A blog for GovDelivery Clients
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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.

By Richard Fong, Technology Project Manager

Nestled in Southern California just south of Joshua Tree National Forest is Coachella Valley, which includes the Salton Sea. With an average annual rainfall of three inches, water is a vital resource. In 1918 the Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) was created to “protect and conserve local water sources.” Today CVWD meets “the water-related needs of more than 107,000 homes and businesses across 1,000 square miles.”

CVWD understood the resource constraints of paper-based communications and knew that the move towards digital was the right direction for the organization. This led CVWD to implementing GovDelivery Digital Communication Management to help them build outreach and maintain consistent communications with stakeholders. Additionally, as an organization with established communication processes in place, having a solution that was easy to integrate into existing processes was important. With GovDelivery APIs (application programming interfaces), this was easy.

CVWD’s Public Information Officers (PIOs) already had the ability to create a news release and post that content to their website. To maintain legacy systems and continue using communication processes, CVWD integrated GovDelivery’s Send Bulletin API into their custom CMS (content management system) to automate the dissemination of those news release bulletins to the public. This integration conveniently allows CVWD PIOs to trigger a Send Bulletin API call to GovDelivery after their news release has been posted to the website, which then creates and pushes out an email to subscribers with the new information. The integration started with the news releases but has recently been expanded to include board agenda meetings.

CoachellaJesse Ruiz, Web Editor for CVWD, said he wanted to streamline the communications process, specifically how to allow staff to publish content and send a GovDelivery bulletin without leaving the organization’s CMS or website.

How does this automation benefit Coachella Valley Water District? By leveraging API technology to automate content distribution, Jesse was able to save the organization and his colleagues time and money. The PIOs can preserve their current work flow while adding the ability to send a bulletin from GovDelivery with a click of a button from their system. Additionally, there was little or no training required.

Emergency communications is a critical process to get right. It literally is the difference in saving more lives when a disaster strikes. So, what exactly is the one-two punch needed to be truly effective when communicating with the publicRed boxing glove concertina on white background during emergencies?

Maximum outreach plus multichannel distribution. This combination is an absolute necessity for today’s emergency communicators to be truly effective.

In my other recent posts on emergency notifications, I mentioned how reaching the maximum number of people during emergencies can help to save a lot more lives. Maximum reach needs to be a main goal for all government organizations, particularly Offices of Emergency Management. Just having a large list of subscribers doesn’t allow you to rest on your laurels. You have to actually be able to reach them when you need to. That’s why it’s critical that you use a multichannel approach when sending emergency notifications.

Think about all of the communication tools we use. Between the multiple email addresses (work, personal, etc.), mobile phone for voice and text messages, various social media profiles, and home landline phone, the number of communication channels goes on and on. This is why it’s critical for you to use multichannel distribution during an emergency. When an emergency hits, you need to use multiple channels to ensure that people get the information they need in order to take necessary precautions. Bottom line: by sending out emergency notifications through multiple channels, you are much more likely to reach them.

Many government organizations are still using a system in which they are relying solely on a landline channel to try to get a hold of people in emergencies. The problem with this approach is that a lot of people no longer use their landline phones, and those people would have to be home to get the emergency alert. With a robust, single-platform, multichannel system, you dramatically increase the chances of reaching citizens, wherever they are at the moment you’ve sent that message.

Easy Button1Maximum outreach, along with multichannel distribution, are key elements in reaching people in emergencies. There are solutions that provide multichannel communications, making it easy to integrate all of these emergency communication strategies, such as email, voice messages, SMS/text messages, and social media postings. When you have these in place, you can create one message and push it out through all of these channels at once. It’s like you’ve just pressed your very own “Easy” button!

Join us for the fourth and final podcast for more information on the power of combining maximum reach with multichannel distribution in emergencies.

By Richard Fong, Technology Project Manager

Moderate impact. Low impact. Collision. Cleared.

If you travel on highways anywhere, wouldn’t it be nice to have these types of messages delivered to your email or phone so you could anticipate a change in your route and save time?

With some cool technology, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has started doing just that.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to visit and speak with Tom Stidham, a developer with WSDOT. He stated that, before using a proactive digital communication system, they would post traffic information on their website and then push out alerts via Twitter. While these two channels did their job, WSDOT was looking to increase their proactive communications by providing email and SMS alerts to people traveling throughout the state of Washington.

By using GovDelivery’s Send Bulletin application programming interface (API), Tom was able to quickly a­­nd effectively integrate these alerts with their current work flow process to send automated messages to the public. These messages include traffic incidents, road conditions, and construction­ alerts.

The public can now sign up to more than 50 email and SMS alerts for different regions within the state, including areas such as the Oregon border and the Cascades, the Olympic Peninsula, and metropolitan areas such as Seattle, Spokane, and Tacoma.

What does that mean for the people who live and visit Washington? They can find out what’s happening on roads throughout the state without having to constantly check Twitter or the department’s website. They get the information they need, controlling what updates they receive by subscribing only to the updates they want. And, maybe most importantly, if there’s a critical road closure (think the Skagit Bridge collapse), the SMS or email message that alerts residents and visitors to a potentially life-threatening road event can help save lives and protect property.

For more information on how you can leverage API technology to help your organization, watch my webinar, “Using APIs for success in Government."

Co-written by Anne Doucot and Mary Yang

In my last post, I talked about how reaching the maximum amount of people that you can during an emergency can be the difference in saving more lives. And if you’ve been following along in the last couple of posts and podcasts from this series so far, you’ve also heard me talk about how important it is to get subscribers in addition to the use of a single platform, multichannel system. But, I know what many of you are thinking, once you get subscribers, how do you keep their contact information up-to-date?

hey-look-hereWith a single platform system that’s used by both your organization’s emergency communications department and public affairs office.

If you’re lucky, as an organization, you may only need to activate emergency alerts once or twice a year. That means, if your current system allows citizens to sign up to receive emergency alerts, that data may be quite old by the time you need to rely on it.

The solution to keeping contact information up-to-date is by using a comprehensive system that allows for both regular government communications and emergency notifications. The system should allow citizens to sign up for a variety of topics. With this kind of system, citizens can choose to receive updates on topics of interest and choose the method of communication they prefer (email, SMS, social media, etc.) The system should also allow citizens easy access to their profiles to provide updated contact data if they want.

As the communications department provides regular messages, the system will recognize if email addresses are still in use or if text messages are delivered. For organizations that use the same platform for their government communications and emergency notifications, sending out regular communications can continually test and cleanse the contact data for their citizens.

Join us for the third podcast for more information on how easy it can be to keep citizen contact information up-to-date.

For more analysis on current emergency notifications technology, download this recent Analyst Brief from IDC Government Insights.

In my last post, I discussed how a siloed communications system doesn’t work in emergency communications. The term, silo, refers to departments within an organization working separately with little to no communication with each other. For example, in the public sector, emergency notifications are typically handled separately from the communications team.

Taking full advantage of technology and the wide variety of communication tools available is often a bit slower on the adoption scale for government organizations. Add to that a siloed communications approach, and you have a combination Emergency Informationthat creates both inefficiency and ineffectiveness in reaching the people you need to reach in emergencies.

In a crisis situation, reaching the maximum amount of people that you can within the community that could be affected can be the difference in saving a few lives versus saving a lot of lives.

The Town of Ocean City, MD, discovered this need firsthand in 2011 when Hurricane Irene devastated the area. In the aftermath of the storm’s destruction, residents felt that the town’s communication could have been better before and during the storm. The town knew it needed a better communication system and a more flexible way to quickly get messages to more residents, especially in times of emergencies.

Ocean City administrators began using their website as a way to gain subscribers with the help of a digital communication management system (DCM) and started offering various topics that would be of interest to residents, allowing people to sign up for information and emergency alerts. When Hurricane Sandy hit the following year, the city was prepared, pushing important information alerts out to residents via SMS/text messaging and email.

So how can your organization gain more reach?

By making it a priority to get as much information as you can from your stakeholders before an emergency. What type of information and how much you gather will depend on your organization, but you must start with the basics, such as phone numbers, email addresses, home and work addresses, and any other contact information that you need from your stakeholders. Getting this information before an emergency strikes allows you to proactively get critical information out to residents, which can in turn potentially save someone’s life.

Join us for the second podcast for more on the importance of getting rid of siloed communications, and achieving maximum reach in emergencies.

Data SilosAs a government professional, chances are you know a thing or two about emergency notifications. It’s a critical tool that is an absolute necessity as a means to communicate effectively with the public in times of emergencies. However, what you may not realize is that using a single platform system to manage your emergency communications is just as important in maximizing effectiveness.

Unfortunately, the problem with current emergency communication tactics is that they often exist within a siloed structure. More simply put, many government organizations have different departments that are working separately when it comes to getting the word out to citizens in urgent situations. For example, emergency notification systems have typically been managed separately from the communications department within an organization. Although this may have been fairly efficient in the past, this structure is no longer effective in today’s highly mobile culture.

If your organization is currently working within a siloed communications structure, try using a single platform system instead. With cloud-based emergency notification solutions, your organization’s emergency notifications and digital communication systems can be connected so that your emergency operations center can work seamlessly with your communications department. Role-based permissions help limit who can send what kind of communications, but everything work-togetheris managed in a single platform. This will increase efficiency in getting the word out during an emergency. And more importantly, having these systems work efficiently and cohesively together can help to save people’s lives when survival depends on timeliness of emergency notifications.

In the past, using the capability of “Reverse Dial” (the ability to gain access to all landline contacts within specific geographical areas) may have been enough. But many people now use their mobile device as their main voice channel. Mobile devices allow for greater flexibility in receiving information via SMS text messaging, email, or newsgathering through web browsers. We are a hyper-connected society, surrounded by all that technology has brought, and your emergency communications strategy should reflect that.

Think about it. If you found yourself in an emergency situation, what’s the first thing you would want to know? First and foremost, you would want to know exactly what and where the situation is and how you and your family will be protected. You want the right resources, and you want them fast and easily accessible. And in urgent situations, whether it’s a natural disaster such as a hurricane, a water main break that could affect your family or a criminal situation that is close to home, you need that information as quickly as possible.

Join us for a four-part podcast series on Emergency Communications and how you can help your organization better communicate with the public in emergency situations. Listen to the first podcast here:
Siloed Communications Systems Create Inefficiency
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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.

Among the vast majority of choices that are available to us on a recurring daily basis, the idea of choosing             “correctly” can seem exhausting and never-ending.    fortune teller   “Sushi or that amazing taco salad at that one place around the corner?” “Should I send the kids to public or private school?” “When is the best time to send that email so that I can actually reach a group of 30,000 stakeholders?”

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a little help in making the right decision?

Working as a communications professional in a government organization can be a challenge. With ongoing budget constraints and often seemingly limited digital resources, you may not be quite sure how you can most efficiently and effectively reach specific citizens when you need to. There may be situations where you want to reach a large number of community members, and there may be other situations where you need to reach a specific area that will be affected by a tornado, for example. Particularly in the latter instance, you want to have a system in place that allows your organization to get the necessary information out as quickly as possible, and to as many people who will be affected as possible.

With technology constantly evolving and so many options in social media platforms, you may be wondering, “How can I find what methods will work best for my organization?”

Jennifer Kaplan, Product Marketing Manager of GovDelivery, is hoping to help with tips on what’s next in digital communications, and how you can use technology to leverage resources and data you already have to better communicate with your stakeholders. During this upcoming webinar, she will discuss how you can use social media as a tool kit and the multiple benefits of cross-promotion, with examples from other government organizations who have found ways to effectively use digital communications as a means to save both time and organizational costs.

Register here

Featured Speaker: Jennifer Kaplan
Product Marketing Manager, GovDelivery

Jennifer Kaplan

 

Date: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 
Time: 2:00pm Eastern, 11:00am Pacific
Length: 60 minutes
Cost: Free

 

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.