What have you done for me lately? Measuring the success of your communications

By Amy Larsen, Client Success Consultant at GovDelivery

Today’s government communicators are tasked with staying on top of the latest communication trends to create and deliver messages or content that stakeholders want to receive.  And we all know the only way to determine success is if we measure it, which means government communicators end up using to private sector definitions and measurements. You can find information on average open rates or click-through rates all over the internet. This also leads public sector professionals to compare themselves to private sector counterparts. successUnfortunately, this is the best the public sector has been able to do in the area of communications metrics – up until now.

If we consider what’s important to private sector communicators, certain goals come to mind:

  • Brand recognition
  • Increased market share
  • Promotion of new products and services

If you get messages like I do (on a daily basis), revenue-centric goals are often the focus. Successfully increasing sales through promotions and moving customers away from competitors are the tangible marks of a successful private sector campaign.

Not all of these success metrics are specific to the private sector – things like branding and promotion of events are certainly areas of cross-over when it comes to public sector messaging and campaigns goals. However, public sector communicators also have unique goals based specifically on mission: keeping people healthy; finding homes for lost pets; or tracking down dangerous suspects. In fact, more often than not, the success of a public sector campaign is based on these intangible mission-oriented goals, and measuring these results is not always as easy as taking a simple inventory of how many shoes sold after you sent 50% off coupons to a list of 10,000 email addresses.

Successful public sector communications often require more collaboration, creativity and open exchange of ideas from multiple departments and teams than a private sector marketing message. For instance, a police officer writing a report on a wanted suspect may have to quickly communicate the suspect’s identifying information to a communications specialist, who will then craft and send an eye-catching message (so people will open it) to stakeholders through multiple channels. In turn, communicators want to know the impact of their efforts and may need to reach out to other teams to determine the results of specific messaging.

Communicators may struggle to gather data from healthcare providers on the number of people who went in for flu shots the weekend that their healthcare social media update was posted vs. the previous weekend with no promotion, especially when they do not know who to contact for records at a healthcare facility.  This requires planning and open communication between teams to achieve the goals that best serve stakeholders, but it also means knowing what you’re trying to achieve before you start creating your messages.

What are some examples of measurable results from communications efforts? A few recent examples that stand out include:

Stearns County Sheriff’s Office recently started connecting with stakeholders via a digital newsletter. Embedded within the newsletter was an option to submit tips via email, telephone and a web form. Within 13 minutes of sending their newsletter, the sheriff’s office got their first tip from one of the newsletter’s recipients.

San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) recently alerted followers via Twitter to sign-up for email and SMS updates during a period of service delays due to a collision of maintenance vehicles. Communicating major delays quickly and directly through multiple channels helped BART riders avoid closed routes and minimized incoming complaints to BART customer service. BART collected 800+% more email and SMS subscribers during the service delay (compared to their regular service periods) as riders signed up to receive direct updates through two of the most popular communication channels.

The City of Moore, OK recently coordinated disaster recovery efforts after EF4 tornadoes ripped through the city, leaving a trail of destruction that included loss of life, severe injuries, and destruction of homes and property. Moore city officials quickly responded with outbound messaging, giving residents resources to contact emergency services and to get the help they needed in the wake of the disaster.

Each of these examples show how mission goals means different measurements of success. How does your department define success? Are you measuring the number of subscribers, clicks, opens, or likes after a certain message was sent? Or, do you strive to achieve a healthier population, a safer place to work and play, or a way to get more people involved with civic events? What may seem like the simplest step in the process – knowing what you’re trying to accomplish with each communication – is often the step that is most over looked in an effort to produce more content and faster responses to the public. What successful communicators recognize is that defining the goal that you’re trying to achieve can help streamline communications – instead of throwing out as much content as you can, focus on a goal, and execute a communications campaign to achieve measurable results toward that goal.

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