How One School District Met the Communication Needs of Countless Families

You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole, but as any toddler with an iron will and an overactive hammering arm will quickly demonstrate, you sure can try. For private sector companies, audiences can be broken down into neatly formulated shapes and sizes. If you want to market to the square pegs, utilize communications strategy A. If you want to market to the round holes, utilize communications strategy B.

Unfortunately for the public sector, most organizations don’t have that luxury. Because the audiences of many government agencies generally include a much larger, more diverse swath of the public, creating a “one-size fits all” communications strategy simply isn’t an option. Think of winter storm warnings, school closing announcements, drug recalls – these types of messages are designed to reach the largest audience possible quickly and efficiently. And in many cases, not reaching more people can impact the health or safety of citizens. So while making sure its customers know about the latest hot deal on a new pair of tennis shoes might be incredibly important to the marketing department at Nike, it’s pretty safe to say that it’s more important for messages from public sector organizations to reach their audiences.

So how do you make sure your important government messages reach the broadest audience possible?

Prince George’s Country Public Schools faced the reality of that question first-hand. PGCPS knew that it needed a way to better reach its students’ families quickly and easily, but its current communications system wasn’t up to the task. Because many of the district’s low-income residents don’t have access to the internet, relying solely on email updates for its communications wasn’t an option. Research showed that many of those who didn’t have access to Wifi did have cell phones, but because PGCPS previous SMS communications charged families to receive text messages, significant barriers still existed. PGCPS needed a system that was reliable, powerful, and effective, but still versatile enough to meet the needs of the families of all 204 of the district’s schools. 2014-05-13 11_24_04-Prince George's County Public Schools

To meet those needs, PGCPS launched GovDelivery under one account, with automated communications bringing together the entire district under one umbrella while still allowing individual schools to craft their own messages. The district now sends a general newsletter to stakeholders twice a week and a daily newsletter to employees. For those families that don’t have access to email at home, offering free SMS/text messaging through GovDelivery has been a crucial component in making sure all of PGCPS families have equal access to important information. District residents can now choose the communications channel that best meet their needs, and PGCPS administrators are better able to serve every member of its community, regardless of income or internet access.

Using a broad, multichannel digital strategy is how PGCPS reimagined complex communications that better served its varying groups of stakeholders. Check out the full success story for more of the details.

What strategies or tactics does your organization use (or wish you could use) to better reach a larger subset of your target audience?

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