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Authentic Reach: The What, Why, and How

One of the most important first steps in any digital communications strategy is building an active and engaged audience. Most often, citizens who raise their hand and opt in to your messages are more likely to be engaged long term. In the 2022 Granicus Benchmark Report, we use the term “authentic reach” as a way of connecting the dots between building an audience and best steps for ensuring their engagement over time.

Here’s a summary of what you need to know about authentic reach, why it matters, and some steps you can take to build it:

What is authentic reach?

The term “authentic reach” is defined as the number of citizens who raise their hand, ask to hear from you, and opt in to receive your messages. This could be citizens who subscribe to your emails, opt in to receive text messages, or come to your website for more information. Capturing this audience is vital, because active audience members are more likely to engage with your messages on a long-term basis.

Giving your audience a choice to connect with you is empowering, and has been proven to be one of the strongest perpetrators of real change. As a member of the public, wouldn’t you rather hear frequently from an organization you support and value, than one you may not have ever engaged with that picked your email address from a purchased list? Most people would say yes, and your audience likely feels the same.

Why does building an authentic audience matter?

While it may sound obvious, it really is true: the greater the audience, the higher the likelihood that your desired outcomes will become realities. Whether it’s informing the public about an important city council meeting, or recruiting people to apply for an open board position, the more people you have willing to listen, the more likely it is that citizens will take the next step in achieving your outcome.

It is possible to easily gain access to thousands of email addresses or phone numbers by simply purchasing a contact list, and can sometimes seem faster than trying to engage through organic (authentic) methods. However, these lists are often expensive, and they aren’t as valuable as one might think. The recipients of these emails may not know your organization and choose to immediately opt out, before even determining who the communications are coming from. This is a waste of valuable time and resources.

By levering authentic reach to speak to your audience, you’ll be connecting with citizens who have been engaged with you previously, and want to continue that engagement. Over time, they’ll be far less likely to opt out after an email blast than those who did not choose to engage with you.

How can your organization increase your authentic reach?

There are several strategies you can use to increase your authentic reach.

First, consider putting an overlay on your site. A person who visits your website is already, at the very least, interested in what your organization has to offer. By placing a clean, understated light window box on the homepage of your website, you’ll give visitors an opportunity to choose to give you their contact information.

Tapping into the GovDelivery Network is also a great way to increase authentic reach. The network consists of over 150 million authentically participatory citizens, all ready to receive communications from your organization with the touch of a button. The GovDelivery Network allows your organization a free and easy way to cross-promotion similar organizations. With a click of a button, organizations are seeing an increase of 500 percent or more in their subscriber growth due to opting in to the GovDelivery Network.

Finally, make sure all content is relevant to your audience and features a strong call to action – a next step. Whether it’s adding their name to an email list for future notifications, or signing up to participate in a local event, the best way to stretch your reach is to have a clear way for citizens to join in when they see something that interests them.

Measuring the success of your communication efforts really comes down to authentic reach. How many engaged citizens are out there waiting to hear from you? This will be a major factor in determining the effectiveness of your efforts.