What You Need to Know about the 2017 Public Sector Digital Communication Trends Report

Business Meeting Background

Public sector digital communications strategies are evolving to help governments better connect with citizens and drive their content. While we have more tools to facilitate this today than ever before, there is still room to share and learn best practices for digital communication.

That’s why the 2017 Public Sector Digital Communications Trends Report was created – to help government communicators get a strong sense of what to expect in the coming years from a digital communications perspective. The report gathered data from over 1,200 government employees through a study that surveyed primary digital communications goals for the coming year. In a recent webinar, GovDelivery’s Senior Marketing Communications Manager, Madeline O’Phelan broke down some goals and priorities and digital tactics agencies are focusing on in the next year.

Goals, Priorities and How to Achieve Them

Increase engagement through content. O’Phelan explained that one of the main goals of government employees for the next year is to create better content in order to drive engagement. “Increasing overall reach gives you a bigger pool to engage with and send materials to, and will be the number one metric to monitor looking forward,” she said.

Agencies can achieve this through a few ways. First, you should experiment with creating a content schedule. “We found that certain subscribers weren’t engaging if they didn’t hear from an agency, so it was useful to create an editorial calendar to stay on track and consistent with communication,” O’Phelan explained. Second, try using a strong call to action and use A/B testing to determine best placement for that call to action and how your content is being engaged with. She emphasized that a strong call to action will increase clicks and engagement rates. Third, try out different communications channels. O’Phelan recommended a multimodal approach at first to test and see what channels work with audience to drive engagement with content.

Increase overall customer satisfaction. Ultimately, agencies want to ensure that their constituents are satisfied with their customer service. O’Phelan explained that you can do this by using plain language, providing options for connecting, and simply listening to your audience.

Using plain language helps you to communicate your message in a way that the audience can understand the first time they hear it, reducing instances of bad engagement. O’Phelan suggested using GovDelivery’s Plain Language Playbook to help devise a plain language plan. Additionally, she explained that providing options for connecting allows customers to connect no matter what channel they are on. For example, an older subscriber may only be available through the phone while a younger subscriber may be better reached through text message or email. Finally, O’Phelan emphasized the importance of listening to your citizens and letting them know you are listening by engaging in real time feedback and dialogue. This assures citizens that you are taking their concerns seriously and are working to remedy issues.

Increase subscriber growth. In order to grow your subscriber base, O’Phelan recommended utilizing the content marketing funnel to first convert, then engage, and finally reach customers. During the reach stage, agencies can increase subscriber growth by implementing website overlays, taking better advantage of the GovDelivery Network, and re-engaging with sleepy subscribers. These digital tactics allow agencies drive engagement in a way that works for the customer, increasing satisfaction and subscriber rates.

Challenges for the Road Ahead 

Lack of resources. Despite the goals for digital communications in 2017 being attainable through digital tactics and action plans, agencies will face some challenges moving forward in their digital engagement journeys. Most significantly, agency staff are worried about the lack of resources they have to implement a digital communications strategy. In order to overcome this challenge, O’Phelan recommended automating messages, using pre-built campaigns to strategize early and effectively leverage the tools at your disposal, like the GovDelivery Network.

Reaching target audiences. Another key challenge that agencies will face moving forward is reaching their target audience. O’Phelan explained this is important because engaging with the right people will ultimately help you achieve all of the goals outline above. Some tips she gave to effectively reach your target audience included creating personas towards specific audiences, choosing communication channels and messaging that resonates, testing out what works best, and mastering multilingual content.

O’Phelan is optimistic that this is the year that digital engagement really takes off. She explained, “this may be the year that as a government we can change our mindset from a model of a perfection to a model of launch and iterate.” Through this, governments can stop getting bogged down by the expensive and time consuming details and focus more on launching and testing. Adopting this new mindset will ultimately help agencies achieve the goals they want to in 2017.

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