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Ignore the Emergence of Impact Communications at Your Own Risk

sunsetSometimes you can see the sunset, and it is a beautiful thing.  But when the sun is setting on your role and your ability to contribute to the organization you serve, it’s troubling.  That is happening for many public sector communicators, and there is still time to change and turn this disappointing sunset into a promising sunrise.

It is time for communicators to see the world for what it is and recognize the sea change that is occurring.  Public Affairs is dying. Impact communications is the future.  It’s not just a better future; it is the only future.

The word is out in the private sector:  marketing matters more than nearly anything else.  It is not enough to have a great product (R&D) or to be able to sell it once someone is engaged with you (sales).  Private sector marketers must connect with prospective clients long before those prospects want to engage directly.  Marketers need a funnel and a story; they need to know what someone wants before that person knows.  And, private sector marketers need alignment.  What they say needs to be true.

Marketing used to be the act of getting advertisements into someone’s mailbox.  Now, it is about educating the market about the pros (and even the cons) of products and solutions long before a buying decision is made.  It’s about aligning market awareness and perception of capabilities with reality.  Aligning expectations that are set widely and accurately about where an organization fits in the business ecosystem.

In the public sector, it is time to adopt the habits of world class marketers.  While the private sector segments users and leverages predictive analytics to drive new behaviors, communicators in the public sector are too often trapped thinking about press releases, tweets or posts, email messages, mailings, or ads, in a one-size-fits-all manner.  That’s outdated thinking.  And, it misses the chance for communications to contribute to an organization’s mission. It’s time to move from explaining reality to creating a better reality.

Across our 1,000+ public sector clients, we see truly sophisticated and transformational efforts to convert public sector communications in the following ways:

  • Audience building: Getting contact information from everyone whether they are visiting your office or your website so you can reach them in the future; if you can’t reach a wide audience quickly, you may already be irrelevant
  • Outcomes definition: Knowing what you want people to do so you can align communications with these mission outcomes
  • Testing: Moving from “Perfect and Launch” approaches that require expensive market research to “Launch and Iterate” approaches that require action, testing, analytics, continuous learning, and agility
  • Flexibility: Use of world class tools in communications for “big” impact (one message to thousands or millions of people) as well as in targeted messaging to one individual who needs to take a personal action (complete a form, pay a fee, etc.)
  • Data and Insight: Using data to confirm positive activity tied to target outcomes.

The impact of the new approach is incredible: record event attendance, broad participation in online trainings, massive uptake of online transactions, awareness and use of benefits, healthier individuals, safer communities, and more.  Transformation is underway. Is communications a strategic asset that is moving your organization’s mission or an outdated part of your organization’s overhead? Are you seeing the sunset or the sunrise?