A blog about digital government, communications, citizen satisfaction & engagement, GovDelivery, and other e-government issues
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3-trends-fedWhat are the top priorities for government communications in 2014 at the federal and local levels? This is the question we posed to 350 government communicators. Take a look at what they said about focusing on results, implementing multichannel strategy, and increasing outreach in this infographic, or grab a copy of the federal government report or the state & local government report to read on your own.

Focus on results with a multichannel strategy

Boosting engagement and targeted messaging were the top two communication priorities at the federal, state and local government levels. However, other areas of focus differed between these levels of government. At the federal level, better content, mobile, and leveraging social media are being prioritized in that order. While at the local level, the priorities focused on mobile, leveraging social media, and better content. This trend indicates that state and local governments  are looking for new ways to “spread the word” on their content and make it available on mobile devices and social networks.

The majority of respondents from the federal government and local governments agreed that growing the size of their digital audience is a priority for 2014. They are also heavily focused on email and social media. However, the majority of respondents from both levels of government stated they have no plans to test email messaging. A few will experiment with content layouts or subject lines, but more than 57% at both levels of government stated they will not test email messaging in any way. This may be a priority to reconsider, since email messaging is a primary method of communicating with stakeholders—knowing what types of messages and content best engage those stakeholders is vital information. If federal and local governments want to better engage their digital audience, testing their email messaging to see what resonates with their target audience is a great strategy.

With both levels of government working to increase their digital audiences, one of the best strategies they can implement is to add an email subscription form to their websites, emails, social networks, mobile platforms, and more. In a constantly connected, digital world, not having a central place of communication tied to every one of your digital presences means you’re missing out on easy ways to connect with more of your audience.

Grab your copy of the 2014 Federal Trends Report or the 2014 State Trends Report and their accompanying infographics to learn more about what is going on with government communications throughout the year.

By the GovDelivery Security Team

As a government communicator, you know your organization is constantly in the spotlight, and a phishing scam causes one fire you hope you never have to put out.  But when you operate with a high profile, you’re much more likely to become a target for phishers and spoofers. Here are a few tips on how you can prepare.

 What is spoofing and phishing?

  • Spoofing is when an unidentified sender attempts to send an email from your domain (or a similar domain) in order to trick unsuspecting recipients into doing something they might not normally do, such as opening an attachment or downloading a file.  Spoofers typically choose a sending domain similar to the target organization. For example, if the domain is state@agency.gov, spoofers might use state@agency.2.gov or state@agency.agency.gov.
  • Phishing is an attack where a sender tries to trick the recipients into giving up sensitive information, oftentimes resulting in financial gain for the sender. Phishing uses spoofing, as the sender attempts to send from your domain in order to collect information.

These aren’t technical attacks, but are known in the industry as social engineering attacks. Instead of trying to hack into your computer to get the information they want, hackers who use social engineering bypass technology controls and instead rely on the weakness of the users to simply provide that information directly. And unlike technical attacks, they’re far more difficult to protect against.

Government organizations send thousands of digital messages a week, making the industry a breeding ground for phishers and spoofers to take their domain, voice and email design in order to replicate a malicious message for the public.

Recent examples of spoofing and phishing in the public sector

The Ministry of Justice in the UK was the most recent target of spoofing.  Spoofers sent victims an email that appeared to come from the police department asking for the collection of parking fine payments. These emails instructed the recipients to download an attachment, claiming it was a form that required more information.

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The emails had been spoofed to make it appear as though they had been sent from the domain justice.gov.uk. The Ministry of Justice was able to quickly quell the situation by bringing awareness to the public. They got the word out through press releases in the local media, email communications and updates on their website.

With tax season coming up, one popular form of phishing is for unidentified senders to leverage phony Internal Revenue Service (IRS) forms to collect data. Attackers might craft emails that appear to come from IRS.gov and request unsuspecting victims to fill in attached forms and fax them to a given number. This year, phishers have been using phone calls and emails in the State of Indiana, posing as IRS agents in order to target unsuspecting victims to trick them into giving out personal information.

How does GovDelivery help?

At GovDelivery, successful delivery of public sector messages to massive groups of people is our business. Public sector organizations send billions of messages per year using the GovDelivery Communications Cloud, and because we only send on behalf of government organizations, we have the best deliverability rates in the industry (98% of emails sent through GovDelivery are successfully delivered to recipients). Spoofing or phishing messages typically don’t reach the inbox, since they are sent from a phony domain. It’s less likely that your audience will even see a spoofed email, since these often land in the Junk or SPAM folders. Knowing that messages sent through GovDelivery reach the end recipient helps your audience better determine that your emails are legitimate (and spoofed messages aren’t).

In many cases, GovDelivery is also able to handle the technical side of email spoofing or phishing attacks, since we might notice an attack before our clients do. Fraudsters will often send high volumes of phishing emails at once, so we are able to monitor and detect any unusual activity around GovDelivery domains (such as an influx of replies or inquiries to our GovDelivery Subscriber Help Center) and immediately alert the impacted organization.

Even though smaller attacks may go unnoticed, some ISPs or recipients may also reach out and send an email to abuse@govdelivery.com or postmaster@govdelivery.com as well, at which point we’ll evaluate and alert the impacted organization.

However, if fraudulent senders attempt to spoof your organization’s domain without using the GovDelivery name, we may not be able to catch those incidents since we won’t have visibility into how the domain is being used.

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What can your organization do?

While it may seem tempting to sweep a phishing attack under the rug, offering resources and open communication to your audience is the best way to reduce the amount of people who will fall prey to a phisher or spoofer.

  1. A phishing or spoofing attack can quickly become a PR issue. Many organizations choose to get the word out immediately during or after an attack with website, email and text updates, similar to the Ministry of Justice. By bringing awareness to the public, organizations can reduce the likelihood that others will fall for to the attack
  2. As a proactive measure, GovDelivery recommends providing resources and information on your website, giving your audience a place to validate any questionable emails they receive. It’s always a good idea to remind your audience that you will never ask for sensitive personal information through email, such as a bank account or social security number. Here is a great example from HM Revenue and Customs in the UK.
  3. For more in-depth preparation and damage control tips, check out this comprehensive article from CSO Data Protection, “Phishing: the Basics.”

Remember, no organization is impervious to phishing or spoofing, but they can prepare themselves should the unfortunate situation occur. For more information on how to protect yourself, check out the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s article, “Phishing” Fraud: How to avoid getting fried by phony phishermen.

 

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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.

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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. 

For the elderly and people with disabilities, snowstorms can mean being trapped at home unable to get to work, to the food store, to the pharmacy, or have the mail delivered. It can mean that for days, you’re stuck alone in your home fearful of what might happen and that the stability of your health and life might be compromised.

For Colleen Roche (Board Chair at the Alliance Center for Independence, Edison NJ), a wheelchair user, a simple errand can become time-consuming and frustrating.

State laws deal with snow removal from parking areas, town ordinances deal with removal from sidewalks, but nothing addresses the clearance of curb cuts. I’ve literally spent hours on the telephone trying to figure out whose responsibility it is to clear the cuts and the street in front of them. A curb cut that piled with 3’ of snow is as useless to a wheelchair user as not shoveling at all. The generosity of Snowcrew volunteers to dig out their neighbors, means that accomplishing simple tasks like grocery shopping become possible again.

Isolation is one of the main contributors that leads many seniors and those with disabilities to face this situation during snowstorms. The good ol’ days of when neighbors knew and took care of each other are uncommon. There is hope and we have evidence that it is and will continue to change for the better.

We believe that people want to and will help out their neighbors. What is missing is communication and connection.

What has been done to help the elderly and people with disabilities during snowstorms?

To combat the issues of missing communication and connection, government organizations and community partners have formed snow teams. But their processes are hindered by legalities and their technology limited by budgets and the struggle to attract the volume of volunteers needed to accommodate the high demand for the service.

Today, it’s our honor to introduce you to www.snowcrew.org.

What is Snowcrew?

Snowcrew.org is a mobile optimized web app that connects people who need help shoveling with nearby neighbors “Yetis/Volunteers” who can and want to help dig out their neighbors.

Yetis shovel out people who are not physically able to shovel or cannot afford to hire someone to dig them out.

Each time it snows, whomever needs help shoveling can log into www.snowcrew.org and request “Shoveling Assistance.” Those who have signed up to help get notified that a neighbor(s) needs help. They can also “scout” to see who needs help via Snowcrew.org on their mobile phone or device of choice.

No middle man is required and citizens works together neighbor-to-neighbor to help each other out. Over the last 12 months, Snowcrew has helped resolve 260 shoveling requests!

What difference does Snowcrew make?

  • Snowcrew helps keep people healthy and financially sound -  When shoveled out, people can get to the pharmacy, food store, and medical appointments. Social security checks, medications and medical equipment are delivered.
  • Snowcrew increases resilience - When communities are connected and in service to each other they are stronger and better poised to prevent, respond to, and overcome challenges and disasters.
  • Snowcrew eases the burden on government - Citizens who have time and wish to pitch in to dig out public property such as fire hydrants, handicap ramps and curb cuts, and bus stops help to increase accessibility and improve quality of life.
  • Snowcrew fosters connection - Those who request and give shoveling assistance enjoy new connections, friendships, and experiences.

What do people who have been helped by Snowcrew say?

  • “I’m blown away; I have never received help like this from strangers before, and I’m honored to now call them my neighbors. So my deepest and heartfelt thanks goes out to all of you.” Nancy, Hardyston NJ who was trapped in her home for 4 days following a storm in February 2014.
  • “Just wanted to thank you and Bob for helping me as a neighbor to clear my car so I could make it to my doctor’s appt. It made an important difference.” Marcia, Jamaica Plain, MA Feburary 2014
  • “Someone came to help! thank you!” Michelle, Lincroft NJ February 2014

How can you get involved?

  • Go to Snowcrew.org and create a profile to volunteer or request shoveling assistance
  • Help us spread the word by retweeting our tweets and sharing our Facebook updates
  • Share this post to your networks
  • Shovel out cars snowed in and empty handicap parking spots
  • Check in on neighbors who are elderly and have disabilities

How did Snowcrew get started?

Snowcrew got started in 2009 when I realized one of my widowed elderly neighbors might be stuck in her home during a huge storm we had. The first version of Snowcrew used a Google map and a Google form. After I learned about former Mayor Cory Booker digging out his constituents after receiving a constituent tweet, I wanted to see if I could build on former Mayor Booker’s success by using technology to allow neighbors to engage each other online to get shoveled out simultaneously and in multiple cities and towns at the same time. Today, Snowcrew.org accomplishes this goal!

What technology powers Snowcrew?

Two leaders in government digital communication and Open Government power the Snowcrew.org solution. SeeClickFix built and operates Snowcrew.org and via its API it powers the “shovel request” submittal, “scout” mapping, watch area notifications, commenting and case management system. For neighborhoods where municipalities and community partners wish to formally adopt Snowcrew or are clients of GovDelivery, GovDelivery provides neighborhood and municipality specific automated emails and text message notifications when shoveling assistance requests are submitted.

Post authored by:

  • Joseph Porcelli – Founder and volunteer organizer of Snowcrew.org and Director of Engagement Services at GovDelivery
  • Carole Tonks, Snowcrew.org Advisor, Executive Director, Alliance Center for Independence, Edison NJ

 

In October of 2012 the UK government launched a new website, Gov.UK, which was designed to host all of the central government’s information in one spot. Neil Williams, Product Manager at Gov.UK, spoke about the strategy and process behind building the website in his presentation “Government Digital Service: Gov.UK” at this year’s UK digital communications event. gov.uk

As Neil explained, the Gov.UK site was created to provide a single website for the central government that would replace the central government’s previous two main sites, DirectGov and Business Link, with something clearer and simpler for users. As part of the migration, thousands of pages from DirectGov and Business Link that no one visited were archived, and those pages that remained were made as easy and accessible to the user as possible. As of April 2013, all 24 of the government department sites had migrated to the central Gov.UK site. Rather than having to visit multiple pages on multiple websites to find information or an answer to a question, users can now find everything they need in one place. But, Neil said, that doesn’t mean the work is over.

“Gov.UK is designed to react to user needs, which means that we make small improvements to the site nearly every single day. This kind of iterative response and change based on what our users need is at the heart of everything we do.” Clearly, this approach has paid off. Earlier this year Gov.UK won the prestigious Design Museum’s 2013 Design of the Year Award, the first website ever to do so.

So, how do you make a useful website that wins awards?

You start with needs, Neil said. People don’t come to government websites for fun, they come to accomplish tasks and fulfill needs. Creating any web page without that as the central design principle is a simple waste of time. You have to understand what users are coming to your site for, and structure the site around that. Gov.UK achieved this by creating user stories for its 6.5 million unique visitors every week. They found that those 6.5 million people were coming to do roughly the same 3000 things, so they focused their attention on figuring out how to make doing those things easier, faster, and more efficient.

There are currently 102 organizations publishing their content on Gov.UK, with over 200 more on the way. Of course, this means there’s an extremely high volume of content being published every single day. To keep things manageable for users, Neil and his team created a publishing system that only allows organizations to publish content that meets defined user needs. There is no such thing as a general information page on Gov.UK.

“So how do we make sense of all of this? How do people understand and find the content they want? First, we needed to collaborate across organizations. And second, we need to notify people about new or updated content that meets their needs,” Neil said.

Before, when users wanted to find information about a certain topic, like climate change for example, they would have to jump from site to site, attempting to locate what they wanted from any number of different government organizations and never knowing if it was the best or most current content. Now, because everything is located on one page on one central site, users can find exactly what they need much easier. To ensure the content on each topical page is the most accurate and relevant available, all departments and agencies with information on that topic work together to curate what is included and how it is presented. Users are now brought to a single page with clear and concise information, and a “details” tab with more information in case they want to dig deeper.

Letting people know when information they’re interested in is available is where GovDelivery comes in, Neil explained. Gov.UK allows users to subscribe to extremely specific alerts, offering many different permutations based on organization, topics, and policies, all the way down to publication type. So, if a user is interested in getting alerts whenever a new speech about education is published, they can filter and combine to build a special alert sent through GovDelivery that meets their very specific interest.

Gov.UK now has over 415 mailing lists and email alerts are the sixth top referrers back to the Gov.UK site. Though these numbers indicate that the subscription system is meeting user needs, Neil and his team would like to make the alerts even more specific.

“People’s interests are unique. We want to provide as useful a service  as we can, which means helping the people who want email alerts to get exactly the emails they need and nothing more. If we focus on user needs, collaborate across governments to create content that better meets those needs, and notify people about just the things they’re interested in, it means we can have a better signal to noise ratio from central government.”

For the full story about the ideas and process behind Gov.UK, watch Neil Williams’ presentation here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But how can local government evaluate programmes and demonstrate results?

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

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

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

In 2014, new office holders and their communications teams will find new opportunities and challenges when they leave the campaign trail or the nomination hearings and take office.

As you begin your new positions, you can expect to be flooded with action items, but what about your communications? You’ve spent months reaching out and connecting with stakeholders. If done right, you can easily get a quick win by capitalizing on this momentum and carrying these outreach tactics over to your administration. To do this effectively, you need a powerful tool and proven strategies for success.  If you’re an elected official at a public sector entity that’s already using GovDelivery, you can rest easy knowing that you have that powerful tool in place.

Whether you, personally, are one of the new names, or you’re part of a team transitioning into a new administration, we’ve put together some guidance to help you capitalize on this important time and jump-start your communication efforts for the coming term.

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Step 1: Take Steps to Start Building Your Audience

You may already have a base of people that you can reach through digital channels.  Typically, elected officials choose to leave these databases as part of a campaign or external organization.  Applicable laws should be reviewed before uploading data from a campaign into government-owned systems, like GovDelivery.

However, many new officeholders choose to take the following steps to build their “post campaign” outreach:

  1. Setup a sign-up option that is prominently featured on your website.  There should be a direct sign-up box embedded in a visible location on all pages and you should consider using an “overlay” that will ask all new site visitors to sign-up. Here is an example from our test environment.
  2. At events and in emails sent to your campaign lists, you may be able to direct people to sign-up at the website you’ve put up for the office once it is launched.
  3. Make sure you are offering updates on specific topics.  “Updates from the Mayor/Governor” are not nearly as popular as “Transportation Strategy Updates” can be.

Step 2: Provide Great Content

contentexamplesThe most common emails we see from elected officials are general newsletters, but you have so much more going on: events, legislation, initiatives, and more.  Use video, blogs, pictures, and topic-oriented communication to draw in more sign-ups to your information and to engage users with what you send out.

Each touch point strengthens citizen engagement.

Mayors can send pictures from press meetings or visits to local businesses. City Council members could send video from local parks, promote summer recreation leagues, or document a new bridge being built, and state senators can send updates on new or pending legislation. Any activity or initiative that illustrates helping your community can be packaged and shared digitally.

Elected officials can also keep the media informed and drive awareness around press events. Storing media contacts and using private lists is a great way to quickly disseminate timely and accurate information to radio, television, newspapers and new media such as bloggers.

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For public sector organizations using GovDelivery, any content, such as pictures or videos posted to your website, YouTube, and other digital properties can automatically be distributed to your subscribers without you lifting a finger. Learn more about our Automation functionality here.

Step 3. Keep Track of Your Progress

How do you keep improving if you can’t measure the impact of what you’re doing? Individual and aggregate reports within GovDelivery provide insight into which pieces of content are the most engaging among your constituents. Metrics allow you to see what’s working, and what isn’t. Monitor these on a weekly or monthly basis to measure your progress over time and make necessary changes for better results.

GovDelivery provides an Account Performance Report, giving you a 360-degree view of the performance of your communications program. The best part? You can email a copy to anyone in your organization that contributes to, or cares about, your communications. Learn more about our Analytics functionality here.

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Step 4: Continue to grow your audience.

As your time in office continues, it’s critical to continue building your audience, so audit and make use of what you already have. Transportation groups typically have lists of subscribers for road closures and weather alerts. Parks and Recreation departments have contact information for those who have registered for events or community sports leagues. These untapped resources are your “Pot of Gold”, and they can also be sent an invite to sign up for information from you and your organization.

GovDelivery is already setup so that anyone new signing up to updates from any topic within your organization can automatically be shown the updates from your office (For example: just like Amazon cross promotes products, someone can sign up for the “Mayor’s Newsletter” and the “Mayor’s Transit Initiatives” right after they sign up for “Snow Emergency Alerts” from Public Works).  In addition to cross promoting signing up to your office’s content to people visiting your organization’s website, GovDelivery makes it possible to collaborate with other government organizations to reach even more people through the GovDelivery Network.

Your potential outreach may be much larger in this new position, and we hope some of these tips help you capitalize on the opportunity to reach more people and communicate in a world-class manner in your new role as office holder or staff member. By using GovDelivery to get the word out and keep your stakeholders informed, you can cross “successful digital communications” off your list… before you even take office.

Check out our Email Best Practices Guide and our Digital Outreach Guide to gain more best practices.

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

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

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

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

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Featured Speaker: Ruthbea Clarke

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

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

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