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Status quo methods of digital outreach often result in status quo audience growth results. Engaging a new and different audience requires innovative tactics, taking chances, and having some fun.

At GovDelivery, we offer a wide variety of solutions that help organizations expand their reach to all kinds of audiences. From cross promoting content through the GovDelivery Network, to using social media posting and sharing options, organizations are consistently extending their reach with GovDelivery. Catering to trends and adopting creative outreach methods often yield great returns on investment.

Many organizations have already begun enacting effective methods of creative outreach, especially in an effort to reach younger generations. Here are a few great examples of those who have found success in reaching youth audiences in our modern digital world:

 

The President Has a Sense of Humor

In an effort to promote Healthcare.gov, and the coming deadline to sign up for health insurance, President Obama recently made an appearance on the popular FunnyOrDie.com sketch comedy show “Between Two Ferns,” hosted by comedian and actor Zach Galifianakis.

obama between two ferns

If you’re connected to the Internet in any capacity, you probably saw the video itself, or at least mention of it. The unexpected appearance of President Obama was enough to draw attention, but the candor, comedy, and self-deprecation shown by both parties sent the sketch into full-blown viral video status. While the White House has already done an outstanding job reaching digital audiences through email, text messaging and social media, a White House Spokeswoman revealed that FunnyOrDie.com became the number one source of referrals to Healthcare.gov, the week of the video’s release. To date, the video has now been viewed over 20 million times.

Most organizations don’t have access to websites as popular as FunnyOrDie.com, but sites like YouTube and Vimeo allow organizations to broadcast their own video content, which can be promoted through direct (email and text messaging) and indirect (social media) channels. The lesson remains: creatively marketing your message and going to where your audience already is, can have a huge impact on your reach. As proven by this video, a little comedy and a new spin can go a long ways.

 

The CDC and the Zombie Apocalypse

Zombies have always been a pop culture staple, from comic books to horror films, but with new television shows like The Walking Dead, the trend has made a recent resurgence.

cdc zombie

Taking advantage of the fad, and appealing to a younger generation, the Center for Disease Control began a campaign to address public health and emergency preparedness based on a fictional zombie apocalypse. With zombie-themed posters, a website, a blog, and a graphic novel, the CDC committed to finding a fun and unique way to appeal to a certain audience, while still putting out the same valuable content they needed to.

Distributing health and preparedness tips through the vehicle of zombies allowed youth to have fun with learning, while making the information easier to digest for a younger generation. Needless to say, the campaign was a huge hit, and the CDC’s zombie content has gotten thousands of shares and comments since being released. Feel free to have fun with your content, especially when your goal is to educate your audience with tips and tricks.

 

Play and Learn with ChooseMyPlate.gov

MyPlate Kids Place

Promoting healthy diets and exercise to kids can be a difficult task. In an effort to engage youth and promote their organization’s mission, ChooseMyPlate.gov (a subdivision of the USDA), created a section of their website fully dedicated to the education and entertainment of kids.

With unique content including games, videos, songs, and printable activity sheets, ChooseMyPlate.gov created a safe space for kids to learn and spend time ingesting beneficial information, while better serving the organization’s mission.

 

In Conclusion

As evidenced by the above organizations, having a sense of humor, using creative marketing strategies, and catering to a younger generation, can have a huge impact on an organization’s digital outreach.

Going where the people are, not taking things too seriously, and playing off of trends, can have a great return on investment when done properly. If your organization is looking for a way to rejuvenate your content and expand your reach to a new and younger audience, consider taking a new approach, having fun, and spending some time outside the box.

 

By Amy Larsen, Client Success Consultant

When I talk with state and local government organizations that are interested in communicating with the public, there is always a consistent idea on what kinds of information should go out to citizens. Far and away the messages we see most frequently from state and local agencies include council and committee meetings and agendas, upcoming events, emergency updates, and news releases. These types of communications are vital to government transparency and community preparedness, and public information officers that are committed to the regular communication of these key types of information do their stakeholders an invaluable service.

But too often, public communication stops with these essential communications, without expanding the message topics to other departments and programs, where great stories are often hiding in plain sight. We often talk about why storytelling is a great asset in communicating – but what types of stories do your residents want to read?

I usually recommend that communicators consider including some new programs in their outreach plans every year, focusing on the offices or departments that have a high amount of interaction with the public. These regular communications help to drive more stakeholder participation and further the mission of each group.

Here are a few examples across the spectrum of state and local government of how both subscribers and departments benefit from storytelling:

1. Stories about Police and Law Enforcement Programs police1
I receive regular updates from my Precinct Inspector at the Minneapolis Police Department– the officer in charge of monitoring and preventing crime in my neighborhood. When I signed up for these updates, I had no idea that I had a Precinct Inspector, or what he did. Through regular communications from Inspector Schafer, I’ve gotten tips on keeping myself and my property safer, what to look for to prevent crime in my neighborhood, and have been alerted of criminal activity.  I’ve also learned that overall crime in my area is down by 7% this year. Before I received these updates, I had no visibility into how my neighborhood was functioning with regard to crime and law enforcement. Not only do these updates give me the information to be safer and more aware of potential risks to safety, but I feel more connected to my community and confident that my neighborhood is becoming a safer place to live. This direct communication with citizens is something that any police, Sheriff, or public safety department could achieve by implementing a subscription process that allows key communicators to reach a target audience of stakeholders.

2. Stories from Animal Control and Animal Rescue agencies animal1
Who doesn’t love stories about adorable dogs and cats? Some of the most visited sites on the web like Buzzfeed, Huffington Post and Reddit have been attracting explosive traffic for years using cute cat videos and stories about rescued puppies to lure people to land on their site and continue to click through to more pages. Why not harness these techniques to drive increased numbers of adopted animals and donations to local shelters in your community? Oakland County, Michigan began seeing an increase in adoption rates after their animal services team started communicating through email and social media about stories of pets waiting for homes.  San Diego County features a pet of the week update to people subscribed to their County News topic that often attracts hundreds of views in less than an hour, which is often more visits than the typical animal in a shelter gets in an entire day.  The City of Louisville, Kentucky created Paw Personals, a weekly newsletter from Animal Services with playful descriptions of animals waiting for homes to help alleviate overcrowding in shelters through more adoptions. If your animal services team is not communicating regularly to drive action, it might be time to think about how to incorporate the story of local animals into your regular messages to the public.

3. Stories from Health and Human Services organizations health1

Valuable health and safety communications often travel from public health organizations to hospitals and health providers to then disseminate to patients and visitors, but what about the residents who aren’t visiting health care providers regularly? How do they get the information they need to keep themselves and their families healthy? In Minnesota, we frequently deal with extreme cold, so this winter, the Minnesota Department of Health sent out extreme cold safety videos in multiple languages to hundreds of at risk residents, helping to increase the visibility of cold weather shelter programs. In Arizona, Maricopa County automatically alerts citizens if air quality levels reach a point that might be dangerous to residents in certain areas, keeping citizens with respiratory concerns safer. King County Public Health offers personalized SMS/text message updates on how residents can learn more about enrolling in health care by attending events in their neighborhoods. These are the awesome types of stories that can be shared with the public to demonstrate your organization’s commitment to health.  If your organization’s goals for this year include a focus on increased citizen well-being through health education and outreach, start by building a community of engaged stakeholders to connect with regularly through a multichannel communication approach, and share what you’re doing to keep them healthier.

When I talk with GovDelivery clients about setting their communication plans for this year, I often encourage them to think outside the box when it comes to the types of information they’ll be sending to their stakeholders. Where are the untold stories of your organization?  Chances are, you won’t have to look far to find them.

For more information, contact info@govdelivery.com.

GovDelivery client King County, Washington recently kicked off a new mobile communications initiative to spread the word about their healthcare offerings and services. Here is a guest post from King County on how text messaging is helping the organization reach more people. 

An innovative new texting program is making it a little easier to find in-person help with the Washington Healthplanfinder website.

It takes time — and some comfort with online shopping — to navigate the Healthplanfinder website, where residents can compare plans and enroll. For people who’ve had trouble with the website, or are unable to get online, King County has trained more than 600 in-person assisters, real people who can help folks make tough decisions about insurance.

Some King County residents are already receiving texts about health enrollment help in their area. Text King plus your zip code to 468311.

Some King County residents are already receiving texts about health enrollment help in their area. Text King plus your zip code to 468311.

Now, King County residents can use text messages to meet up with one of those in-person assisters.

People can text “KING” plus their zip code to 468311 and get information about opportunities for help in their area. For instance, this weekend, the Healthplanfinder Mobile Enrollment Tour is visiting Kent (Saturday, 2-5 pm). If someone in Kent can’t make it during those hours, they might text “KING 98032″ to 468311. This person will get additional upcoming times and locations where they can find assistance in Kent – all sent directly to their phones.

Someone who lives in Capitol Hill might text “KING 98122″ and receive times and locations for Central Seattle.

A similar idea proved valuable to connect people with a nearby flu-shot during the 2009 pandemic flu scare in California.

Subscribers get a text message each time there’s a nearby enrollment opportunity — so a secondary benefit is getting that occasional reminder to sign-up for insurance.

The program isn’t just about convenience either – it’s about equity. Young, low-income people of color use text messaging more than any other demographic. These people are also a lot more likely to be uninsured, and they’re the people the Affordable Care Act can help the most. Where the Internet and traditional media fall short, text messaging fills in the blanks.

The program is currently offered in English, but a Spanish version will be available by the end of the year.

Other health jurisdictions, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, are offering text message programs, but none this robust.

“This program, like any good text message program, is designed to provide customized, valuable information that will encourage people to take action,” said Public Health – Seattle & King County Public Information Officer Hilary Karasz, who has spent several years studying text messages as a tool for public health practice.

Congratulations to Carl Haggerty for winning the Leadership Excellence award from the Guardian’s Public Leaders Network! Haggerty is the Digital Communications Manager at GovDelivery client, Devon County Council. He champions and develops the digital agenda within the council and oversees the council’s corporate web presence and intranet. We were lucky to have him as one of the featured speakers at last week’s annual UK Digital Communications Event, Reaching More People.

The Guardian featured an article on Carl last month describing his merits that won him the Leadership Excellence award:

“The award goes to Haggerty for his energy and openness in building on his belief that local government should be both open and digital, and for his work in a part of the country – rural south-west England – not always renowned for its innovation. Haggerty… is responsible for developing ways to engage and involve local people and encourage greater democratic and community participation”.

Carl’s energy for building an open and digital local government was evident in his presentation at “Reaching More People” where he spoke about the current state of local government. While organisations are facing the challenges of moving to digital services, Carl also said there’s a huge opportunity right now in public sector communications. “We still have a huge role to play in terms of providing public information”, Carl said. Ensuring that communications are designed with a “user-driven” mentality is one of the top priorities in the changing digital landscape.

In his presentation, he noted, “There’s a shift for us to think about how we really focus on user needs not just assuming that someone turns up on a council’s home page and then starts there and navigates through some kind of glorious organisational structure. But actually it’s about putting the user first and the organisation is kind of irrelevant in that point. If we have a role to play to provide public information we should do it. If we have a role to provide a service we should do it. And if we have a clear role to provide information and advice that help people find services in their local community we should do it”.

Carl reviewed three main principles that are “reusable” across organisations for communicating with audiences. Communications should be:

  • User-driven and evidence based
  • Targeted and personalised
  • Digital by Design

ReusablePrinciples

The idea of moving to a self-service, self-help communications strategy is one that Devon County Council has been successfully putting into practice. If you’d like to hear more from Carl and his tips on developing an “open by default, digital by design” government communications strategy watch his presentation here.

Congratulations to Carl on the award and an engaging presentation last week! You can follow Carl or the Devon County Council on Twitter or visit the council’s website to learn more about what they are doing to improve their digital agenda.

Achieving cost savings, citizen engagement, and more effective services in their communities

2013 was a transformative year for the adoption of innovative technology in government. And some GovDelivery clients were at the forefront of these technology movements. Last week, Government Technology announced the winners of the 2013 Digital Cities awards. Coordinated by the Center for Digital Government (CDG), this is the thirteenth year that local governments across the United States were recognized for “progress on information and communication technology practices made over the past year, return on investment, and a city’s demonstrated ability to innovate and leverage creative practices” (GovTech).

Achieving a high return on investment through digitization of services has been a growing theme in the local government market. Todd Sander, the executive director for the CDG said, “Cities that are investing in technology are seeing huge cost savings that are critical to operations and their ability to meet higher demand for services. These cities are true innovators and we applaud them as they work in the spirit of collaboration to provide extraordinary value to constituents, despite budget setbacks.”

Many cities and counties are putting time and effort to building innovative online services, but those services aren’t as impactful if people don’t use them because they don’t know about them. Outbound communications are critical to driving usage and engagement of these digital services.

One of the winning cities, GovDelivery client the City of Palo Alto, Calif. is using technology to drive key city projects, like: “PaloAlto311, the city’s online reporting site for infrastructure issues, and its web platform for near real-time notifications on city permits” (GovTech). Palo Alto also uses GovDelivery’s digital communications platform to increase digital outreach and awareness around other key city projects, including the Zero Waste initiative. The Zero Waste initiative ensures the city can continue to conserve resources and minimize paper waste. Palo Alto maximizes the impact of the Zero Waste program with electronic communications to promote these important city initiatives, such as safe recycling of old documents through document shredding events. Find more information on the Palo Alto Zero Waste initiative here.

PaloAltoEmailPaloAltoWeb

Palo Alto is one example of many local government organizations making the most of digital outreach and technology for the benefit of their stakeholders. We at GovDelivery are so excited to congratulate Palo Alto and a number of our other clients on their hard-earned awards!

Congratulations to GovDelivery Clients:

250,000 or more population category:

2nd — Louisville, Ky.

3rd — Riverside, Calif.

9th — Baltimore

10th — Raleigh, N.C.

125,000 – 249,999 population category:

7th — Tacoma, Wash.

Less than 75,000 population category:

1st — Palo Alto, Calif.

2nd — Fayetteville, Ark.

7th — Auburn, Wash.

For the full list of 2013 Digital City Winners or to find out how your organization can be nominated for an award next year, visit here.

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.

nnoimageTomorrow, Tuesday, August 6, 2013  marks the 30th anniversary of National Night Out.  National Night Out (NNO) is a unique group of crime and drug prevention events sponsored National Association of Town Watch (NATW).  The campaign involves citizens, civic groups, businesses, law enforcement agencies, neighborhood organizations and local officials from all 50 states, US territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide.

Neighborhoods across the country will be holding block parties tomorrow as part of NNO, encouraging people to get to know their neighbors and work together to promote cooperative, police/community crime prevention efforts. Last year’s campaign involved more than 15,000 communities worldwide. In all, more than 37 million people participated in NNO events in 2012.

The City of Minneapolis, Minnesota outranked all U.S. cities in NNO participation in 2012 (in the 250,000+ population category). Over 1,200 events took place, with over 65,000 citizens participating.  The city, whose participation rate (17%) has led the nation for cities of its size, expects another strong showing this year, with over 1,450 registered thus far in 2013. So how do they do it? Let’s revist their tips in hopes that other communities can use the same tactics in years to come!

Build Your Audience

From the crime prevention/community perspective, dwindling resources means increasing outreach to find neighborhood leaders, block captains, and business partners. The City of Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) combats these challenges by leveraging their digital communications lists. The city has been using email alerts to reach residents and business with information on a variety of subjects and topics since 1995.  When asking for an email address, the MPD also inquires about the neighborhood in which the subscriber lives. “Being able to capture where the subscribers live or work, and where they aren’t, helps us know where we need to do our outreach,” says Luther Krueger, Crime Prevention Analyst at the MPD.  This has been especially helpful for the National Night Out events, where the MPD can quickly identify and then engage areas where they need block leaders or additional participants.

blockleaders

Provide Resources and Make it Easy!

County, city or public safety websites should serve as a helpful resource for citizens who want to learn more about how they can be involved. The City of Minneapolis makes it quick and easy for residents and businesses to collect information, engage their community, and have a successful event. Here are just a few examples of the resources they offer:

  1. Event ideas
  2. Tips on how to meet your neighbors
  3. Tips on how to ask businesses for a donation or sponsorship
  4. List of all registered events in case people want to attend, but can’t host
  5. Reminders to keep the lights on
  6. National Night Out promotional flyer templates, in various languages

Incentivize Participation

In many cities and counties, there is a block permit fee to register a location for an outdoor event. The City of Minneapolis waives this fee for early registrants, reducing the need for costs and resources that could be used on the event itself. If communities share resources, the city essentially gives everyone the opportunity to have a free event.  Many county and city websites also tout in-person visits during NNO by officials to provide giveaways or prizes for families, children, and other participants.

Leverage Social Media

NNO is a social event, and social media can be the most powerful promotional tool. Not only can NNO be promoted on a county or city’s Facebook and Twitter pages, but communities and neighborhoods can create their own pages to invite friends and followers. Page and account administrators can post information and updates about the event, and get feedback from attendees on everything from food and games to whether a theme should be involved.  Don’t forget, city and county employees at every level can get the word out.  In the City of Minneapolis, the City Council, Mayor, and Chief of Police all actively promote national night out on social media, in mailings, and at other events.

Remind Your Participants!

Many police departments plan NNO weeks, or even months, in advance. To ensure the date is highlighted on citizens’ calendars, be sure to send them a few friendly reminders.  The City of Minneapolis sent various email alerts and social media posts reminding participants to register their event as well as directed them to check out all of the great resources on the website.

tweetreminder

Get Out There!

The point of National Night Out is to unite communities and public safety for the purposes of crime prevention. Showing up and participating at local NNO events increases trust and transparency and allows officials to continue educating citizens about safety while providing essential crime prevention information. City employees should hit the streets; meet business owners and residents; and bring back details on successful events that can be leveraged by communities the following year.

Follow Up

Just because National Night Out ends on August 7th,doesn’t mean community engagement should cease. NNO is an amazing opportunity to make relationships with participants who can be contacted to be crime prevention block leaders or community representatives throughout the rest of the year. Don’t miss out on the chance to build and solidify those connections. Krueger reminds us: “An organized community, partnering with police, solves problems more quickly, and with more sustainable crime reduction, than either partner acting without the other.”

For more information, or to find out how you can get involved, check out the National Night Out 2013 website.

By Amy Larsen, Client Success Consultant at GovDelivery

Today’s government communicators are tasked with staying on top of the latest communication trends to create and deliver messages or content that stakeholders want to receive.  And we all know the only way to determine success is if we measure it, which means government communicators end up using to private sector definitions and measurements. You can find information on average open rates or click-through rates all over the internet. This also leads public sector successprofessionals to compare themselves to private sector counterparts. Unfortunately, this is the best the public sector has been able to do in the area of communications metrics – up until now.

If we consider what’s important to private sector communicators, certain goals come to mind:

  • Brand recognition
  • Increased market share
  • Promotion of new products and services

If you get messages like I do (on a daily basis), revenue-centric goals are often the focus. Successfully increasing sales through promotions and moving customers away from competitors are the tangible marks of a successful private sector campaign.

Not all of these success metrics are specific to the private sector – things like branding and promotion of events are certainly areas of cross-over when it comes to public sector messaging and campaigns goals. However, public sector communicators also have unique goals based specifically on mission: keeping people healthy; finding homes for lost pets; or tracking down dangerous suspects. In fact, more often than not, the success of a public sector campaign is based on these intangible mission-oriented goals, and measuring these results is not always as easy as taking a simple inventory of how many shoes sold after you sent 50% off coupons to a list of 10,000 email addresses.

Successful public sector communications often require more collaboration, creativity and open exchange of ideas from multiple departments and teams than a private sector marketing message. For instance, a police officer writing a report on a wanted suspect may have to quickly communicate the suspect’s identifying information to a communications specialist, who will then craft and send an eye-catching message (so people will open it) to stakeholders through multiple channels. In turn, communicators want to know the impact of their efforts and may need to reach out to other teams to determine the results of specific messaging.

Communicators may struggle to gather data from healthcare providers on the number of people who went in for flu shots the weekend that their healthcare social media update was posted vs. the previous weekend with no promotion, especially when they do not know who to contact for records at a healthcare facility.  This requires planning and open communication between teams to achieve the goals that best serve stakeholders, but it also means knowing what you’re trying to achieve before you start creating your messages.

What are some examples of measurable results from communications efforts? A few recent examples that stand out include:

Stearns County Sheriff’s Office recently started connecting with stakeholders via a digital newsletter. Embedded within the newsletter was an option to submit tips via email, telephone and a web form. Within 13 minutes of sending their newsletter, the sheriff’s office got their first tip from one of the newsletter’s recipients.

San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) recently alerted followers via Twitter to sign-up for email and SMS updates during a period of service delays due to a collision of maintenance vehicles. Communicating major delays quickly and directly through multiple channels helped BART riders avoid closed routes and minimized incoming complaints to BART customer service. BART collected 800+% more email and SMS subscribers during the service delay (compared to their regular service periods) as riders signed up to receive direct updates through two of the most popular communication channels.

The City of Moore, OK recently coordinated disaster recovery efforts after EF4 tornadoes ripped through the city, leaving a trail of destruction that included loss of life, severe injuries, and destruction of homes and property. Moore city officials quickly responded with outbound messaging, giving residents resources to contact emergency services and to get the help they needed in the wake of the disaster.

Each of these examples show how mission goals means different measurements of success. How does your department define success? Are you measuring the number of subscribers, clicks, opens, or likes after a certain message was sent? Or, do you strive to achieve a healthier population, a safer place to work and play, or a way to get more people involved with civic events? What may seem like the simplest step in the process – knowing what you’re trying to accomplish with each communication – is often the step that is most over looked in an effort to produce more content and faster responses to the public. What successful communicators recognize is that defining the goal that you’re trying to achieve can help streamline communications – instead of throwing out as much content as you can, focus on a goal, and execute a communications campaign to achieve measurable results toward that goal.

A few weeks ago, the City of Moore was hit by a devastating EF5 tornado that took lives and caused mass destruction in the heart of Oklahoma. In the wake of this unprecedented tragedy, there was a huge influx of information that needed to be communicated to the citizens of Oklahoma, including recovery progress, organizing clean up efforts and more. State and local government had to act fast.

OKStrong_SiteAs part of the relief effort, the State of Oklahoma launched OK Strong, the official website of response and resources for those affected by the tornadoes. While the website serves as a crucial centralized hub of resources for tornado victims, the state also needed to build an audience they could communicate with through a variety of channels. In conjunction with the website, OK Strong partnered with GovDelivery to launch email and wireless updates to keep their community informed.

OK Strong went the automation route and was able to leverage the content they were already putting on their website for repackaging as digital communications. By using GovDelivery’s Page Watch functionality on the RSS feeds generated by OK Strong’s website, email and wireless updates are automatically deployed to subscribers when new information is available.

With this automated process, OK Strong is able to send many of the typical communications needed before, during, and after a critical situation – without adding extra staffing resources. Some examples of the content that OK Strong distributes are:

  • Weather Information and Warnings
  • Rumor Control
  • Volunteer Requests and Information
  • How to Register for Federal Assistance
  • Animal and Livestock Location

OK Strong also offers a digest of the tweets from their organization as a daily email. This allows anyone who doesn’t have Twitter, or who doesn’t check Twitter often, to see the content OK Strong distributes through social media in their email inboxes. All emails have also been optimized for mobile viewing, including the addition of a thinner banner in the header of the emails with a clean and simple template.

OKStrong3

Reaching as many people as possible was critical to OK Strong’s mission, so they employed best practices to quickly get large groups of people subscribed to their updates. Beyond adding a prominent email sign-up box to their website, they also promoted their sign-up options to their audiences on social media. These promotional efforts helped convert casual browsers into direct subscribers.

OKStrong4

One of the most impactful strategies they used to grow their list came from their participation in the GovDelivery Network. Many other Oklahoma State Agencies, such as the Department of Health and Department of Education, are able to promote OK Strong through their own digital communications by leveraging the automated GovDelivery Network. The City of Moore itself also promotes OK Strong’s sign-up options as well. Through these cross-promotional partnerships, relevant agencies and cities have contributed over 80% of the new people signing up for OK Strong’s informational updates.

On May 31st, a second wave of powerful storms hit Oklahoma, but this time, an established communications platform was in place. The site was ready, and with a built in base of subscribers, Oklahoma was able to distribute information to citizens before, during, and after the storms.

For more information on OK Strong, visit their website and sign up for updates.  If you are ready to begin thinking about how your organization will keep the public safe during emergency situations, click here to download our free eBook: Leveraging Digital Communications in Emergencies.