By John Cook, Vice President of Marketing, GovDelivery
Last week I introduced the first two trends that I believe make marketing imperative for any government agency that is concerned about citizen engagement. I’d like to continue with three more trends you need to consider…trends that turn marketing from a dirty word into a vital tool.
Trend # 3: Inbound Marketing that Captures Your Audience
In the olden days of marketing, way back in the 20th century, marketing was composed primarily of outbound, interruptive campaigns. Marketers would create campaigns that were specifically designed to interrupt you from what you were thinking about and get you to think about them. They would leverage direct mail or advertising to deliver their message to a targeted audience. If successful they would interrupt the intended recipient (or unintended recipient) by getting their attention.
The Internet changed that. We no longer try to interrupt people from their thoughts. We now try to connect with them when they are thinking about us or the products and services we provide. It is at this precise time that our content engages them. Our content is the magnet that draws interested people to us.
But it isn’t enough just to engage them, we must also capture them at this moment. By “capture,” I mean we must provide them with engaging enough content that they will fill out a form, thereby giving us their name and contact information so we can connect with them later. Every government website should have a visible mechanism that allows citizens to sign up for topical alerts. This works similarly to the form in marketing. A government organization’s sign-up process should be straightforward, highly visible and on multiple pages. Citizens simply won’t keep coming back to your website over and over again to find the information they need. You must make it easy for them by providing topical alerts that they can receive via email or text.
Let your content be the magnet that draws your citizens to your digital properties and then do everything you can to capture them. This changes the nature of your dialogue from a one-time chat to an ongoing conversation. And that is exactly what a government communicator (and marketer) wants.
Trend # 4: Thought Leadership
Thought leadership is simply positioning yourself, or your organization, as a voice of knowledge and expertise in the marketplace of ideas. This is critical in helping people associate your organization with specific topics when looking for information to solve a problem.
Old school thinking may preclude government from participating in this type of activity. But why? If your organization has information or offers services, you are an expert. People want to hear from authorities. If you have can provide knowledge, why not position yourself as an expert and drive greater awareness to your organization and its mission?
The rule of a self-fulfilling prophecy is also at play here. If your communications position highlights your organization’s expertise, people will believe it. As more people start to think of your organization as full of experts, more people will begin to look to your organization for information. In addition, people will repeat what you say and even post links to your information. There can be a viral element to your messaging where it spreads apart from your own efforts. This is the goal of your online thought leadership activity.
The Internet opens the door to building thought leadership, and hence your audience, in a variety of ways. In addition to the content discussed above, you can leverage tools like webinars (online seminars and presentations) and public relations activities like press releases or media outreach. Align yourselves with other thought leaders by re-posting their content. Since video content is a powerful draw, use it liberally. The next time someone in your organization speaks at an event, post the video online in short segments. All of these things will help build thought leadership for your organization.
Again this all comes back to helping the public find information from content that you already have. Thought leadership is a powerful way to help you do that and achieve your mission.
Trend # 5: Social Media and Building Awareness
The days of ignoring social media are over. I’m sure most of you have some sort of social media presence – although some of you in government may not even be able to access your organization’s Facebook page at work! Still, social media cannot be overlooked asone of the greatest distribution channels ever created to help you build awareness.
Building awareness is important because it will move people to engage with your organization when and if they have a need for information. Social media is the ultimate online tool to spread the word. This is true in part because you can engage people where they already congregate (think Facebook and Twitter) rather than requiring them to come to your website.
If you create content, it is absolutely essential that you post and promote it on your social media properties. Social media helps you cast as wide a net as possible, and it is through this exponential outreach that you can further build awareness about your organization and its mission.
Erik Qualman, author of said, “We will no longer search for products and services, they will find us via social media.”
This is a critical point. Social media is indeed becoming a critical tool for how people find products and services. And its impact will only grow. 92% of children in the US have a digital footprint/shadow. Over 50% of the world’s population is under 30-years-old, so the percentage of socially engaged people will only increase. 93% of marketers use social media for business. Government should too. If you ignore this channel, you do so at your own peril.
To summarize I believe government organizations should embrace marketing – especially online marketing. Here are 5 trends that have changed the game:
- Content Marketing
- Inbound Marketing that Captures Your Audience
- Thought Leadership
- Social Media and Building Awareness
Marketing is fundamentally about educating your audience on potential solutions you offer that can help solve their problems. Why would anyone shy away from that?