Understanding Audiences and Creating Effective Communications in Government


Brand awareness and audience engagement stand as critical factors for success in private sector businesses. But in an age where digital connectivity has become a baseline in daily life, public sector organizations, including on the state and federal level, need to better understand these ideas if they hope to create better overall public service.

Modernizing digital government communications means understanding audience needs, tailoring and customizing communications based on subscription data, and using that data to improve the whole process in a cycle of outreach and engagement. By achieving effective communication, the relationship that government organizations build with their audiences can help change the perception of not only government communications, but government as a whole. In effect, a strong communications plan, well executed, can shape the brand awareness of government organizations and help more directly serve the people.

In a recent episode of The CX Tipping Point™ Podcast, Martha Dorris spoke to Angy Peterson, the Vice President for the Granicus Experience Group, and Bob Ainsbury, the Chief Product Officer at Granicus about the important ways that government can improve the public’s experience through communications that ensures the public or customers are aware of services offered.

While many accessible digital tools exist to help agencies achieve their goals, most agencies aren’t utilizing them to their best ability, according to Ainsbury. “Providing emails from your agency is one thing, but are these messages relevant and timely,” he said in the interview. “What about other channels of communication such as text messaging?”

Effective Communication Across Multiple Channels

Taking an omnichannel approach to communications, Peterson and Ainsbury discuss in the podcast, helps governments not only reach their audiences where they are and when they need to receive information, but it provides the data in return that can help governments better identify how to connect in future communications most efficiently.

Key considerations that governments can make when planning and expanding their communications include:

  • Relevance: By better understanding subscriber interest, messaging can target subscribers more directly and increase the chances of engagement. This insight can be gained from data gathered from interest-related subscription sign-ups for bulletins in systems such as govDelivery. Sending audiences information that is relevant to their interests changes the perception that an agency is deluging subscribers with messaging.
  • Timeliness: Especially for government organizations that work in crisis management (public health, transportation, etc.) getting vital information to subscribers when they need it is important. This can also mean sending that information where they need it. Relying solely on email messaging might not provide the timeliness of an approach that combines email and text messaging. Even for timely non-crisis events, timeliness in messaging is a vital consideration.
  • Clear Information and Next Steps: Messaging alone is meaningless without providing either easily understood information, a clear idea of what next steps should take place from the messaging, or both. Effective communications go beyond this, not only guiding readers to the next step, but anticipating a user’s questions and concerns. Understanding the user plays a significant role in building the relationship that helps improve the brand of government.

While email remains the preferred way of communicating, the role of email is shifting in the citizen experience, said Peterson, as organizations often rely too heavily on a one-channel approach. Expanding communication channels to supplement, and in some cases share the load with, email messaging not only alleviates email exhaustion but increases the chances of engagement by reaching audiences in new contexts. Text messaging provides an immediacy that can be more intimate and spark a response. Social messaging can increase engagement due to the interactive nature of social media.

The Power of Data

While many agencies use tools for synchronous communications and email campaigns, Peterson and Ainsbury discuss in the podcast how agencies can also use govDelivery to gain greater insights into customer needs and improve the experience of accessing services with proactive messaging to guide customers through complex processes. By using this approach, organizations can create real-time data that provides a significant resource in improving the customer experience.

“Private industry understands the power and influence of digital experiences on subscribers, and how to maximize engagement and utilization,” said Peterson. “Government can do more with less by growing and nurturing their subscriber list. There are immense opportunities in CX to design around the subscriber experience, impacting the customer journey and helping manage expectations to better direct concerns and reduce frustration.”

As with any communications plan, the data gathered from digital communications provides insights into audiences that can help expand future communications. In the podcast, Ainsbury describes how data from tools such as govDelivery can help better segment audiences, identify underutilized channels, and more clearly connect with responses and recommendations from citizens. In the government context, that data can do more than just inform future communications, Ainsbury said, it can help shape larger conversations.

“What can we teach government leaders from this data,” he asked. “As residents are cross-posting in networks, so too can the data that govDelivery gathers help cross-agency collaboration. And this can be both in resident-facing communications and in sharing data gathered from previous campaigns across agencies.”

While journey maps and tracking the customer journey may feel like things better left for sales and marketing teams in the public sector, both Peterson and Ainsbury agree that taking the same approach to government communications not only helps agencies better understand how they are engaging with the public they serve, taking a broader approach to expanding communications helps create more effective government communication that builds positive citizen experiences. In the end, better serving the needs of the citizens helps create a better “brand” for government.

Listen to more of Ainsbury and Peterson’s conversation with Martha Dorris in this episode of The CX Tipping Point™ Podcast.

Discover more about how govDelivery can help government agencies expand effective government communications and create better citizen experiences to serve their communities.

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