A blog about digital government, communications, citizen satisfaction & engagement, GovDelivery, and other e-government issues
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Our digital communications tour is in full swing! Over the last month we’ve visited Oakland, CA and Austin, TX, sparking conversations on the value of technology, outreach, and communications in government, as well as strategies to increase that value. We’ve hosted many innovative, successful speakers, from private sector thought leaders with successful social media start-ups to public sector communicators like yourselves working in state, city, and county government. Our speakers have presented on trends, strategies and tactics to connect with more stakeholders and inspire them to take action – online or offline – to drive mission value. tx-tour-14

But the tour isn’t over! In April, we’ll be taking our tour to three more cities, Raleigh, NC and Washington, D.C., before hosting our final stop in St. Paul, MN. If you haven’t already, make sure to register for the event in your city today, space is limited!

One of the best parts of the digital communications tour is the opportunity to listen to what other government communicators have to say about recent trends and what takeaways they find most important. Rather than synthesize those conversations into our own words, check out some of the snippets from Twitter during our last two tour stops and make sure to follow along with the hashtag: #GovD14.

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Interested in attending an event in your city? Visit our registration pages for more information:

As consumers, we expect smooth and simple experiences from online retailers. In many cases, the same expectations occur in government. Federal and local governments have an opportunity to meet and exceed these expectations by using digital communications technology to its fullest potential.

The Presidential memorandum, “Digital Government: Building a 21st Century Platform to Better Serve the American People,” issued a pledge in May of 2012 to modernize digital technology in the public sector by March of 2013 as a result of rising citizen expectations along with a series of budget cuts that affected government customer service centers.

There is progress being made across individual government agencies that are making efforts to implement more effective communication technologies. MichiganDHS

The Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) was recently faced with a challenge—poor economic conditions were increasing the load on its caseworkers, who provide financial, medical, heating, and food assistance through a system of about 100 offices distributed throughout the state. There was an influx of requests for assistance, and its current communications technology couldn’t handle it.

The organization was forced to innovate. Using cloud technology and modern customer management software, Michigan DHS developed an integrated voice-recognition service to increase the load its online system could manage.

Since then, the voice-recognition system has processed almost half a million phone calls without any caseworker involvement. Calls usually take an average of 5 minutes each, equating to several thousand hours being saved each month. Over 180,000 online applications have been received without the need for people to physically visit the office. These simple innovations have freed up caseworkers to focus on important tasks that require human attention, and give the Michigan DHS more resources to allocate wherever they might be needed. These improvements have actually let the Michigan DHS expand its operations.

The Michigan DHS didn’t do anything magical to enhance its communications system. Other public sector institutions can follow its success by making use of the 3 golden rules of customer service.

1) Optimize the technology that is being used. Cloud computing has become a great choice for high-quality services at a relatively low price, and according to a report from October 2013, about half of state and local governments are starting or planning to use the cloud. Out of these, 70% say they plan to use it for web applications; 60% say they’ll use it for cloud storage; and 40% say they’ll use it for email.

2) Offer good service. The public sector may never match the private sector when it comes to online user experience, but a good interface is really all that is needed. The key here is being able to resolve a citizen’s issue on the first call, something the Michigan DHS nailed with its voice-recognition system.

3) Be consistent across every channel of communication. Many organizations have different messages and protocols across different channels, something that is off-putting to a user. As the online experience improves more people are expected to use it as their preferred channel of communication.

By taking advantage of the multitude of communication technologies developed in the private sector, federal and local government organizations can vastly improve their customer service. Michigan DHS has shown that relatively simple changes can have a tremendous impact on outreach and effectiveness, providing a successful model that other agencies can follow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Guest Post by: Lynn Wehrman, President & Test Management Team Director, WeCo

As the President of a small, mission-based start-up, I’m often asked what led me to leave a comfortable government position to pioneer a company in a field that is only just emerging, covering a need that few companies understand: electronic accessibility.  While the reasons were many, including seeing first-hand how inaccessible websites keep people living with disabilities from receiving services and having access to vital information, an extremely important, underlying reason came from what I observed when I was just beginning to encounter the fields of accessibility and disability advocacy.WeCo access approved

Like many of us who enter accessibility from a government position, I was a writer/web developer who was assigned to assist with a consumer-based committee who was working on accessibility initiatives with my agency, the Minnesota Department of Transportation.  Being the only department that builds infrastructure, DOTs can be exceptionally vulnerable to legal liability surrounding accessibility.  As a result, the agency I worked for was encountering a growing number of complaints and facing potential lawsuits over curb ramps and other crucial features in our transportation system that were not working for taxpayers who lived with disabilities.

In response, Mn/DOT forged a committee of individuals representing advocacy groups and citizens living with disabilities, many of whom lived with disabilities themselves, to work directly with the agency to update its Americans with Disabilities Act Transition Plan and begin to implement accessible changes to the state’s infrastructure.  My initial part in that effort was to construct an accessible website devoted to this work and to see to it that meeting communications were accessible.

Prior to this position, my contact with people living with physical disabilities was somewhat limited. Working on Mn/DOT’s ADA Transition Plan Committee allowed me to meet people who encountered life in a very different way than what I experienced.

The experience made me realize the amount of time and level of understanding, that is required to truly recognize the needs people have when they navigate life differently and how few people and organizations feel that they should invest that time or nurture that understanding.

For example, I witnessed people living with sight-related disabilities spend hours attempting to locate one piece of information on a website, simply because a web developer had not taken the time to mark the information so that their screen reader software could easily locate it.  I also heard the anger in the user’s voice when they contacted the organization, several times, asking them to facilitate the use of their product or information, and realizing that they were not considered a priority.

Many of the early meetings I attended at Mn/DOT regarding the ADA Transition Plan were peppered with that type of interaction and a strongly nurtured expectation on the part of the taxpayers who lived with disabilities that it was likely that no one would listen to their needs.

At the same time, I also watched caring government employees attending advocacy events after their work hours, pouring over research to educate themselves and actively listening to angry and frustrated taxpayers, with a strong desire to change that pattern of ignorance and indifference.

From the unique position I occupied as the group communication coordinator, I was more easily accepted as a member of both the taxpayer and government groups working on the new ADA Transition Plan, and was able to watch the transformation that occurred on both sides. Slowly, with the aid of a trained mediator, I watched as these people began to trust and believe in each other, the process they were engaged in, and transformed themselves from two camps into one.  What I learned from what I had observed was both how powerful government can be for the good of the taxpayer who lives with disabilities and how effective the disabled taxpayer can be at teaching the government what they need.

It was from this concept that the idea for WeCo was born.  Watching first-hand what could be accomplished when the ignorance, indifference, anger and fear are defused and people simply sit down together and work toward a solution.

The partnership between WeCo and GovDelivery is a perfect embodiment of that hopeful vision. Because of the priority GovDelivery places on “real life” accessibility, they selected WeCo’s human-based testing methods which covers much more than just the devices people use to access their products, it encompasses all types of disabilities people live with, as defined by the US Department of Human Services: sight, hearing, motor skill and cognitive.

This means that, over the course of a typical workday, a WeCo Test Consultant who lives with blindness will describe how her screen reader interacts with a product, over the phone in her home, to a GovDelivery software engineer.  In a coffee house across town, GovDelivery marketing staff will meet with a WeCo Accessibility Specialist who works from his wheel chair, to learn how he uses Section 508 and WCAG guidance to test their products and how their customers can benefit from knowing more about the process.

WeCo and GovDelivery are bringing together accessible solutions which captures the real experiences of those of us who live with disabilities.  We believe that this synergy can only be passed on to the government organizations that use the products we create and test together.

This blog post was originally posted on the Guardian Public Leaders Network. It was written by Sarah Lay, a senior digital officer for one of GovDelivery’s U.K. clients, Nottinghamshire County Council. Sarah also serves as the communications and community management lead for the LocalGov Digital network.

Councils vary wildly in their willingness to grasp the potential of digital services. Some are using digital technology to help them reshape services, create centres of innovation and harness the enthusiasm of their staff, while others still struggle to get their websites to work properly.

Wearable technology such as Google Glass offers the potential for local government services to be delivered remotely. Photograph: Handout/Reuters

Wearable technology such as Google Glass offers the potential for local government services to be delivered remotely. Photograph: Handout/Reuters

Too much investment has been made in large, unwieldy systems. In fact, local government has been doing the wrong digital activity really well for the past 10 years, according to Devon county council’s Carl Haggerty, chair of the LocalGov Digital network. But this is now starting to change. Innovators, experts and enthusiasts are looking at the example set by central government’s Government Digital Service and are recognising that to get people to access council services online, they have to be so good people actually want to use them.

Some councils are already exploring technology in a deeper way. Here are a few examples. Shift Surrey at Surrey county council is aiming to redesign services radically through its innovation lab. The intrapreneur programme at Monmouthshire council is using fresh ideas from the authority’s own workforce. And FutureGov is delivering services made possible by digital technology, such as its Casserole project in areas of London,which connects neighbours with spare portions of food to those in their community who need a good meal.

Technology has also helped local government to share information and work more collaboratively together. Networks like Localgov Digital bring together councils with digital enthusiasts to share resources, skills and, ultimately, savings.

Digital technology is also an opportunity to engage with residents. Social media is now widely used, with more councils giving access to frontline staff and using it as a conversational rather than broadcast tool. Many councils also offer email alerts, newsletters and social media updates instead of printed material.

What next for local public services?

The sector needs to become more adept at recognising and implementing digital excellence that is already happening in other sectors. User-focused digital delivery should become commonplace, rather than the domain of a few leading councils.

Technological advances will offer more possibilities for local government. Affordable, wearable internet devices and the “internet of things”, including devices such as Google Glass, bio-monitors in shoes or clothing, and connected household goods, have the potential to enable councils, traditionally heavily reliant on personal labour, to provide more services remotely. Bio-monitors in the clothing of vulnerable people could send alerts to careworkers, for instance, while smart systems in car parks could help people find free spaces, as already happens in San Francisco already..

Technology itself can also help us address the digital divide. Councils are already very aware that the people who need their services most are not only among the most vulnerable in society, but also probably the most digitally excluded. There are programmes underway around the country to improve broadband provision but not everyone can afford this. But using technology to increase collaboration could see projects springing up , such as public or shared Wi-Fi and services tailored to smartphones, tablets and other devices. Making council data more open, and encouraging development by local digital enthusiasts could also have benefits, potentially leading to tools that will help communities to help themselves.

And finally, digital technology also has the potential to transform the way people work in local government. Technology like mobile video conference, such as G+, Facetime and Skype, could help council staff become more flexible and dynamic in the way they work.

None of this lies too far in the future. Increasingly, people, things and organisations are going to be connected up. It’s time for local government to harness this potential.

 

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By: Thomas Francisco, Engagement Specialist

While, Google Analytics doesn’t automatically track file downloads, the good news is that getting it to track downloads doesn’t take a tremendous amount of effort on your end. Check out my last post on “Tracking, Measuring and Reporting What Happens After The Click: Measuring Your Most Effective Communication Channels” for more background on website reporting.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of how to setup click tracking, there are a couple of prerequisites that are necessary. You must have a working knowledge of HTML in order to make these changes to your web pages. In addition, you’ll also need to have the ability to make said changes to your webpages and to your Google Analytics account.

Note: The method outlined below is for use with the ga.js tracking code and not for use with the analytics.js tracking code. For details regarding Event Tracking with analytics.js see Google’s documentation.

Event Tracking is a method available in the ga.js tracking code that you can use to record user interaction with PDFs, videos, file downloads, and form submissions; essentially any non-webpage. This is accomplished by attaching a “method call” to the particular UI element  you want to track. When used this way, all user activity on such elements is calculated and displayed as Events in the Analytics reporting interface.  In order to track the requested elements, you need to update both the HTML of the source page/element as well as the Google Analytics account.

GAConfig is an amazing tool that will help you generate the script needed to be added to your webpage, document URLs and external links in order for them to be properly tracked in your Google Analytics account. The method outlined below is for setting up events tracking in Google Analytics for file downloads. Consult either GAConfig or Google Analytics documentation for steps needed to track videos and form submissions.

1. Set up tracking on your site. Make sure you have set up tracking for your website.

2. Call the _trackEvent() method in the source code of requested pages and documents:

The specification for the _trackEvent() method is:

_trackEvent(category, action, opt_label, opt_value, opt_noninteraction)

  • category (required) The name you supply for the group of objects you want to track.
    • In the example link below: Download
  • action (required) A string that is uniquely paired with each category, and commonly used to define the type of user interaction for the web object.
    • In the example link below User Guide
  • label (optional) An optional string to provide additional dimensions to the event data.
    • In the link below 2014 Community User Guide
  • value (optional) An integer that you can use to provide numerical data about the user event.
    • In the example link below Version2
  • non-interaction (optional) A boolean that when set to true, indicates that the event hit will not be used in bounce-rate calculation.
    • Can be only true or false as a value.

Example: <a href=”/downloads/example-userguide.pdf” onClick=”_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'Download', 'User Guide', '2014 Community User Guide', Version2, false]);”>Download PDF</a>

The link found above will need to be added to your website as well as used in any email messaging sent out linking to this document. Once you’ve properly set up and coded your links, all that is left to do is set up the event as a conversion goal in Google Analytics. To do so you:

1. Open up the profile you wish to set up the goal in. thomas3

2. Click the gear icon in the upper right corner of the Google Analytics interface.

3. Click the Goals tab (in the sub-navigation just below where your Profile is listed).

4. Choose the Goal Set you wish to add the event to.

5. Name your goal and select the Event radio button.

6. Populate the following goal details:

  • Category (matches same as above)
  • Action (matches same as above)
  • Label (matches same as above)
  • Value (matches same as above)

7. If you’ve added a Value in step 1, leave the “Use the actual Event Value” radio button selected.

8. Click “Save” and you’re ready to go!

Did you know?

By utilizing a Custom URL you can track even more detailed conversions through your email newsletters, press releases, or marketing promotions. While Event Tracking gives you an overall picture of the effectiveness of individual communication channels, a custom URL gives you insight into the effectiveness of individual instances of communication. As such, you can see which tweet, newsletter, or Facebook share garnered the most engagement with your stakeholders. 

By Thomas Francisco, Engagement Specialist

As a communicator your job is to advance your organization’s objectives using a variety of digital communication tools. With dwindling resources and increasing demand of your time, you need to choose to spend your time where it has the most impact. But how can you best discern how you are achieving your goals and through which channel they’re most impactful? The GovDelivery Communications Cloud provides you with robust analytics about the messages you send, but have you ever wondered what happens after the click? Have you ever wondered which communication channels drive the most bang for your buck?

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As you likely know, when it comes to understanding what web content your organization publishes is of most interest to your citizens, nothing gets the job done quite like Google Analytics. As communicators, Google Analytics provides us with unprecedented access to the habits and interests of those that visit our websites and read our emails. We can not only see exactly what people are clicking on, but we can also track the route that brought them to that point.

To start reporting on what happens after the click, we need to understand what your objectives are. If your objectives include getting people to take a measurable action such as downloading a document, registering for an event, or driving additional fishing licence registrations, then Google Analytics can provide you real time statistics on the most
effective method through which your objectives are completed. Within Google Analytics, your objectives are identified as goals. By setting up what are called conversion goals, Google Analytics allows you to tie together your email messaging, social media posting and all other web channels to see in real-time which of these communication channels complete your goals most frequently.

These channels include:

  • Email Messages (from GovDelivery or elsewhere)
  • Facebook Posts/Shares
  • Tweets
  • Direct Web Traffic (coming from someone on your website)
  • Referral Web Traffic (coming from another website)

I know… concepts in web analytics can get pretty convoluted. You have event tracking, conversion goals, success events, multichannel funnels, profiles, filters, dimensions, regular expressions, etc. But for what we’re looking to achieve, it’s a little more simple. I recommend using Google Analytics Event Tracking. Event Tracking is focused on helping you identify specific actions that occur on your site. This is an important feature for a myriad of reasons, but primarily because it allows you to measure the performance of elements on your site, such as:

  • PDF Downloads
  • Event Registrations
  • Press Releases
  • Council Meeting Minutes
  • Form Submissions
  • Video Downloads
  • General User Behavior (how users navigate through your site)

Google Analytics is known as a valuable resource in regards to understanding the behavior and habits of a site’s visitors throughout both the private and the public sector. Not only can you receive real time reports on exactly what happens on your website, but Google Analytics also allows organizations to truly understand what motivates their stakeholders to act through their direct interaction with your content. Whether you’re wanting to measure the effectiveness of your email call-to-actions and social media postings, monitoring an email campaign, promoting new documentation, or just interested in knowing what content on your site is of most interest to visitors, Google Analytics conversion goals provide a robust platform for doing so.

Stay tuned for Friday’s post, How to Track What Happens After the Click where I’ll go further in-depth with the step-by-step approach to setting up robust tracking on your website.

The changing face of facebook

By Amy Larsen, Client Success Consultant

 Facebook login screen circa 2004

Facebook login screen circa 2004

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image by Place.it

Image by Place.it

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

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

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

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

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

It’s difficult to keep up with the newest social media trends; just when you think you know the most important sites available to communicate with the public, new ones pop up. There are currently no less than 70 networking sites deemed federal-compatible for government use, making the possibilities somewhat overwhelming.

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The increase of social media platforms on the scene reiterates how important it is to have a robust digital communications strategy as a backbone. As new social media platforms come and go, having a good mix of digital communication tactics like email, text messaging/SMS, a strong website, as well as social media will ensure you never have any gaps  reaching your audience on a platform they’re comfortable with using.

GSA made two new additions to their approved list of platforms recently, Tint and CrowdHall. As a government communicator, you may be wondering if these social media networks will stand the test of time. Are they worth considering as another tool to add to your multichannel strategy toolbox? We’ve put together more information on both sites, designed to make it easier to manage your digital community, to help you make that decision.

CrowdHall: A public place to meet and discuss online

CrowdHall is making it easier than ever for public officials to have live and interactive discussions with the public. With CrowdHall, an organization can hold virtual town hall meetings via the host’s web page, Facebook, or directly on CrowdHall’s site. The audience votes on questions or topics, letting the host know the significance of the topic to the group. After participants have added their questions, they are notified when the host has answered and the crowd can continue to comment on each topic.

Unlike previous online town hall options available, Crowdhall allows the organization hosting the event to answer with photos, video, or text supporting their answer. Participants can return to the meeting and see what the crowd decided were the most significant issues. The participants are empowered by the experience of a town hall where they have a voice in ranking the most important issues and moderate their own discussions. Instead of talking “at” your audience, you can engage “with” your audience in an effective two-way conversation—a handy tool for many government organizations looking for another way to engage with their stakeholders.

Tint: Compile your social media posts into one visual display  

Tint makes it possible for you get the most out of all of your social media sites by putting them in one place. You sign up and create what visually can be compared to one “Pinterest-looking” page that displays highlights from all of your social media sites. The posts can be organized by hashtag or you can dictate exactly which images, words, or videos are displayed.

Since everyone has a different social preference, Tint is a great way to grab your audience via their preferred social network and keep them engaged. Tint also allows you to embed social feeds into your website, providing visitors with the most up-to-date and engaging information—another way to extend the life of your social media posts. You also have access to analytics that can help you determine your most popular social networks and posts to better assess what information to display for your audience.

Although some social media sites may disappear before the majority of the public can even think to login, keep new networks that may help you strengthen your stakeholder connections on your radar, with a strong multichannel digital strategy in your back pocket as well. By using new communication tools to connect with new loyal audience members, you can also cross-promote your website and email messages to those new audience members to strengthen that connection and make sure they’re never missing out on any important messages.

Do you think you’ll use CrowdHall or Tint? What other new technology are you thinking of implementing in your organization? Let us know in the comments below!

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