By Lance Horne, General Manager, GovDelivery Federal Team
No 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.