STATE & LOCAL GOVERNMENT DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT TRENDS REPORT: 2015

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1 DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT TRENDS REPORT: 2015

2 INTRODUCTION TOPICS ENGAGEMENT TRENDS Each year brings with it new digital communication trends, technologies and strategies. That s why at the end of last year, GovDelivery surveyed more than 600 U.S. government communicators, representing over 350 different government organizations, to hear what their priorities are in Digital Engagement Trends For INCREASE PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT Across respondents, we noticed that many state, local and transit organizations are focusing on similar key topics, while other trends are just starting to gain their attention. From increasing public engagement to growing an open data strategy, we ve compiled the top six government communication priorities you can expect to see more of this year. Read on to discover how your 2015 communication priorities trend against your peers in state and local government. You ll gain insights on how your organization can prepare for and take advantage of these trends to deliver communications that reach more people, strengthen the government-to-citizen relationship and improve people s lives OVERCOME RESOURCE CHALLENGES IMPROVE YOUR WEBSITE GAIN MORE INSIGHTS FROM DATA ANALYTICS IMPLEMENT AUTOMATION GROW YOUR OPEN DATA STRATEGY 2

3 PRIORITY 1: INCREASE PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT Engaged citizens take action. They vote. They volunteer. They apply for permits and licenses online. They subscribe to s, pay attention to health, safety and regulatory updates, and respond to surveys. Put simply, engaged citizens help create better communities and they help you connect with more people to achieve your goals. It s no wonder, then, that public engagement tops the list of state and local government organizations communication priorities in After all, if you can t reach your audience and keep their attention, how can your communications have an impact in the first place? When asked about their digital outreach objectives in 2015, 51 percent of respondents reported that their organizations are looking to increase citizen engagement through their digital communications. Another 43 percent are making citizen satisfaction a priority and nearly 38 percent are looking to increase the public s use of online services. Improving citizen satisfaction and engagement depends on both the content you provide and how you provide it. Make sure you re offering options to your audience. Shape your digital communications to increase traffic and encourage use of online services. 51 % are looking to increase citizen engagement Allow people to sign up and receive information on specific topics that interest them, sent via the channel they prefer, whether that s through , text messages or social media. Keep messages short, compelling and relevant so your audience stays happy, and informed. These digital communications play a huge role in driving traffic to and increasing use of online services make sure they are user-friendly and easy to digest. With more people accessing information from their mobile devices, government organizations need to optimize their communications for an on-the-go audience by cutting down on text, increasing font size and providing a clean, clear design with large call to action buttons. With their digital communications packaged in such a straightforward way, your audience will be able to quickly see, find and complete the action you want them to take. 3

4 PRIORITY 2: OVERCOME RESOURCE CHALLENGES As communication budgets decrease and customer satisfaction expectations continue to rise in the public sector, it s no surprise that many federal government communicators anticipate a lack of resources posing a challenge to them in When asked about their organization s major obstacles to achieving its 2015 communications goals, 54 percent of respondents cited lack of budget and 39 percent expected a lack of expertise and specialized skills to hinder their efforts. To overcome these challenges, public sector organizations need to leverage partnerships and direct digital channels with higher ROI, such as or text messages, to supplement the resources they do have. For instance, as digital communication matures, public sector organizations should take advantage of the unique opportunity they have to cross-promote their services and offer citizens relevant information from a variety of partners that meet their audience s preferences and interests. Organizations that share similar services, close physical locations or offer information on similar topics, such as healthcare, tax forms or elections, can connect to create an essential network of government expertise and effectively drive more visibility and outreach. information from Department of Parks and Wildlife, Department of Health and Human Services, the Education Agency and a host of local organizations throughout Texas. Through the power of the connected GovDelivery Network, Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife increased the size of its audience by nearly 80 percent over 12 months, increasing outdoor recreation and revenue from license sales. Leverage partnerships, and direct digital channels (like ) with higher ROI to supplement the resources you do have. 54 % 39 % LACK BUDGET LACK EXPERTISE For example, when someone in the State of Texas signs up to receive information from Texas Department of Transportation, they are also presented with 4

5 PRIORITY 3: IMPROVE YOUR WEBSITE In the public sector, an organization s website is critical to providing citizens with the resources they need most. In addition to providing important information, public sector websites empower visitors to access services and take action it s where, for instance, citizens and organizations can apply for a permit or license, submit taxes or access important documents. For these reasons and more, websites topped respondents list of digital engagement tools to optimize in 2015, followed by social media and then . According to our survey, nearly 87 percent of respondents reported that their organizations are prioritizing their website for engagement improvements in 2015, with 33 percent planning a website redesign. It s no secret that delivering a web experience that is helpful, accessible and enjoyable can help your organization get more of its audience to take action, but you have to get them to your site first and keep them coming back for more. The best way to drive traffic is to offer direct and repeated options for your audience to sign up to receive new web content. For the public sector, is the most useful channel to engage more visitors, keep them informed and encourage them to use online resources and services. The most effective way to convert website visitors into engaged subscribers of communications is by adding an overlay to your website, prompting first-time visitors to sign up for updates. For example, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission went from seeing 40 people sign up for web 33 % is one of the top traffic drivers to public sector websites use it to increase citizen engagement with online resources and services. content per day to more than 500 after implementing an overlay, growing their audience by more than 1,000 percent. As you grow and nurture your audience, it s important that your website remain relevant and helpful to keep visitors satisfied. To ensure that your website is providing value to the public, do a content quality check. Make sure your website is filled with the expertise your audience needs and refresh your content frequently to attract new visitors and keep returning visitors engaged. An updated website design also helps increase audience engagement. Remove distractions to make it clear what you want visitors to do or know. Call out important or new content by placing it at the top of your page so that it s above the fold and visitors won t have to scroll to see it. Tabs and pull-down menus contribute to clean designs that make it easy for visitors to navigate and find the content they need. Because more visitors are encountering your website from mobile devices, reading messages between meetings or on the train, it also makes sense to incorporate a mobile-friendly design. Be concise and use bullets or numbered lists for lengthier subject matter to make content easier to scan and digest your readers will thank you by coming back for more. 5

6 PRIORITY 4: GAIN MORE INSIGHTS FROM DATA ANALYTICS Working to refine and improve your digital communications strategy is great, but how do you decide what, where and how to make those improvements? Simple analytics. 60% 40% 20% Already, 66 percent of respondents say their organizations are using major analytics channels to track web traffic. And because today s citizens are accessing information from multiple devices from smartphones to tablets to desktops more organizations are recognizing the importance of collecting and connecting data across multiple digital channels. In fact, 42 percent of respondents organizations already take their analytics to the next level, tracking the impact that other digital outreach channels, such as social media and , have on website traffic. Another 22 percent plan to start doing the same in 2015 and for good reason. By implementing analytics across multiple digital channels and analyzing visitor traffic, your organization gains a bigger picture of how your audience is (or isn t) interacting with your communications and how your communications can serve them better. You can track how your audience is reaching you and through what devices. You can see how visitors engage with your content, what gets them interested and what motivates them to take action. To implement or strengthen your digital analytics strategy, check that all outbound or social media posts include web analytics parameters. Your website analytics and customer satisfaction scoring tools 66% 57% 42% 22% USING ANALYTICS TRACKING OUTREACH IMPACT USING GOOGLE ANALYTICS PLANNING TO USE ANALYTICS should allow your organization to track traffic of recipients to the website, ultimately providing a view of how recipients respond to proactive s and whether they increase audience satisfaction and action. From there, you can apply these data-driven insights to your communications strategy, tailoring messages and content to achieve a stronger impact. For organizations looking to drive more web traffic and improve data analytics results in 2015, proactive communications are a great place to start. When citizens receive messages that resonate with them, perhaps a message triggered by a subscription or starting an application, they are more likely to take action and be satisfied with their overall experience interacting with your organization. 6

7 PRIORITY 5: IMPLEMENT AUTOMATION While only 9 percent of respondents indicated that their organizations plan to use marketing automation in 2015, state and local government communicators shouldn t overlook the advantages that marketing automation can deliver. Now is the time to start considering this capability and how it might fit with your communications strategy. From sending triggered messages to managing entire lifecycle campaigns, marketing automation makes it easy for organizations to trigger personalized messages based off actions taken (or not taken) by their audience. Not only does this save time and resources, but it creates a highly personalized 1:1 digital experience tailored to each individual s activities. Another automation capability to consider is web content automation. Web content automation gives organizations the ability to leverage their website as the portal for all communications, effectively aligning s and updates with their publishing workflow. For instance, let s say your organization publishes a new article on education legislation. If your organization uses a digital outreach platform like GovDelivery, it can grab, package and send that new information to your digital audience via , text messages and social media channels. This keeps your audience updated in a way that s convenient for them, convenient for you and consistent with your website. Other processes that you can automate include creating and sending s, creating and managing your organization s topics of interest, updating, adding, and deleting subscribers, and more. 9 plan to use % marketing automation With more of your audience on the move and their expectations for quality and convenience growing steeper, 2015 could be the year for your organization to implement marketing automation tools if you haven t already. Automation allows you to reach more people with your communications more effectively than ever before, freeing up your time and resources while providing an enhanced digital experience for citizens at every touch point. Think about the lifecycle of your citizens, their digital experience and what touch points you have with them. 7

8 PRIORITY 6: GROW YOUR OPEN DATA STRATEGY Open data is a powerful tool in the public sector. It connects citizens with government, fosters trust through transparency and encourages the public to engage with government data, which drives action and innovation. Companies and organizations, for example, can use open data to launch new ventures, analyze patterns and trends, and solve complex problems. Data can help organizations fill information gaps, increase productivity, and free themselves from traditional (and perhaps less effective) decision-making processes. Data enables developers to build apps and implement technology that can improve everything from health and public safety to economic development. In short, when the public has access to and harnesses data, it can influence change that benefits large populations. 23 % When organizations open their data, they empower more people to make a difference by openly distributing data they already have. Providing an open data portal, though, is just the start. State and local government organizations must also work to build a community around their open data, promoting citizen awareness and engagement. After all, data is only effective if people know it s available and are using it. To build your open data community, promote your open data portal across all digital channels, and use website overlays to encourage more people to subscribe to your organization s communications. When new or updated data is available, you can proactively notify interested subscribers in your community. Still, the public sector has only just started to tap into the power of open data. Only 23 percent of respondents indicated that their organizations currently host or publish open data, while 10 percent of those who don t reported that their organizations are planning to in As your organization plans ahead for 2015 and beyond, it s important to recognize open data as a part of your strategy. Promote your open data to build citizen awareness and engagement, helping to ensure your data gets put to good use. 8

9 CONCLUSION A strong digital communications strategy helps state and local government organizations connect with their citizens, provide critical information and services, and improve the lives of millions of people every day. As technology advances and public expectations rise, new trends in digital communications emerge, from website best practices and data analytics to marketing automation and open data. We hope you ll use the results of our survey to prepare for the trends of 2015, continuing to prioritize your digital channels that are already going strong and getting ready for those that are still to come. For more information on the latest trends and priorities in government communications, download the State & Local Engagement Trends Infographic. DOWNLOAD 9

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