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Digital outreach tips for newly elected officials

In 2014, new office holders and their communications teams will find new opportunities and challenges when they leave the campaign trail or the nomination hearings and take office.

As you begin your new positions, you can expect to be flooded with action items, but what about your communications? You’ve spent months reaching out and connecting with stakeholders. If done right, you can easily get a quick win by capitalizing on this momentum and carrying these outreach tactics over to your administration. To do this effectively, you need a powerful tool and proven strategies for success.  If you’re an elected official at a public sector entity that’s already using GovDelivery, you can rest easy knowing that you have that powerful tool in place.

Whether you, personally, are one of the new names, or you’re part of a team transitioning into a new administration, we’ve put together some guidance to help you capitalize on this important time and jump-start your communication efforts for the coming term.

2014-11-12 12_01_56-Home page of the Office of the Governor, Mark Dayton and Yvonne Prettner Solon,

Step 1: Start Building Your Audience Right Away

You may already have a base of people that you can reach through digital channels.  Typically, elected officials choose to leave these databases as part of a campaign or external organization.  Applicable laws should be reviewed before uploading data from a campaign into government-owned systems, like GovDelivery.

However, many new officeholders choose to take the following steps to build their “post campaign” outreach:

  1. Setup a sign-up option that is prominently featured on your website.  There should be a direct sign-up box embedded in a visible location on all pages and you should consider using an “overlay” that will ask all new site visitors to sign-up. Here is an example from our test environment.
  2. At events and in emails sent to your campaign lists, you may be able to direct people to sign-up at the website you’ve put up for the office once it is launched.
  3. Make sure you are offering updates on specific topics.  “Updates from the Mayor/Governor” are not nearly as popular as “Transportation Strategy Updates” can be.

Step 2: Make Content Concise but Relevant 

The most common emails we see from elected officials are general newsletters, but you have so much more going on: events, legislation, initiatives, and more.  Use short videos, blog teasers, an image of the day, and topic-oriented communications to draw in more sign-ups to your information and to engage users with what you send out.

2014-11-12 12_00_26-VIDEO_ Pushing the technology envelope in MoCo

Each touch point strengthens citizen engagement.

Mayors can send pictures from press meetings or visits to local businesses. City Council members could send video from local parks, promote summer recreation leagues, or document a new bridge being built, and state senators can send updates on new or pending legislation. Any activity or initiative that illustrates helping your community can be packaged and shared digitally.

Elected officials can also keep the media informed and drive awareness around press events. Storing media contacts and using private lists is a great way to quickly disseminate timely and accurate information to radio, television, newspapers and new media such as bloggers.

For public sector organizations using GovDelivery, any content, such as pictures or videos posted to your website, YouTube, and other digital properties can automatically be distributed to your subscribers without you lifting a finger. Learn more about our Automation functionality here.

 

Step 3. Data Matters: Insights Should Inform Decisions

Measurement and metrics should be a core part of the digital communication planning process from the start. The first challenge is identifying those metrics that can help you measure outcomes. The second is measuring them before, during and after your communications efforts so you have something to benchmark against. Ultimately, the goal of any communication is to move people to change their behavior either online, offline or both. But how do you know if your efforts are having an effect? Or even reaching your target audience at all?

Figuring out what’s working and what’s not is key to helping you focus your strategy. Even if the numbers you uncover aren’t great, they are still full of insights, helping your team identify those efforts that should be refined or abandoned.

Individual and aggregate reports from digital communications tools (like GovDelivery) provide insight into which pieces of content are the most engaging among your constituents. Metrics allow you to see what’s working, and what isn’t. Monitor these on a weekly or monthly basis to measure your progress over time and make necessary changes for better results.

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Step 4: Continue to Grow Your Audience

As your time in office continues, it’s critical to continue building your audience, so audit and make use of what you already have. Transportation groups typically have lists of subscribers for road closures and weather alerts. Parks and Recreation departments have contact information for those who have registered for events or community sports leagues. These untapped resources are your “Pot of Gold”, and they can also be sent an invite to sign up for information from you and your organization.

GovDelivery is already setup so that anyone new signing up to updates from any topic within your organization can automatically be shown the updates from your office (For example: just like Amazon cross promotes products, someone can sign up for the “Mayor’s Newsletter” and the “Mayor’s Transit Initiatives” right after they sign up for “Snow Emergency Alerts” from Public Works).  In addition to cross promoting signing up to your office’s content to people visiting your organization’s website, GovDelivery makes it possible to collaborate with other government organizations to reach even more people through the GovDelivery Network.

Your potential outreach may be much larger in this new position, and we hope some of these tips help you capitalize on the opportunity to reach more people and communicate in a world-class manner in your new role as office holder or staff member. By using GovDelivery to get the word out and keep your stakeholders informed, you can cross “successful digital communications” off your list… before you even take office.

Want more tips or to find out how other elected officials are engaging with their constituents? 

GovDelivery is used by over 1,000 government organizations for digital outreach and engagement, so we understand how your peers are getting a better handle on data-driven communications. 
 If you’re interested in a personalized overview of how elected officials at all levels of government are seeing communications, click here to contact us, and we’ll continue the conversation.

Or, check out our Digital Outreach Guide for tips and tricks to jumpstart your digital outreach. Also, don’t forget our Pinterest page has a wealth of email design examples here and ways to optimize your website for audience conversion here.