technologies and mobile applications at a rapid pace creating new opportunities for government agencies to engage with citizens.

Enabling mobile access to government systems provides an opportunity to engage citizens and improves productivity while reducing government coststo provision devices to employees and contractors.

The rapid growth in mobile adoption may be outpacing some government efforts. While about half of the survey respondents listed mobile/BYOD as a top trend, fewer said that their agencies are actually addressing the issue.

Getting a handle on mobile and personal devices is a top priority for state and local government organizations:

  • Externally, government organizations need to find ways to engage with citizens and constituents on their mobile devices, whether on dedicated government mobile applications and mobile-optimized websites or through email and text messaging.
  • Internally, government organizations need to develop policies around using personal devices and security protections for their most vital systems. Mobile devices and applications can help employees be more responsive and collaborative with their colleagues and others. As the demand for higher customer satisfaction grows in the public sector, so will the need for mobile devices.

Download the white paper for more details about the survey results.

Everyday 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data are created (IBM: What is Big Data?). The increasing development of mobile technologies makes this data creation even easier by allowing us to search, upload, Tweet, photograph, and produce content from almost anywhere in the world at any time. With all this new, exciting data constantly surrounding us, it’s easy to miss out on the important information government has available.

Information is one of government’s most valuable resources, and there’s a lot of it to go around. But with most of this information sitting in large data sets that are spread across a wide variety of websites, the challenge becomes ensuring that the right people are seeing the right information.

mobile people

According to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, “By the end of 2013 there will be more mobile devices on Earth than people.” Clearly, the growth of mobile devices is not slowing down. For government, this new mobile market provides an opportunity to expand outreach through digital communications and allows citizens to engage with government in a way that’s convenient for them.

The use of mobile apps is one way your government organization can leverage the growth and dependence on mobile technology. Organizations can publish their most valuable information, acting as guides by providing online resources and websites. In fact, this is already being done by many government organizations. For example, the U.S. Census Bureau has embraced the new mobile market, developing its own mobile app: America’s Economy.

Upon completing the most recent census in 2010, the organization faced a significantly smaller advertising budget. At that juncture, Steve Jost, Associate Director for Communications for the U.S Census Bureau, and his team were left questioning, “What [are we] supposed to do the other 9 years?” Looking towards digital communications, the concept of a mobile app was developed.

America’s Economy provides real-time updates for 16 key economic indicators including unemployment rate, homeownership rates, and gross domestic product. The app tracks increases and decreases in the various indicators and creates ongoing trend reports. The app also provides detailed descriptions of what each indicator represents in addition to any news releases surrounding them. Clicking on these “features” automatically redirects the user to a Web page filled with the desired information and provides the user with an opportunity to explore other information.

America's Economy

During the 2012 GovDelivery Washington D.C. Webcast, Jost referred to the Census Bureau’s new mobile app as “part of a strategy” to “marry” the traditional universe with the digital universe.  He said that “by creating an app, a direct linkage [is formed] from one’s mobile device to the data available on our website.” This direct linkage encourages more people to view website content that they may not have normally viewed.

The U.S. Census Bureau is just one of the many government organizations capitalizing on the new mobile market. Having a mobile app provides another means for  your organization to better serve your customers. Whether it’s a mobile app or designing a mobile-friendly website for your customers, embracing the mobile shift and exploring the opportunities that accompany it are critical for continuing the success of government’s digital communications efforts.

To hear Steve Jost and other leading government innovators discuss their digital communications strategies check out this video from GovDelivery’s 2012 Washington D.C. Event.

More collaboration, better customer service, and expanded use of mobile devices and applications are top trends for federal government agencies in 2013. The trends are intertwined. Mobile devices/apps make information available 24/7 and increase interaction between customers and agencies and between agencies. The result is more collaboration and better customer service.

About 200 individuals in U.S. federal agencies identified the top 2013 trends in a GovDelivery survey. They identified the top trends from a list of hot topics, such as big data/open data, cybersecurity, budgets, technology and cloud computing.

Respondents were asked to look at the trends through three filters:

  • Trends taking center stage in 2013 (affecting their agencies and others)
  • Trends directly affecting their own work
  • Trends that their organizations are already addressing

The three trends ranked at the top of all three categories were those with the greatest impact on government productivity and effectiveness:

  • Mobility and bring your own device (BYOD)
  • Citizen/customer service
  • Collaboration with other agencies and with citizens

fedchartFollowing is a brief summary of each top trend presented in a white paper that is available for download.

Mobile Government Tops the Agenda

Mobile government/bring your own device (BYOD) tops the list of trends that respondents think will take center stage in 2013. Citizens and constituents are embracing mobile technologies and mobile apps at a rapid pace creating new opportunities for government agencies to engage with them. Mobile is an important channel for information distribution and can be critical for time-sensitive communications.

The government recognizes the importance of mobile communications. Improving citizens’ mobile access to government service is a critical part of the White House Digital Government Strategy. As part of the push to make digital government customer-focused, the strategy requires federal agencies to use mobile technologies for priority customer services.

Despite the push by the government to encourage use of mobile technologies, this is one area where agencies may be lagging in their efforts, as the white paper reports. While more than half of the respondents to the GovDelivery survey listed mobile/BYOD as a top trend, only 39 percent said their agencies are addressing this issue.

Citizen/Customer Service is Top of Mind

Citizen/customer service is one of the top trends in all three categories (broad trends, trends affecting the respondents’ own jobs, and trends already addressed within their organizations). Federal agencies want to improve service whether the customer is a taxpayer working with the IRS, a patient at the Department of Veterans Affairs, or one of the many other types of agency customers.

Communication, the first critical stage of customer service, is an area of opportunity for improved service. Yet many federal agencies are ignoring social media for relevant citizen interactions, according to the white paper, even though the White House Digital Government Strategy has a mandate to provide “customer-centric” government through the use of digital technologies. In 2013, expect federal agencies to follow their counterparts in state and local governments with expanded use of social media and other digital channels (SMS, email, self-service web, mobile apps) for customer service and citizen engagement.

Collaboration is Everyone’s Job

The top trend that respondents see affecting their own work is the trend toward collaboration, both with other government organizations and with citizens. They expect an increase in the use of digital communications to support collaboration, both inter-agency and with the public.

For example, collaboration with citizens often takes place on public forums utilizing social media channels. Inter-agency collaboration can range from cross-promoting digital content and initiatives to working together behind the scenes as happens when the government responds to emergency situations. When a major weather event occurs, such as a hurricane, federal agencies communicate internally and with state and local agencies.

Fueling collaboration are several converging trends, including:

  • Widely available digital tools and technologies that enable new levels of collaboration
  • The demand for increased productivity and efficiency with existing budgets
  • A new generation of individuals entering the workforce with collaborative work practices

Agencies will need to identify and implement appropriate technologies and policies/processes for managing digital communications and will need to consider security and accessibility issues.

Download the white paper for full survey details and analysis.

We’ve been writing about ‘channel shift’ in government for some time. The benefits of using new digital channels for citizen communications are clear – the Cabinet Office expects the UK government to realise savings of 1.2 billion pounds sterling by 2015 through its Government Digital Strategy.

gov bubble So, what’s holding us up?

It takes more than time and technology

It’s tempting to see the channel shift issue as an issue of technology and resources.  Hire a webmaster to build a better website.  Hire someone to post things on social media.  Send a few emails.  Watch the savings pile up and the citizens rejoice.

If only it were so simple.  To deliver a measurable return for agency investments, ‘channel shift’ strategies have to overcome several common obstacles in government organisations.

Decentralised, isolated efforts

For many agencies, the biggest cultural challenge is getting around isolated pockets of efforts and communications.  You might hire someone to do Twitter, for example, or maintain a Facebook page that operates on its own, without being part of an integrated strategy to improve service levels.

The result of this approach is isolated ‘silos’ of data that make it difficult to reengage citizens across your multiple channels.  This can actually increase your costs (through duplication of efforts) and limit the impact of your online strategies.

Shifting models of engagement with citizens

Government entities face an internet-adept generation of citizens that expects a certain level of real-time communications and interactive relationships with government.

In her paper “Digital Communications and Channel Shift in Government,” government communications analyst Liz Azyan discusses the challenges of adapting to these changing citizen expectations:

“Citizen engagement with the new socially informed generation also calls for two-way dialog.  Governments are shifting their view of citizens as consumers and allowing citizens to become contributors in the development of government. ”

Learn from the successes of others

How do you identify and address cultural obstacles?  Learning from others is one good way. This blog can be a resource for sharing successes in digital government organisations. And at GovDelivery, we sponsor research and ongoing analysis into what works and what doesn’t.

As part of those efforts, we’re making available a series of white papers by Liz Azyan, a blogger and analyst that specialises in government digital communications. The first of these papers addresses the cultural issues behind channel shift.  The paper includes examples of government agencies using digital strategies – including Twitter and Flickr photo sharing – for creative campaigns and citizen engagement. Look for inspiration and guidance – and then share your successes with us.

With sequestration officially underway, the phrase “doing more with less” carries more weight than ever before. While cuts are being made across the board, citizens’ needs remain, posing quite a challenging situation for government organizations and their communications efforts. As budgets are forced to become even tighter, budgetsorganizations are being called upon to serve the needs of citizens by thinking innovatively and creatively.

The need to innovate to solve public sector challenges is quite familiar to Phil Bertolini, CIO for Oakland County, Michigan. While struggling with decreasing revenues and budgets, Bertolini and his team found that citizens were demanding more information than ever before. They quickly realized the need to find an efficient and effective way to meet citizens’ needs while simultaneously meeting the county’s budget.

Realizing that traditional methods would not suffice, Bertolini looked elsewhere, looking to technology as a solution for Oakland County’s communications challenge. The transition to digital communications began changing the way Oakland County handled their communications. Oakland County began placing more and more information online, leveraging various social media channels to reach a larger audience much more quickly than before. Citizens now had easy access to the information they needed through a variety of convenient, online channels that provided savings in both time and resources to Oakland County.

Oakland County is not alone in this transformation. Many organizations are now turning to technology to provide more efficient solutions to increasing communication challenges. There are many other ways in which leveraging technology around your office can help your organization cut communication costs. Here are three examples of where to begin.

  • cloudcomputingWork “in the cloud”. Cloud computing refers to computing resources that are delivered on a network, (most commonly the internet). Working in the cloud reduces office storage and hardware costs because all of your information is online. Many companies, such as Google, provide a variety of cloud-computing applications that include email accounts and collaborative document sharing (GoogleDocs) in lieu of standard office software. The best part? Cloud computing allows this information to be accessed anywhere on a variety of mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and e-readers.
  • Leverage video communications. Video communications can greatly reduce the costs associated with in-person meetings and conferences, travel expenses, and phone bills. While it’s great to have everyone in the same room at the same time, it can be very costly. Videoconferencing allows everyone to maintain the critical face-to-face contact that helps facilitate communications while eliminating the many costs (travel, accommodations and food) that can result from in-person meetings. Videoconferencing also allows for an even larger number of attendees to participate in the conversation. Adapting video communications software can greatly reduce the expensive phone bills most organizations experience. Skype is one example. Skype is a cloud-based software application that allows users to communicate by voice, video, and instant messaging at no cost. Using Skype in place of phone calls (when possible) for communications between employees on a regular basis can reduce the costs associated with company phone bills.
  • going paperlessGo paperless. Think of everything that gets printed in your office a day. Flyers and printed information for your customers aside, think of just the memos, notes, forms, and contact lists alone laying around your desk. I myself can count six separate items on my desk right now. Try going paperless. For internal items, you can have scans readily accessible on your desktop. For internal communications between employees and colleagues, you can send emails with attachments to digital documents. These steps can help you reduce the costs associated with printing quickly and easily.

There are many ways to begin cutting costs around your office; it’s just a matter of where to start. Examining your organization’s most extraneous costs is a great place to start. While you may not be able to fully eliminate some of these costs, it’s fairly easy to find both short and long-term reduction strategies.

For more ideas of where to cut costs throughout your organization, check out 22 Ways to Cut Costs in Time of Sequester and watch Phil Bertolini’s video discussing Oakland County’s communication challenges.

uspsWhen the transcontinental telegraph line was completed in 1861, the Pony Express stopped sending riders galloping across the United States to deliver important messages. Change marched on. Mail transport by the railway gave way to the highways and then the airways. Of course, the internet has ushered in the digital age, and again the communications field is experiencing the impact. It should come as no surprise to anyone that a decline in mail volume prompted the United States Postal Service (USPS) to consider stopping Saturday mail delivery, with the plan only being scrapped due to a Congressional mandate that’s been around since the 1980s.

Still, it’s clear that with online bill paying, e-mail, and other electronic communications, businesses have reduced the volume of traditional print mail created and distributed. This trend of decreasing dependence on traditional mail service supports polls showing strong public support for eliminating Saturday mail delivery to help the USPS meet its financial challenges.

In a CBS News poll, 71 percent of respondents favored the delivery cuts, and in a USPS poll, 80 percent expressed support. Both polls show broad support across all age and income groups and all regions of the country. Even Democrats and Republicans are aligned on this issue with 75 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats favoring the end of Saturday mail delivery, according to the CBS poll.

It might seem surprising that senior citizens support the mail delivery cut. But the fact is they too are using digital communications in increasing numbers. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 87 percent of senior citizens use e-mail and search engines. The fastest growth for social network site usage is among users age 74 and older. Also, more older adults than ever before are watching video, listening to music, and using classified ads online. A Nielsen study  found that the favorite online activities of people 65-plus are sending and receiving e-mail, viewing maps, checking the weather and paying bills.

Other trends also indicate the importance of the public sector adopting digital methods to meet the needs of constituents. For example, searching for health information online was once most popular among older adults but now is the third most popular activity for all internet users 18 and older. The Nielsen study found key internet activities are becoming more popular across all age groups. These include:web communication

  • Emailing
  • Using search engines
  • Seeking health information
  • Getting news
  • Buying products
  • Making travel reservations or purchases
  • Doing online banking

Increased online activity and clear broad support for mail delivery cuts further support the need for the public sector to start broadly adopting digital methods of communicating with the public. But I also know that this is the “easy” answer. The Postal Service’s budgetary and service situation much more complex, which means the answer isn’t necessarily going to be as simple as “going digital.”

To this end, there are some highly innovative and invested stakeholders, entrepreneurs, and government employees working together to bring a solution to the table. The upcoming PostalVision 2020/3.0 conference in Washington, DC, currently in its third year, hopes to do just that. GovDelivery CEO and co-Founder, Scott Burns, will be speaking at the conference as well, lending his expertise on government-to-citizen digital communication efforts.

What are your thoughts on using digital communications to provide information to the public? I’d love to hear your thoughts on how the public sector can deliver better services in an increasingly digital world.

Yesterday, at just before 3 pm, bombs exploded near the finish line at Boston Marathon, often known as the world’s oldest annual marathon.

There are few words that can express the sorrow we here at GovDelivery are feeling – not just for Bostonians but for all the thousands of spectators from around the world who were in the crowd and city yesterday. While Boston may not be anywhere close to your city or town, the fact is that the Boston Marathon attracts runners from all around the world, in a spirit of sportsmanship similar to the Olympics. It’s likely you know someone who knows someone who was there. One of GovDelivery’s very own staff members was nearby during the explosion, with his daughter.

After reading about the explosions on a news website, I sent a text to my best friends in Boston to see if they were okay. Thankfully, as Bostonians, they had stayed home due to the normal disruptions of the marathon. They told me they were paying attention to television reports for updates on the developing situation, but they hadn’t received any other information. They were also following directions from the media to not use their cell phones for fear of cell phone detonation.

As a communications professional working for a communications software company focused on the public sector, I am acutely aware of how a situation like this disrupts our lives and yet, how critical it is for the public to be receiving important, official updates. Listening to the emergency responder calls on the news last night, one of the responders noted that someone needs to get on social media and let people know that the police were sweeping the area in search of other bombs and to stay inside.

In urgent and emergency situations like the Boston Marathon attack, reaching citizens and residents with information can be a matter of life and death. With clients like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), we’ve seen and partnered with government organizations to get the word out when it’s most critical. Here are three communications tips to implement quickly in any emergency:

  1. Leverage your digital properties. Social media is a great way to get the word out about an emergency situation, as Boston emergency responders noted. There’s no denying the ripple effect of social media in reaching an amazing amount of people. But people have become increasingly aware of the rumor mill on Twitter and Facebook. People still want to hear directly from you, and they’ll visit your website to find out more. Your website can hold as much information as needed. Be sure to update your organization’s websites and blogs, with prominent news placement on the home page, as soon as you can when an emergency hits.
  2. Use every communication channel you can. Your organization’s website or blog should be the main hub for information on the emergency. You can post detailed information to these digital properties, from updates on the current situation to links to other organizations that are providing help, such as the American Red Cross, to contact information for key people – either to report a tip or to try and find a loved one. But this doesn’t mean that you should ignore your other channels. During an emergency, the broader your reach, the better. Be sure to use email updates, text messages/SMS alerts, voice messages, and social media postings along with more traditional methods, such as news releases, press conferences, or media interviews, to push your messages out to the public in as many ways as possible.
  3. Communicate whenever you have an update. This seems like common sense but the truth is that, in emergency situations, the public craves information, and you want to make sure that they are receiving official information. During Hurricane Sandy, false tweets pervaded Twitter, adding to the fear of an already chaotic situation. By communicating often, with updates to your organization’s website and alerts going out via email, SMS, and social media, your organization can help provide the news that’s needed to keep the public informed and safe.

To streamline the communications process for the three tips above, offer the public options to sign up to receive updates from your organization. These updates can be via email, SMS, voice, RSS, or social media. This puts your information directly in the hands of the public. A communications platform that supports multichannel distribution with automation can be extremely helpful in times like these. Below, you can see an example from the National Guard Bureau on multichannel communications regarding the Boston Marathon attack.

Beyond handling the immediate logistics of getting people to safety and securing an area during an emergency, consistent communications in the aftermath of an attack like yesterday’s can also provide a stabilizing force.

Today, our thoughts and prayers are with those who’ve been affected by the Boston Marathon attack while we work alongside our many government partners to communicate critical information to the public.

For more information on what’s happening in Boston, visit:

 

Photo Gallery: The National Guard Bureau responds to the Boston tragedy.

Website:

National Guard Bureau-Web-Boston-Marathon

Email bulletin:

National Guard Bureau-Bulletin-Boston Marathon

News Widget:National Guard Bureau-Widget-Boston-MarathonSocial Media (Twitter & Facebook):

National Guard Bureau-Twitter-Boston-MarathonNational Guard Bureau-FB-Boston-Marathon

 

Customer service, collaboration, and mobile communications top the list of trends important to UK government in 2013, according to results of a GovDelivery survey of nearly 100 individuals.

The respondents – individuals within the UK government — identified the top trends from a list of hot topics, such as big data/open data, cybersecurity, budgets, technology and cloud computing. They were asked to identify the most important trends affecting the public sector at large and their specific jobs.

Respondents were asked to look at the trends through three filters:
    Trends taking center stage in 2013 (affecting their agencies and others)
•    Trends directly affecting their own work
    Trends that their organizations are already addressing

The three trends ranked at the top of all three categories were those with the greatest impact on government productivity and effectiveness:
•    Citizen/customer service
    Collaboration with other agencies and with citizens
•    Mobility and bring your own device (BYOD)

The top trends are related. For example, an initiative to provide citizens with the ability to subscribe to email and text messaging updates might address the three objectives of improving customer service, supporting mobility, and improving collaboration.

As a whitepaper on the survey notes, embracing digital government initiatives will be a key to improving efficiencies. By improving collaboration, digital services can help departments work more efficiently. And by streamlining communications and services for citizens, digital tools can help departments meet their objectives of improving customer service even during constrained budgets.

Following is a brief summary of each top trend presented in the white paper about the survey that is available for download.

Customer Service is the Top Priority

Customer service was the top trend identified for UK government as well as the top trend that departments were already addressing. More than two-thirds of the respondents said they were currently addressing customer service.

Digital technologies are playing a major part in how government departments are addressing customer service. The Government Digital Strategy published by the Cabinet Office calls for government organizations to embrace digital services to constituents.

About half of respondents said their departments use social media to communicate with citizens, which leaves room for improvement.

Given the focus on digital government, expect to see the increasing adoption of social media, email, web and other digital channels to improve communications with constituents, such as:
•    Expanding awareness of and participation in services
    Raising the profile of community development projects
    Communicating public safety alerts
    Cross-promoting programs and topics across departments and channels
    Allowing customers to subscribe to updates using the channels of their choice (text messaging, email, RSS feeds, etc.)

Collaboration is the New Imperative

Collaboration is needed with other government entities, between departments and levels, and with citizens. The emphasis on collaboration is due in part to resource constraints, as collaboration should improve efficiency.

The Government Digital Strategy suggests using digital tools and techniques to engage with and consult the public by creating plans to listen to and understand conversations in social media, using the insight gained to inform the policy-making process and to collaborate more effectively with partners.

As the white paper notes, there is a difference between passive listening and active collaboration. As the government seeks to solicit citizen input on policies and services, they will need to expand their use of digital channels, including:
•    Interacting on existing social media communities already widely used by customers
    Using dedicated online communities for stakeholders
    Creating other digital channels with citizens to streamline information exchanges and knowledge sharing

Mobile Government

Given the increased use of mobile devices and applications by the public, it’s not surprising that mobile government is the third most important trend affecting UK government.

Within government, employees are increasingly using mobile devices to access government sites and applications. Externally, more citizens are accessing government services and information using mobile devices.

Of survey respondents, 42 percent said a more mobile government would affect their jobs, yet only 32 percent said their departments were addressing the issue.

In 2013, expect that UK government organizations will find new ways to interact with citizens over digital channels, including Twitter, text messaging, and mobile-accessible websites. Government departments will look for ways to integrate transactional messaging and services over digital channels.

Download the white paper for more details and analysis.

By Lance Horne, General Manager, GovDelivery Federal Team

talking bubbleNo one thought it would happen. If you look back at all the news stories and interviews, no one in the Federal government believed that sequestration would actually happen. But here we are, and it’s clear that sequestration is making an impact. In my last post, I focused on employee communications during sequestration, focusing on how important it is to keep the lines of communication open for your staff. Now, more than ever, being a leader is as much about communicating effectively as it is about vision and strategy.

In today’s post, I want to focus on a different kind of communication: government-to-citizen communication. In the wake of sequestration, I’m pretty sure your agency may have already had a few encounters with confused citizens over what will be cut from the budget – and how it will affect them. And rightfully so. Generally speaking, people are aware that there will be budget cuts. Deep down, people probably realize there’s a possibility that their particular program may be subject to cutbacks. The biggest challenge is how to talk with citizens and stakeholders and keep them updated about what’s going on.

But, in spite of all the challenges that sequestration poses, I believe it’s possible to gain exceptional reach and value with digital communications components that drive efficiency in the face of furloughed employees and funding shortfalls.

Yesterday I talked about how the cuts may be sporadic, and I used the example of national parks. With summer right around the corner, people are likely planning vacations and may be considering visits to parks. Keeping them informed becomes crucial to keeping them satisfied, allowing them to plan their vacations better. They may not be happy with park closures, but they will be more satisfied knowing ahead of time rather than showing up to the park and not being able to get in.

In an age when new information can go viral in a matter of minutes, your agency is competing for public attention on a variety of devices.  To keep people informed, you need to manage multichannel digital communications – email, text messaging, social media and more – in one system. Having a digital communication system in place at a time like this can save your agency lots of time while continuing to keep customers informed and satisfied.

In our work with more than 550 government organizations worldwide, we tell our customers that you need to have a digital communication management system that can help you dramatically increase your direct connections with the public. By maximizing your direct connections with the public, when you need to relay important information that will impact a citizen’s life, you can do so immediately through multiple channels.

I gave one example of parks earlier, but there are additional situations where an efficient communication strategy is critical. Hurricane season starts in June, and it’s plausible that sequestration could still be in full effect at that time. For an organization like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), sequestration cuts may mean that there are fewer resources to meet the agency’s mission of preparedness. Yet, FEMA’s goal isultimately to keep America’s citizens safe, and this isn’t something the agency can bend on. In emergency situations, effective government-to-citizen communications are lifesaving. Even with sequestration cuts, relaying critical information is simply not an area that should be eliminated.

In addition, collaborative digital communication tools can be extremely helpful. By using a collaborative forum, you might be able to strengthen your relationship with the public by being able to gather feedback and create dialogue with citizens in an environment that’s more secure than a social network. By creating collaborative communities, you can create secure, virtual communities that encourage higher levels of engagement. Not only do you provide information, but you can monitor and respond to feedback easily. Plus, you’ll be able to publish content quickly to as many, or as few, people you desire.

I’d like to hear about what you’re doing in your agency to effectively communicate with the public during sequestration. What have you tried that works? Are you forming communities? Have you found other ways to keep citizens informed? Please share what you think is working.

Read my first post, Don’t Sequester Your Agency from Employees During Sequestration.

To get the FREE EBOOK, Leveraging Digital Communications In Emergencies, click here.

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