Answering Your Questions on Citizen Engagement: Part 2
This post is a continuation from last month’s blog answering some of the questions we received during and following our Citizen Engagement webinar with insights from Ruthbea Clarke of IDC Government Insights and Mary Yang of GovDelivery.
In the last post, we were able to compile the responses to questions answered during the webinar. Here are some of the questions and answers that we weren’t able to address live during the webinar because of time constraints.
If you’d like to hear more of the presentation Ruthbea and Mary gave, watch the webinar here or read the Analyst Connections brief here. The questions have been edited in some cases for further clarification.
Q: How might we address the resistance within public sector departments to innovative outreach tools?
As the mandates to “do more with less” continue to permeate the public sector, more innovative and digital-focused approaches to outreach take hold, even in departments who may be resisting the move to digital communications. If you’re trying to put digital communications on the top of the agenda in your department, start by crunching some numbers. Digital communications can be a huge cost savings (by replacing paper processes) as well as a revenue generator (by enabling you to connect with more people and automate revenue-driven messages, such as “renew your hunting or fishing license now”). Check out our “Customer Satisfaction and E-Government ” white paper for more information on how digital communications can help achieve tremendous cost savings, while improving citizen satisfaction. This may provide you with some leverage to push your organization to use digital communications to meet mission goals.
Q: How much are citizens engaging with local governments’ social media posts?
Social media can be a great tool to connect with your stakeholders in certain situations, but the extent your social media posts are read, commented on, and shared may vary. Oakland County, Michigan’s animal services team used both social media and email to send out stories of pets waiting for homes, and they saw an increase in adoption rates. On the other hand, at the Power of Reach tour stop in Oakland, folks from the City of Sacramento talked about using the website, blog and email more heavily to reach stakeholders when they noticed their Facebook account started seeing less engagement as Facebook changed its Newsfeed algorithms. Still, it’s difficult to ignore social media, even if it’s not going to be place where your citizens engage with you. At the end of the day, local governments are going to have to employ a multichannel approach to reach and engage citizens. For more information on engaging social posts, check out this blog post.
Q: Can you give some examples of broad attempts to engage the public in two-way communications about government topics?
One example of great two-way government-to-citizen communications is the Stearns County Sherriff’s Office (check out the new infographic on Stearns County here). Stearns County sends regular public updates embedded with buttons depicting different tip submission channels: Phone, Email, or Web. Each button redirects to the Sheriff’s Office phone number, email address, or an online tip submission tool. Just thirteen minutes after sending its inaugural message with GovDelivery, the Sheriff’s office received a tip. A simple email format with a clear, engaging call to action has empowered Stearns County residents to report information to their office, engaging in a two-way dialogue that results in better crime prevention.
Other strategies you can employ to engage in two-way conversations online are to like your followers’ Facebook posts, retweet your followers, respond to YouTube comments, respond to Yelp reviews or survey results, reply to citizen emails and blog comments, all in a timely manner. Organizations like Choosemyplate.gov (see the image to the right) and Michigan DNR even host Twitter chats where they take the time to engage with their audience.
Q: Regarding the security of cloud computing: is it more secure, about as secure or less secure than non-cloud alternatives?
It’s going to depend on the software you’re using and how closely that technology is monitoring and following set security protocols. The best answer is, it depends. Legacy, on-site software can be vulnerable to security threats, just as cloud-based software can. The cybersecurity stories in government news over the past year can prove how true that statement is.
When you dive into the cloud computing realm, you should ask the tough security questions. And if you work with a government-focused partner, security should be a top issue. At GovDelivery, the security of our cloud platform is taken very seriously. We have achieved International Security Certification 270001 from the British Standards Institution as well as G-Cloud Security Accreditation level IL2 in the U.K. We serve clients from the Department of Homeland Security to the Department of Defense. By aligning our software with rigorous security certificates and programs, we safeguard cloud security.
Q: Does citizen contact information become subject to public record requests?
This truly depends on where you are located. On a federal level, this kind of information has been protected as an exemption in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
For states, there is no uniform policy, so this is something you may need to look into if you’re a local government employee. Many states have or are changing legislation to protect digital lists of citizen contact information, but some states have not yet broached the subject of digital records requests of this nature.
Do you have any other questions to add to the list? Comment below!