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Breakfast Series Recap: Examining the Metrics that Matter

Technology in the public sector has come a long way. We’re able to reach our citizens and engage with them in new and innovative ways. From a more personalized email system, to sending SMS messages to our audience’s phones, we are constantly working towards improving our communication with citizens.

At GovDelivery’s recent breakfast series, the 2016 GovDelivery Benchmark Report – Key Findings, three experts, Madeline O’Phelan, Jen Rademacher, and John Simpson all brought up crucial information for understanding the importance of metrics, what they mean, and 8 tips on how to improve them for your own agency.

Why Your Agency Should Be Using Metrics

As budgets tighten, and citizen’s expectations start to rise, it’s important to take advantage of the fact that technology is also changing. Measuring metrics allows you to see what’s working and what you should be spending your time on. By looking at metrics, you can really see how your agency is measuring up to other agencies, and how you can improve. You can see the return of investments for your resources, and understand how your citizens are receiving the messages you’re sending out.

Because GovDelivery is the largest provider of public sector digital tools, taking a closer look at metrics and providing agencies with this benchmark report was an important step in raising awareness about this new useful tool. As O’Phelan pointed out, the goal was to provide “meaningful data for digital use in government,” by acknowledging the power of a citizen-centric rhetoric in agency communication.

The Five Key Metrics And What They Mean

In order to fully comprehend the benchmark report and all of the tips to improve your metrics, you must first understand what was measured and what, exactly, that means. Rademacher made clear that the report is based on findings over the period of a year, and that median figured were used, so as not to be affected by outliers.

The five metrics that were measured were engagement rate, open rates, click rates, overlay rates, and subscriptions per subscriber. Engagement rate, according to Rademacher, has to do with looking closely at your agency’s most active recipients and their open and click rates. Open rate, then, is simply the number of recipients who actually opened an email, versus how many got it. Diving further in, click rates look at the number of recipients who clicked on at least one hyperlink in an email versus how many people total that received that email. The next benchmark that was measured is a relatively new strategy, but it has already made a huge difference in agency’s subscribers: the overlay. Overlay is a non-invasive window that will appear on a website asking the user to sign up for emails from your agency. The federal government has seen a nearly 300 percent growth just with overlays. Lastly, subscriptions per subscriber is exactly as it sounds: the number of subscriptions that an audience has signed up for, divided by the total number of subscribers.

Once the metrics of the benchmark are understood, it’s important to learn about ways to improve your agency’s reach and forms of communication with your audience.

8 Ways to Improve Your Metrics

  1. Try A/B Testing to Stabilize Engagement: While a steady growth in audience is important, it’s also important that that audience is engaged and is actively participating. For this reason, sending out different test emails to different audience members to test what gets the best response is a great way to improve metrics.
  2. Use Strong Calls to Action: Studies have shown that email subject lines only have about 8 seconds to make an impression on the reader. This means that it’s crucial to keep it short, get to the point, stay relevant, and use imagery to illustrate your agency’s mission and call to action and instigate strong engagement.
  3. Be Timely to Improve Open Rates: As Simpson points out, it’s necessary to have a “clear strategy” for timing with agency emails–and to not completely overwhelm a citizen’s inbox with two or more emails a day. This is where the art of perfecting the subject line comes into play again. Use no more than 54 characters, as GovLoop recommends, and really just try to draw the audience into the meat of the email: your website.
  4. Gather Stories and Feedback to Increase Click Rates: To bolster your click rates, Simpson emphasizes the “critical need to get an engaged audience to stay engaged.” Because people want to hear from people like themselves, agencies need to take advantage of that. Ask for audience feedback after an event or after you launch a new resource, and use that feedback to make your content more personable, and to boost click rates.
  5. Take the Time to Get to Know Your Audience: Another way to increase your agency’s click rates is to make sure you’re interacting with your receivers in the right way. It’s important to show videos and images the right way, to know what it is that they’re looking for by listening to their feedback, and putting it into motion. Once you understand your audience, the next step is to make it easy for them to get to your website, and to understand your call to action.
  6. Overlay–Just Do It: If your agency hasn’t started to use an overlay on their website, now is the time to take the leap. The fact of the matter is that agencies that have implemented an overlay feature have seen extraordinary growth in the amount of their readers and subscribers.
  7. But Don’t Get Too Crazy: If you’ve already been using overlay at your agency, or you’ve just started, remember to try and “not be a nuisance,” as Simpson says. Don’t be as annoying as a popup, and if the user declines to sign up for a subscription, let them go on with their day.
  8. Connect Quickly to Bolster Subscriptions Per Subscriber: Your new subscribers are likely to be your agency’s most active. Take advantage of that, and make sure to present them with the opportunities your agency has, as well as a strong call to action and next steps for them to become more engaged.

Take a note from these tips, and start to really look at your agency’s metrics. And for even more helpful advice and information, download the GovDelivery’s 2016 Benchmark Report: Improving Metrics That Matter, here.