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The Power of the Message

GovDelivery CEO and co-Founder, Scott Burns, presented at our annual federal digital communications event in December. He was excited to follow-up on the message our keynote speaker, Paul Smith, shared: the importance of storytelling.

Photos (c) Bruce Guthrie

Photos (c) Bruce Guthrie

Armed with the experience of working with more than 1,000 government organizations worldwide, Scott took a look at a critical component of storytelling in the public sector: reaching your audience. In particular, Scott said that having an audience for your communications is critical to making an impact. If no one’s there to listen to your story, what good does the message do? That’s why reaching more people is vital for government organizations in order to promote stakeholder actions (such as seeking shelter in an emergency or developing healthier family meals).

By focusing on reaching more people with an engaging message, you can convert technology, communications, and program strategy into real value.

So how do you reach more people, and promote action in those you reach, with a powerful message? Scott shared these tips:

  1. Be timely and relevant: As a government communicator, your audience should find value in your communications. During the holiday season, a message from Kids.gov to parents that focuses on toy safety is both timely and relevant for that audience.
  2. Connect your message to your mission: Tying your mission to your messages will not only make your communications more memorable but also enable them to promote public action that will ultimately drive mission value.
  3. Promote valuable actions: Once you make sure your message is timely, relevant and connected to your mission, your promotion of certain actions becomes incredibly valuable. For instance, the Corporation for National & Community Service sent a message out to all its stakeholders on ways to support those suffering in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan. This message resonated deeply with their service-oriented audience and promoted actions directly tied to the organization’s mission.
  4. Gain trust: Trust is not gained by sending one great message. Instead, by consistently doing steps 1, 2, and 3 really well and becoming more familiar to your stakeholders, you slowly work to gain the trust of your audience.
  5. Tell Stories:  In order to build the sort of communicating relationship with your stakeholders that will gain trust, tell stories. Stories help to easily, and interestingly, connect your audience to your mission.

For government organizations, telling one good story and hoping it takes off is like assuming your organization’s very first YouTube video will go viral. It rarely happens. What you need to do is work deliberately to build outreach, communicate relevant messages, and gain trust. Only then will you drive powerful messages through storytelling and effect valuable outcomes for your agency.

And this is where reach becomes increasingly critical to this strategy. In the private sector, content marketers care about increasing engagement, sales, and website traffic, but none of these metrics are possible without a strategy around reach. Similarly for the public sector, increasing engagement and website traffic are often metrics used to track communications effectiveness, but if your message only gets to one person, then you only have one informed person. You’ve got to multiply that number with a strategy to reach ten times more people. Then, you’ll make a real impact on a relevant scale.

 Listen to Scott’s complete presentation here.