A blog about digital government, communications, citizen satisfaction & engagement, GovDelivery, and other e-government issues
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By Steve Ressler, Founder of GovLoop

It was recently reported by the Wall Street Journal that the Obama administration is working on a technology reform agenda. In the wake of the difficult HealthCare.gov roll-out, there’s been a lot of discussion on how to improve tech procurement and delivery.

Photo credit: Barack Obama via photopin cc

Photo credit: Barack Obama via photopin cc

As such, I thought I’d write my 6 ideas on tech reform.

1) Build Internal Capacity: According to the WSJ, the Obama administration is considering the creation of an internal tech division, similar to the U.K.’s Government Digital Service. I think this would be a great start. I’d do this by expanding programs like the Presidential Innovation Fellows program and the CFPB design and development fellowship. Top talent applies for these 2-year fellowship programs as they are simple and concrete, and perfect for a brief tour of duty in the public sector. The White House can leverage direct hiring authorities that already exist for the Pathways programs and IT security hires, then expand, as needed.  Once created, don’t forget about marketing these programs. Agencies should attend college career fairs and relevant tech conferences, and use social media and other online promotion tools.

2) Modernize Existing Programs: Honestly, there are several programs that already exist to help technology reform, but they are just underutilized. For example, SBA has numerous programs to help small businesses start working in government and each agency has a small business unit and reports on their percentage each year. Unfortunately, these programs aren’t well marketed to cutting edge tech firms and often are still pretty clunky. Simplifying, modernizing, and marketing these programs would go a long way on very little work.

3) Venture Based Procurement: In the venture capital world, there are generally multiple stages of investment (friends and family, Series A, Series B, Series C). At the early stages, there are lots of bets on companies and technology, but they are small. Then in Series B – D, there is doubling down on what works. We should break out large IT procurements in a similar way. Instead of one big $10M procurement, spend $500k up front (5 winners at $100K each), then $1.5M for next steps (2 winners at $750K each), and then $8M for the winner.

 

4) Support the Current Federal IT Community: One of the first things we should do is leverage the existing government IT staff we have so we can learn from each other. The CIO Council currently serves that role, but it’s primarily for CIOs and Deputy CIOs, helping 50-100 key leaders learn and connect. However, it isn’t the best forum for tens of thousands of IT leaders. Digital Government University and the #socialgov community are shining lights of how this can be done, but that is just for one aspect of IT (mostly consumer-facing web).

Don’t recreate past mistakes and think this is a tech issue, then spend millions creating new collaborative systems (for instance, the Fedspace experiment that never got traction). Like the venture approach, give out $100 to $150K grants to 5-8 associations and organizations (like ACT-IAC, GovLoop, others) with broad objectives on what you want accomplished and scale investment on what works.

5) Advance the Death of Paperwork: When you work on a government project, I’d guess 60-70% of the cost goes to a variety of paperwork documents (OMB 53, OMB 300, a project plan, system lifecycle documents, etc.) and reporting up the chain. Let’s eliminate unnecessary steps, when possible, and automate the important documentation so we aren’t re-entering the same information in ten different places and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on paperwork drills. More time and money should be spent on creating a great product that serves citizen rather than on approvals and paperwork.

6) Upgrade the Training of IT PMs: Most of the training for IT project managers is traditional PMI and PMBOK project management. The same is true of acquisition training; it’s often standard courses that have been around for years. If you really want change in IT and acquisition, you have to train the government leaders in the new concepts and align incentives. Make it about product management versus project management. How about a new IT bootcamp requirement similar to the Code for America bootcamp where participants learn about user interfaces, design thinking, agile development, and more?  Don’t try to build all this training in-house. Create a template of what you want taught, carve out a training budget and establish standard compensation you provide to trainers (for example $200 for every student that goes through your bootcamp).

I’m excited to see the attention being focused on improving IT talent and acquisition in the federal sector. It will be interesting to see what changes end of being implemented.

What’s your idea for federal tech reform? Comment below!

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?

Ruthbea_Clarke_LR-Copy1

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.

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

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

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

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

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

Healthcare.gov screenshot

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chances are pretty good that you want to engage constituents more in the activities associated with your organization in order to fulfill your mission. One great way to do that is to offer the public a user-friendly website. But are you happy with your site, or do you feel that you could serve citizens better by making some improvements? For example, can your Web page launch on mobile devices, or are your constituents tethered to a standard computer to gain full access? If you think you could do better and have heard about HTML5 and CSS3 and aren’t quite sure what each one offers, this post will give you some information to help navigate the next phase of Web design and coding.

HTML5 and CSS3HTML Past, Current and Future

To start at the beginning, HTML stands for “Hyper Text Markup Language” and in very general terms is the development language used to put Web pages together. The previous version – HTML4 – has been used since 1997. HTML5 won’t officially be completed until 2014, but there are features available now to test and determine if it’s right for your needs. The biggest difference between HTML4 and HTML5 is HTML5’s adaptability to the device the Web page is being viewed on – whether a mobile smartphone, tablet or PC. In addition, HTML5 loads faster and eliminates the need to use so many plug-ins and add-ons for listening to music or watching videos on YouTube. Lastly, HTML5 offers media playback and offline storage of Web applications.

Take a look at some of the sample Web pages that have been built in HTML5, and you’ll see a user-friendly, simple design approach. Another good concept to take away from HTML5 is that it isn’t considered one large entity, but rather is made up of smaller parts that work together for a better user experience.

As for which browsers are adapting to HTML5, you’re likely already taking advantage of it. Safari (mobile and desktop), Google Chrome and Firefox 3.6 all support at least some elements of HTML5. Internet Explorer 8 supports HTML5 in a more limited capacity. And many Google products already use some features of the next-generation protocol. If you’re using Safari or Chrome, you can check out an experimental version on YouTube that makes use of HTML5′s video features.

One last note about HTML5: It can’t be used on its own for animation or interactivity – it must be combined with CSS3 or Javascript, and that leads to our discussion about CSS3.

CSS Past and Future

CSS stands for “Cascading Style Sheets” and falls under the jurisdiction of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which is one of the many international standards organizations that keep things in check on the internet.  CSS introduced Web developers to the concept of creating a consistent approach to how pages were styled, which HTML alone wasn’t able to do. CSS3 was first published in 1999 and builds upon the foundation of the first two CSS generations, dividing features set into separate documents known as modules. Each module can add its own functionality while maintaining backwards compatibility with CSS2. To give you an idea of all the features available, check out this website. Simply put, CSS3 is the presentation layer of a Web page that leads the charge for all of the other technologies buried within. In essence, it is the presentation layer design element.

CSS3 is becoming increasingly popular because of how easy it is to make changes. Plus, it offers more flexibility in presenting website content. Menus can be pretty typical on Web pages, but CSS3 creates menus that make it easier to see what a page looks like before the user fully loads it, thus saving time for the person searching for information. CSS3 also includes options for easier font styling, multiple backgrounds, images as borders, and produces rounded corners and drop shadows without having to use images to create the effect. CSS offers better-looking, cleaner Web pages that download faster than ever before.

CSS3 and HTML5 Working Together

By combining HTML5 and CSS3, your organization will gain the advantage of being able to offer stakeholders and the public a richer experience on your website. Your constituents expect your site to have similar characteristics to a retail site. They want to find information quickly; they want a site that looks nice and is user friendly; and they want to feel like they’re involved with what your organization is doing. And that means being able to find information quickly and easily. By combining the best of both worlds, you’ll be giving your site visitors a great experience – and keep them coming back time and again, ultimately leveraging your website to help meet mission goals.

man and phoneAs you may know, the digital online world has definitely adopted the mobile friendly idea. For me, as a designer and web developer, I continuously look back on recent projects to adapt and apply changes as necessary. Earlier this year, my largest project was to redevelop the GovDelivery.com site into a mobile friendly responsive site.

Here are the top 5 things I learned from the project and the information I gained while tackling the project.

Lesson 1: Responsive design and mobile design are different
Responsive design is mobile friendly, but not strictly a mobile solution. The idea is really for a website to be able to respond to various devices and screen sizes. However, it is still a full web design. If, as the designer, you were to strictly focus on the mobile aspect of the design, you may inadvertently skip over some great user-friendly options that work well for non-mobile options.

Lesson 2: Don’t forget to address site navigation early on
Keep your navigation simple and clean, avoiding dropdowns if you can. If you can’t, keep it to one level and disable for mobile solutions, so that you can add a JavaScript selection menu solution like SelectNav.js instead of PC dropdowns.

Lesson 3: Start with a grid (they are your friend)
Grids are not a new concept; they have been used since print publishing began, and applying them correctly in a responsive site makes a big difference in being able to proportionally scale your site’s content. Most sites are built on a grid system to begin with, so if you are retrofitting an existing site, this helps to avoid having to rebuild the whole layout.

Lesson 4: Your fonts and font styling should be responsive as well
Like your site, your font type should respond to different devices and scale accordingly, especially on smaller cell phones. In this case you need to bring up the size of the font and increase line spacing so that it can be easily read. You may also consider swapping out hard to read fonts such as display fonts if you are using the @font-face class.

Lesson 5: Last but not least, make sure all of your images are quality and sized well
Images can make or break your site and a bad one on any device doesn’t look good, especially now with the adaption of retina displays. While keeping mobile users in mind, look at the quality and quantity of your images and also the bandwidth limitations of mobile connections and devices.

When adding images to your site, crop them beforehand to reduce file size and make sure to include styling for image scaling if the images are important to the content. Also know that there are other options as well, such as using multiple versions of an image or hiding the images. This can impact load time, so you may want to avoid it since they will still load in the background.

Mobile isn’t going anywhere and mobile design is still evolving. Don’t be afraid of going mobile friendly. It may seem daunting at first, but it can be done. I hope that my experience has given you some helpful insight and that you feel a little more informed on what responsive design is and how using it can make your website much more user-friendly.

To read more about responsive design, here are a few more resources.

Must Know the Facts About Responsive Design

Common Misconceptions About Responsive

Ten Things You Need to Know About Responsive Design

What Journalists Need to Know About Responsive Design

By this point you’ve read our posts about digital communication management, Beyond Email Lists and Delivering the Right Message in the Right Way, so you know some of the benefits and features of DCM. But you want to see what it all amounts to. What you’re saying, in other words, is “Show me the money!” Well, Jerry Maguire, we can’t show you the money, but we can show you results from an excellent example of DCM in action.

The case
Founded in 1953, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) mission is to help Americans start, build and grow businesses. By providing millions of loans, loan guarantees, contracts, counseling sessions and other forms of assistance, holding sproutSBA has positioned itself as a backbone of our country’s small business community. But even backbones need some help connecting with their limbs. With all the useful information it had to share, SBA knew it wasn’t reaching as many potential and current small business owners as it would like, and the ones it was reaching weren’t being communicated with in the most effective or direct way possible.

So the SBA came to GovDelivery with some very specific goals:

  • Increase proactive and direct communications with key stakeholders, such as small businesses, to further its core mission
  • Expand the agency’s visibility, reach and public perception
  • Organize and automate the dissemination of information across central and regional SBA offices
  • Increase the number of website visitors to valuable online resources
  • Reduce printed newsletter distribution costs and effort
  • Ensure Section 508 compliance with its digital communications

The solution
By implementing a robust DCM solution based on the SBA’s unique needs, SBA was able to address each of those specific goals and see some pretty impressive results.

Here are a few of their results:

  • More than 65 million emails sent in the last 12 months
  • Reaching over 1 million subscribers across over 175 specific topics, such as Growing Your Business, Employment & Labor Law, Grants, and Taxes & Finance Law
  • Significant increase in Web visitors and social media fans/followers
  • Increase of 255% enrollment in the SBA’s Government Contracting 101 course

The moral of the story
Every government agency has its own unique audiences and strategies for trying to reach them. And while cumbersome traditional email listservs may have been the only option for organizations wanting to use digital communications in the past, there’s a better way to do things now. Just like SBA, you don’t have to settle for doing things the way you’ve always done them.

A DCM solution will help you expand your reach, increase efficiency and drive meaningful engagement. And if you still need more information to be convinced, check out this new white paper The Transformative Power of Communications: Digital Communication Management for the Public Sector.

By Ben Ortega, Senior Software Engineer at GovDelivery

On June 1st we celebrated the first annual National Day of Civic Hacking, a day dedicated to leveraging technology and open data to improve communities.

Hard at Work Hacking at DevJam in Minneapolis

Hard at Work Hacking at DevJam in Minneapolis, Open Twin Cities

Not satisfied with a typical single day event, our local civic-minded techies at Open Twin Cities organized Hack for MN, a weekend-long hackathon and competition where more than 100 techies and other interested parties teamed up and spent the weekend planning, brainstorming, and implementing ideas and tools to improve our communities.

Everyone got together Saturday morning at DevJam headquarters in south Minneapolis after having spent the prior days and weeks discussing project ideas on the web. Each project idea was assigned to a table, and after some opening remarks from organizers and local government officials, participants began to self-organize. People flowed from table to table discussing ideas; some projects never quite got off the ground, and others emerged spontaneously from chance meetings and conversations.

Once the afternoon arrived, tech-heavy teams went right to work crunching data and planning applications. Other teams took a service design approach, thinking carefully about big ideas such as technology access or sustainable development and brainstorming about how to better connect communities, and all the different personas, with available resources.

The teams spent most of Saturday afternoon coding and whiteboarding; the sound of collaborations and talk of the best open data sources hummed at lightning speed. Fortunately for us, the DevJam space (a former café) offered plenty of sunlight and open air, which lightened the intense hacking going on. We even got a surprise visit from an ice cream truck, which gave everyone a chance to relax for a bit.

By Sunday afternoon, the crowd had thinned out a bit as teams began to run out of gas, but nine teams powered through and presented their projects, which drew inspiration from a variety of community needs and data sources:

  • A system to find your polling place using SMS
  • Connect Me Minneapolis, a system for cataloging and discovering community technology assets
  • Solvabl- a website for tutoring and mentoring high school students interested in developing technical skills
  • An open Wi-Fi database for community Wi-Fi finding and geolocation use
  • Code For Neighbors- a localized neighbor directory/alert system
More Hacking at Hack for MN Event

More Hacking at Hack for MN Event, Open Twin Cities

I was honored to serve on the judging panel, especially since we were able to award prizes to every team that made it to the end of the hackathon.  Prizes included meetings with local government officials or software entrepreneurs to determine next steps and subscriptions to GIS tools. All participants also received credits towards tech books, cloud computing and consulting services to continue developing their ideas.

All in all, it was great to see to both seasoned and aspiring hackers alike engaged and working together to tap into the potential of open tools and public data. It’s also inspiring to see development on several projects that have continued beyond the hackathon. It was great to represent GovDelivery as a judge and advisor, and I look forward to many years of hackathons to come.

 

 

It’s likely that you have heard of Vine in recent months. For those of you who haven’t (or who have, but aren’t exactly sure what it is) Vine is a mobile app by Twitter that allows users to create and post short, 6 second video clips. In turn, the videos can be uploaded, shared and embedded into a variety of social networking channels like Twitter and Facebook.

 Vine

Vine made its debut in January of 2013 and was met with mixed reviews. While some were excited about the potential that Vine presented, others were skeptical of what could truly be accomplished in 6 seconds and what types of videos would be created. However, as of April 2013, Vine became the most downloaded free app in Apple’s IOS App Store.

The way Vine works is simple. Videos are recorded and created with Vine’s in-app camera (the camera on one’s mobile device or smartphone). The camera only records while the screen is being touched, allowing various shots or snippets to be mashed together for up to six seconds. The video & audio are then looped together, forming a Vine that plays continuously. These Videos are able to be instantly uploaded to Twitter or Facebook and posted on Vine for followers to see.

As adaption to Vine continues, many people are attempting to figure out what the best use of Vine is. While the six second maximum presents a challenge to some, it also cultivates creativity and allows for messages to extend beyond Twitter’s 140 characters.

Government and Vine

As of April 1st the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) new media office announced that it had officially created government-friendly terms of service with Vine. As agencies and organizations create Vine profiles, they will be added to the Federal Social Media Registry, verifying official government social media accounts and distinguishing them from any fake ones.

So just because government can Vine, should it? I believe they should. While it may not be the most efficient way to send out important data and information, Vine opens a new door of communication and engagement with the public. While most communication between government and citizens is information focused, filled with text, data and some images, Vine allows citizens to engage with government in a completely different way and to see what is actually happening in government.

Vine takes a more “fun” approach to engaging with citizens and enables organizations to showcase their inner workings and share footage of things we would normally be unable to see, such as NASA’s visual tracking of Hurricane Sandy  across the East Coast.

Since its release in January, various government agencies and employees have taken to Vine and have begun to experiment with it.  Health.Data.gov posted a series of Vines during the 2013 Health and Human Services Innovates Awards and used Vine to promote and invite people to the Health DataPalooza in June.

My personal favorite government Vine was posted by California Congressman, Mark Takano, back in February. Takano chose Vine to offer up an inside look into his work in the House, featuring a Vine of him submitting his first bill.

The six second video showcases Takano’s steps from his initial signing of the bill to riding the Capitol subway, and concludes with him handing the bill in.

For government, the biggest struggle I see is similar to what other businesses are facing- deciding what to Vine. Six seconds is short and it can be a challenge to creatively think of things citizens would actually want to see or what messages could successfully be shared in six seconds. However, I think this is perfect for government communicators, who are constantly striving to simplify their organization’s message and share its most important points of information. To help begin the brainstorming process, I have come up with a few ideas of how government could begin to use Vine.

Introductions. So often citizens think of government as a compilation of organizations and agencies or entities. Rarely do we directly associate with individuals within organizations or think about what their office may be like. By taking to Vine, organizations can post 6-second introduction videos of various leaders and employees throughout the organization, putting faces to the organization’s name and making government a little more “personable”.  You can also create Vine shots of any fun happenings taking place at your office. This allows citizens to see inside the organization and an opportunity to witness a more “fun” side to government.

Ceremonies and Events. Government is engaged with a multitude of events at every level. Ribbon cuttings, national nights out, electoral events- these are all great opportunities to Vine and let those who aren’t in attendance in on the action. These Vines also promote what organizations are doing and draw attention to the various causes being celebrated or acknowledged.

Introducing new products. Government can also use Vine to promote their new products, such as mobile apps or online services. Vine allows multiple screen shots to be shown in one video. Showing what the app looks like, where it can be downloaded, and  showcasing product hightlights provides promotional opportunities for your organization and learning opportunities for your audience.

How-to Videos.  While six seconds may not seem like much, it’s long enough to provide some great how-to information if enough thought has been put into it. In fact, just the other day I watched a Vine and learned how to make a latte, complete with the fancy design on top! Government can use this as an opportunity to show citizens how to do things like sign up for an event, pay a bill online, download an app or use a new online resource. Taking quick 1-2 second shots of each step in the process allows for up to 6 steps to be shown, enough to get a basic how-to instructional across.

Promote Initiatives and Events. Government  has lots of initiatives and events to promote. Using Vine to create videos and spread awareness is yet another way to use Vine. Whether it’s national night out or a reminder that tornado sirens will be tested, creating a short video and sharing it on your social networks can bring even more attention to it. You can also use Vine to share public announcements. People need to be kept up to date and Vine videos are both to the point and entertaining. A 6 second vine featuring short clips of various public beaches could be used to announce the official opening of local beaches and lakes and may even inspire some viewers to go.

Engage with Citizens.  This is my final idea and a new way to expand the dialogue between citizens and government. Post a Vine that poses a question or promotes a trend and ask citizens to respond with a Vine post of their own. Going back to national night out, ask citizens to vine videos of their neighborhood gatherings and tag it with a special hashtag. Vines can also be useful for citizens to communicate problems with government. If a citizen sees a problem or situation they are unhappy with, they could create a Vine and share it with you via a tag on Facebook or mention on Twitter.

Hopefully the above list inspires some thought around the adaption and use of Vine.  I would love to hear any additional ideas you might have or how organizations are already using Vine today. Let us know what you think.

Many government organizations and agency departments plan and promote special events or seasonal occasions that relate to the constituency they serve and support. Highlighting these events through communications and digital content provides a fun and timely way to interact with the public, and can even serve as a platform for gaining subscribers and engaging citizens long-term.

earthThe Environmental Protection Agency replaced its normal home page with specially designed interactive presentations to commemorate Earth Day. The overlay, which included a stunning photo of Earth from space, was a visually pleasing way to inform the public about Earth Day and related events the EPA was sponsoring. The special home page provided slide shows, links to events for volunteers, and an invitation to send in photos from home.

While the EPA’s Earth Day home page is a great example of tailoring digital content to inform and educate stakeholders on issues that impact an organization’s mission, the organization missed a prime opportunity to offer an easy opt-in for email alerts. An out-of-the-ordinary web element like a special home page or highlighted overlay is one of the best ways government communicators can spark interest from a visitor and subsequently call attention to the proactive digital communications offered by the organization. Techniques such as these can even double or triple sign-ups to subscriber lists.

A sign-up form or link is easy to add on to a specially designed event home page and offers a convenient call-to-action for visitors attracted by special event information. This approach leverages the additional traffic that might result from a special event and also maximizes the long-term impact of the short-term custom content by offering ongoing email updates to visitors with specific interests.

On special days or events such as Earth Day, agencies like the EPA can turn new visitors looking for event-specific information into stakeholders by asking them to subscribe. Be sure to offer updates on a variety of topics, and consider a category of updates for subscribers interested in special events or holiday-related information in particular. Taking advantage of times of peak interest in your department or agency’s website can result in big wins in subscriber numbers and stakeholder engagement.

Has your department tied subscription sign-up opportunities into promotions for special events going on in the community? Share your tips on turning one-time special event visitors into lifetime stakeholders in the comments.

In an era of limited resources, governments need to build strong hello my name isrelationships with citizens and stakeholders, and what better place to start than by improving customer service. That’s just what public sector entities in the United Kingdom plan to do. In a GovDelivery survey of almost 100 UK government employees, respondents identified customer service as the top trend taking centre stage in 2013. At the same time, more than two-thirds of respondents said that government is already working to improve customer service.

Take a look at this infographic that provides a visual overview of survey results. As one of the graphs depicts, customer service is far and away the top priority for the UK government compared to budget or big data. Collaboration, however, comes in at a healthy second place. For a full analysis of the survey results, download the white paper.

The white paper notes that communication with citizens is the first critical stage of customer service for most public sector organisations and one of the easiest to modify to improve services. One way the UK government is improving communication is via strong support for social and digital programs.

UK_digital_govFor example, the Government Digital Strategy published by the Cabinet Office calls for government organisations to embrace digital services to constituents. New or redesigned services must conform to a “digital-by-default” standard. It also calls for the Central Government to consolidate publishing on the GOV.UK site and raise awareness of digital resources. With such a strong focus on digital communication, the government has an opportunity to engage with and consult the public, establishing the collaboration that develops into good communication, which ultimately leads to excellent customer service. In addition, digital tools can help departments meet their objectives of improving customer service, even during times of constrained budgets.

Despite the government’s emphasis on a strong digital program, only about half of respondents said their departments use social media to communicate with citizens- so there is room for improvement. Find out more by downloading the white paper, which provides an in-depth analysis of the survey findings and to learn how the three top UK government trends for 2013 are related.

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