Empowering government to build better resident and employee experiences and get more value out of their civic engagement technology.

Learn More
Back To Blog

Utilizing Mobile Citizen Engagement at Your Agency

Close-up top view of businesspeople hands holding pens, papers and smartphones on the table. Teamwork concept.

Did you know that the average person’s attention span is eight seconds? That’s tough news for government agencies who are trying to make an impact on and engage with their citizens. However, this brief snippet of time you have to impart your content onto an individual doesn’t mean that the engagement can’t be quality. In order to balance the brevity of engagement with the quality of the content, agencies must reinvent how they are interacting with citizens.

GovDelivery’s 2016 Digital Communications Workshop offered a hands-on opportunity to tackle some of the issues government communications departments are facing as engagements become increasingly digital. The first breakout session, “Optimizing Mobile Engagement,” worked to illuminate best practices for increasing mobile engagement. GovDelivery Project Manager Michelle Lee and Implementation Specialist Alex Tilson sat down with government workers from across agencies to discuss how to make the most of those eight seconds.

The Distributed Citizen Experience

Trust in the government is at an all time low because, as Lee articulated, “people are hearing less directly from governments and when they are hearing it is often conflicting information.” As a result, governments must adapt and engage with citizens in the way they want: mobile, quick and easy.

This requires communications departments to move from authoritative dissemination methods to more distributive methods – think shifting from an old school poster to a text message or email alert. While both methods can contain the same content, the latter delivers it in a way that is straightforward and easy to understand.

Shifting to mobile engagement necessitates distinct content types and distribution schedules. Content types for mobile engagement include distribution of facts, calls to action, a build and ask approach, or a survey. “We think of these like Legos; you can build your own process based on these mechanisms,” Lee said. Distribution schedules also shift from the single distribution that is seen with authoritative engagement to multiple distributions of content spread out over a timeline. This timeline varies on the goals of the particular engagement but Lee explained you have to strike a balance. “You want to be frequent enough to be useful but not so often that people get annoyed or unsubscribe,” she explained.

Mobile Citizen Engagement in Action: Literacy Inc.

In order to examine what mobile citizen engagement looks like in practice, Lee and Tilson highlighted one of Literacy Inc.’s campaigns. The organization, which works to empower lower income parents to support their child’s development, recently launched a 13-week message campaign that texts tips to parents throughout the week to encourage their child’s vocabulary development. Shifting from the single distribution of a handout or pamphlet to a tri-weekly text message alert improved retention and learning outcomes.

“While a brochure may not be bad, someone who only has a few minutes or seconds may not derive as much value from a brochure as a text message,” Tilson explained. “People learn more effectively when learning is distributed over time.”

Utilizing the distributive method allowed Literacy Inc. to move towards achieving their goals in a more effective and efficient manner. “92% of enrolled parents reported their children learn better based on these messages,” Lee said.

How This Applies To You

Lee and Tilson emphasized that the government must take the next step and move towards a distributed citizen experience through mobile citizen engagement. However, discussion surrounding how to effectively implement such campaigns in the government illuminated some challenges agencies may face.

For example, one participant explained how there are certain laws regulating government’s mobile citizen engagement. While the private sector is able to ask questions as part of their text and email campaigns, regulations limit agencies’ ability to do so.

Additionally, some workshop participants brought up the fact that a lot of the population they are trying to reach do not own smartphones and therefore can’t access internet links embedded in campaigns. Tilson explained a few ways to counter this challenge include shortening URLs so they can easily be typed into a browser and limiting content in text campaigns to things that can be seen in phones that do not have internet capabilities. Identifying and overcoming these challenges is pertinent to government agencies ability to effectively utilize mobile citizen engagement.

You now have some of the tools to make the most of your eight seconds. For more information on how your organization can utilize distributive methods to engage with your community check out GovDelivery’s “8 Powerful Ways Government should be Using Text Messages.”