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The Public Sector is Ready for its own Digital Communications Benchmarks

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Every moment of the day, the public sector is changing citizen behavior by reaching the right person at the right time with the right digital message. Commuters are avoiding construction, families are choosing to get vaccinated, entrepreneurs are starting businesses, and more because government’s communication is more direct and more impactful than it has ever been. This is not anecdotal. More government digital outreach flows through our GovDelivery platform than through all other approaches combined so we see real examples and real data every minute. And, the 1,800 governments we help reach 120 million+ people are just getting started.

Governments have been communicating since before the Internet existed. What’s different now? Communication is more direct and more motivated by mission results than by emergency response, public relations, or public affairs.

To take things to the next level, government needs to stop thinking of itself as “lesser” in communications and those activities that even (gasp!) look like marketing. Government is doing innovative work adapting techniques used to sell books and widgets into tools for improving lives. Government communicators should take pride in this transition.

To support this work, GovDelivery is releasing 1. Government Messages are Different in Nature: Critical information communicated by the public sector can often be fully conveyed in a subject line or short message, which detracts from open and click rates while still meeting messaging goals. Many public sector emails are solely informational and do not require links, or are urgent notifications that are sent as they occur instead of at optimal times for open rate or click rates. These messages are a critical part of a successful communications formula.

For example, consider a severe-weather alert email appearing on your smartphone. The subject line contains all the information needed to inform the recipient, and is controlled by the urgent timing of the alert rather than what would be most optimal based on traditional private sector metrics.

2. Government Goals are Based on Engagement: While email marketing in the private sector is driven largely by sales, government marketing is used to drive citizen action and engagement. Whether it is renewing a fishing license in Wisconsin, recruiting new foster parents in Michigan or updating residents in the U.K. about recycling protocol, governments use digital communications more than any other form of promotion to drive real-world outcomes.

3. Success Looks Different in Government: In “Metrics that Matter,” we identify reach as the most critical metric in the public sector, but one without a perfect benchmark. While communications can transform citizen service in strategic ways, you have to build that audience first. Think about it this way: The services delivered by government are only as effective as their reach. It’s great if 100 people are sent a targeted email to remind them about their flu shots – but it would be even better if 10,000 people received that message, because then a far greater number of people will take action.

Private sector metrics fall short of guiding government digital outreach efforts for various reasons, but primarily it is because they limit communication to the times and audiences that will be most likely to buy products or take other action. By contrast, government communicators should benefit from expanding audiences and communicating in the timeliest manner possible – even when it deters from open rates.

Reach, engagement, clicks, and opens are all important metrics, and benchmarking can help governments improve them.  Still, they only matter when they are used to drive what truly matters which is using digital communications to achieve beneficial results for the public.

What was your greatest takeaway from “Improving Metrics that Matter”? Let us know at info@govdelivery.com.