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Summit Recap: 4 Steps to Better Citizen Engagement

The overarching theme of the 2017 Public Sector Virtual Summit highlighted that the future of government — and its communications — is going digital. Whether it’s how your organization handles operations internally, or increasing transparency with the public, digital solutions almost always offer a better and more efficient path forward.

But none of that matters if simple communications – like sending an email – are not being read by your audience.

Lyndsay Booth, Granicus Digital Engagement Strategist, and Granicus Implementation Consultant Stephanie Ashford’s session, “4 Steps to Better Citizen Engagement Using GovDelivery Communications Cloud,” focused not just on tips and tricks to help you plan your content for optimal engagement, but how to practically build campaigns and audience segments within the solution itself.

“Just because you build it doesn’t mean they will come. Communicators across federal, state, local agencies are looking to drive engagement with programs and getting citizens to participate,” Booth said. “But why is that important? Ultimately no participation [in programs] can lead to wasted funds, canceled programs and unreached citizens” — something, she said, no government organization wants to see happen.

So to optimize your communications, she said there are four easy steps to follow:

Step 1: Identify and align measurable objectives with communications

Communicators should be planning out each touchpoint with your audience and deciding what the goal of each message is before ever sending an email. Make sure to plan how much information will be included in each email, how often you will send communications, and which channels you’ll use to reach your audience. If planning a whole year’s worth of content seems too daunting, try starting with just one program campaign.

Ashford said the best way to complete this type of planning was outside the Communications Cloud — “Just use the old pen and paper.” Once you have this plan in place, it will be easy to start building your campaign in the platform.

Step 2: Identify and segment your audience

Booth discussed questions you should ask yourself to make sure you know who your audience is and what you might want to find out about them. Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Why is your audience interested in what you have to say?
  • Where does your audience live?
  • What are other key demographics of your audience?
  • What is your call to action?

Collecting that information from your subscribers is easy in the GovDelivery Communications Cloud according to Ashford. All you have to do is set up topics specifically geared towards your audiences, then ask them a few questions when they subscribe. “You can create a question as an account administrator,” she said, “and make it available to everyone using the tool.” Making the question visible to the public allows them to answer questions about their age, where they live, what their name is and other important information you can use to segment your lists later.

Step 3: Send messages that get read

Since the average person’s attention span for email is between 8-15 seconds, using best practices for content and design are extremely important to make sure your message makes an impact. Booth said some of the best tips you can use to keep your emails readable are make content short, clean and clear with a one-column layout featuring larger text, mobile friendly graphics and visual calls-to-action. Plus, make sure your brand is easily visible at the top of every email. Ashford added that cultivating a trusted from name, as well as using an attention grabbing subject line are also crucial to improving open rates.

Step 4: Analyze, rinse, and repeat

Once a campaign is finished you need data to judge whether or not it was successful. Luckily, the GovDelivery Communications Cloud has reports showing deliverability, open, and click through rates, as well as other metrics, for each email you send. Once you know the effectiveness of a certain email, Booth said to try testing new things, like different subject lines, more specific content based on geographic location, different imagery, and new brand tones with A/B testing. As you gather more data, you can decide which messages and images get the best response with your audience.

We have plenty of resources to help you measure metrics, use design and content best practices, which you can download and share with your team for free, and help you get started driving program success at your agency.

If you have any questions, or want to reach out to discuss your content strategy, contact us.