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20 tips you can use to improve your digital communications today

This post summarises some key points from a webinar we ran in May 2016: 20 Tips To Boost Your Digital Engagement.

View the presentation slides here or watch the recording of the webinar.

It’s no secret that your organisation needs to have high digital communication engagement rates to be effective in promoting your services and initiatives, and to drive your target audience to take decisive action.

But sometimes the way to get your audience to engage with you isn’t clear.

We’re here to let you know that there is a way to find out how to raise engagement rates. In GovDelivery’s recent webinar, “20 Tips To Boost Your Digital Engagement”, three guest communications experts provided great tips any organisation can use (or take inspiration from) to start improving the way they communicate with their “customers” immediately. Our speakers were Richard Pearson (Marketing and Business Development Manager at Southampton City Council), Darren Caveney (Creative Communications Specialist at comms2point0 — our partner in presenting this webinar), and Eddie Coates-Madden (Head of Communications at Sheffield City Council).

The tips were grouped into five categories and follow the normal form of a communications campaign: planning and research, strategy and tactics, compelling content, personalisation and audience growth, and measurement and evaluation.

Planning and research

Tips 1-4: Define your objectives | research your audience | research past campaigns | define your strategy and tactics

Darren said the most important part of any plan to improve engagement is to know your overall strategy and goals for your organisation; “it’s at the heart of any good communications plan”. With a strategy, every email, tweet or Facebook post will be geared towards your goals in some way and this help you move in the right direction.

After you’ve defined your objectives and target audiences, research past campaigns to see what worked for your organisation and what didn’t. Or, look to other campaigns from different agencies. Darren said a great place to browse is LGCommunications’ comms hub / resources, or simply ask your contacts at other agencies about their experience.

Finally, define the tactics you will use to accomplish your objectives. Darren said it’s easy for many marketing teams to fall into the routine of jumping at every opportunity to send messages without thinking about how each fits in with the overall plan. Sending disconnected messages will only hurt your chances of achieving your goals, so evaluate each message carefully.

Strategy and tactics 

Tips 5-8: Reach your audience where they are | integrate with other channels | use existing resources | streamline the user experience

Reaching your audience where they are can be tricky, but using online forms/surveys to gather this audience insight can be a great way to find out how and where your service users are viewing your content. Ask them. Once you know where they are looking, create campaigns that can be published across each of those channels. Don’t create a campaign that can only be used for Facebook or Twitter, broaden the range of channels you can use to promote it.

Results from integrating your content with other channels can be dramatic. Richard said he saw a campaign audience growth of 1,800-people in 3 months just from cross-posting content to multiple channels. And he reminded organisations to use the channels they may already have access to, but don’t necessarily post to regularly. Think carefully about all the resources you could make use of.

Finally, although easier said than done, you must streamline the experience for your user. “This is the central challenge of using digital”, said Eddie. As many as 80% of service users are habitually online, and making their access to information easy and consistent will help draw them back to your content again and again.

Compelling content 

Tips 9-11: Ensure your content is compelling |test for best practices | prioritise calls-to-action

The most important thing for any marketer to remember is how their audience likes to view content. To get that information, Richard said all you have to do is ask. After gleaning preferences from your audience, send short messages with eye-catching and clear calls-to-action. Once you’ve sent a message, Darren said, be sure to check if your imagery, content and calls-to-action are resulting in opens, clicks and downloads. Learn and refine from there.

Personalisation and audience growth 

Tips 12-17: Personalise your content | segment your audience | engage on your audience’s level | use imagery relevant to your audience | activate new audiences | invigorate existing audiences. 

When you are thinking about ways to reach your audience with the information they need to know, Eddie said the best thing you can do is create messages specifically tailored to them — and the only way you can do that is by segmenting your audience by some defining characteristics.

You can use information like what channels they prefer, what devices they use to access information, or where they live geographically to help narrow your reach.  But once you target those individuals, make sure all content and imagery is relevant to them on a personal level. Using the GovDelivery Communications Cloud you can ask questions of your choice at the point of someone subscribing to your digital updates. This enables organisations to collect relevant demographical information which leads to more targeted communications and higher engagement rates. This insight and ability to segment sends help them better serve their customers’ needs.

Finally, when you see that your audience is engaging with you (for example, they’re communicating with you on social media, clicking on your calls-to-action in email alerts, or they’re completing transactions online etc), make sure you give them more options for new and different content they may be interested in, and contact them frequently to keep their interest. A good way to do this, Eddie said, is to keep a live feed updated that alerts subscribers to new content. For example, some organisations using GovDelivery to engage customers add a little piece of code to their website (a widget) to let people know what digital updates are available.

Measurement and evaluation 

Tips 18-20: Measure campaign outcomes | gather audience feedback | critique your successes and failures

“It would be stating the blooming obvious to say this is bloody important,” Darren said on the need to measure your outcomes. He said it was so important it separates average work from great, award-winning work.

You and your team can do this in a number of ways, including discussing click and open rates over coffee or creating spreadsheets and graphs to share with the whole team. But no matter what you do, just make time to analyse your outcomes and critique your work. We also recommend you sync with your team monitoring Google Analytics and website performance data – what do the figures show about traffic to and activity on your website? Are people coming from email campaigns, social media or another source, for example?

Another great way to improve campaign engagement is to ask your audience for feedback on what they like and don’t like about your communications. Don’t be afraid of them!

While it may be difficult to identify some tangible benefits of higher digital engagement rates in the beginning, reaching people online will eventually pay off – especially financially, by reducing the demand for (more expensive) offline communications and services. For example, Richard said Southampton City Council will be able to save on the cost of 10,000 postcards because they’re collecting email addresses instead – for a digital campaign to promote the council’s garden waste collection service (a paid-for service – a great opportunity to generate income).

For more information, or help implementing these tips at your organisation, please contact us.

View the webinar slides here or recording of the webinar.

Interested in other GovDelivery events? Keep an eye on our calendar.