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Reading the Room

By Tara Lerman, Content Fellow at GovDelivery

A lesson in getting to know your virtual audience

Think back to the last time you pitched an idea or presented a strategy. Who was your audience? How did they react to your presentation? For most of us, it is easy enough to understand an audience by “reading the room.” But writing for an online audience is a different story. After all, it is difficult to target your readers when you don’t really know who is looking at your content. And it’s even harder for a government employee, who is expected to communicate with multiple groups of people at a time.

Luckily, we’ve got some tips to help you get to know your virtual audience.


One of the best ways to learn about your audience is to find out what drives engagement. Do people respond better to certain colors or fonts in an email template? Are people more likely to open an e-newsletter on a weekend or a weekday? What kind of phrasing in a subject line or call-to-action grabs people’s interest?

These questions can all be answered by implementing A/B testing. This marketing tool allows you to examine how people react to different aspects of a messaging campaign and can help you determine what kind of audience you’re attracting. That way, you can begin to understand your subscribers based on which pieces of content they are reading.


If you ask a group of citizens what kind of change they want to see in their local or federal government, chances are they will have a lot to say. The problem is that many government organizations aren’t having these conversations with citizens because they don’t have the resources to do so. But communicating with the public directly is one of the best ways to address problems and reach solutions. That’s why it’s important to use or invest in the resources that allow you to interact with your audience most effectively. Once you know which changes are most important to the public, you can begin to develop a strategy to help you get there.

Divide and Conquer

For a government organization, having a virtual audience is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it means your content is being received by all different kinds of people. But these citizens likely have varying interests and concerns, which can make it difficult to impact all of them. So how do you engage with each member of your audience in a meaningful way?

Think about dividing your subscribers into smaller, more focused sub-categories. These segments allow you to connect with subscribers on a much more personal level and are proven to increase audience engagement. With the Advanced Package for the GovDelivery Communications Cloud, government communicators can tailor messages to a subscriber based on his or her level of engagement. That way, you can figure out exactly who is reading your content, and who still needs convincing.

Once you know who your audience is, you will have all the tools you need to drive them to action. So what do you say? Are you ready to develop an effective communications plan? For more advanced best practices on how you can improve audience engagement, get in touch with our Digital Engagement Services team.