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EVENT RECAP: Central government digital engagement breakfast

On Thursday 13 October, communications professionals and other civil servants gathered in Moorgate to talk government-citizen engagement strategies over breakfast.

Following the popularity of GovDelivery’s recent federal government breakfast briefings in the US, our UK team decided to host a similar networking opportunity for central government folks working in/near London.

For those who missed it, here are the slides and a recap of some of the things discussed.


  • Government campaigns aren’t being viewed, even though citizens are consuming 8 hours 45 minutes of media a day on average.
  • People are more connected digitally than ever before

Millions of people are now connected online, and despite some common misconceptions, older people are too! They’re increasingly exploiting digital communications technologies and tend to engage with more linear services like TV, email and SMS.

Digital channels are cost effective and enable you to track engagement with your message. With technologies like GovDelivery’s Communications Cloud, using real-time metrics, you can adapt and optimise your campaigns to maximise the desired impact. And speaking of metrics, attendees at the event flicked through our new benchmarking report on the metrics that matter for public sector communications. Check it out and see how your organisation fares against others in your industry.


  • Governments which are able to reach and engage people at scale can foster:

– vibrant communities

– stronger economies

– safer neighbourhoods

– improved life chances

– healthier families

Yes, achieving all these things may sound like a utopian fantasy, but creating better lives for more people is a common goal among most people, and there are plenty of government organisations already engaging citizens on a grand scale in ways that are making a marked difference to people’s lives. You can read about the impact of some of the organisations we work with here.


  • Over-communicating is better than under-communicating

From teacher recruitment crises, to confusion around pension reforms, to a lack of sperm donors, to denial, complacency and inaction among populations at high-risk of flooding; it’s clear that government needs to do more to communicate with citizens on important issues/initiatives. At the moment, many services and initiatives simply aren’t being used.

So how can we make government-citizen communications more powerful and effective? Digital leaders at the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) shared some details on their organisation’s approach to engaging citizens.


Speaker: Christina Hammond-Aziz – Head of Digital – Food Standards Agency

  • The UK is one of the safest places to eat in the world, but the FSA still has a huge job to do

Christina talked about the department’s approach to keeping people safe and healthy, and how digital alerts sent via the GovDelivery Communications Cloud are integral to this.

She shared some alarming stats:

– 8% of children and 2% of adults have a food allergy – 2 million of which are potentially life-threatening

– There are 1 million cases of food poisoning a year

– Last year there were 1,500 incidents of “food, feed and environmental contamination” in the UK, ranging from foreign objects in food to high levels of listeria or salmonella. 


  • The FSA has just 25 minutes to publish a food recall and get the message out there

When a food item is found to be unsafe, the FSA must let people know immediately. Christina emphasised that it’s no good waiting for people to visit the website (which just doesn’t happen!) or notice the item is no longer on the supermarket shelves; you have to intervene straight away, before they sit down to eat their evening meal!

“That means we must be able to connect into people’s daily lives – and be present where they are, where they are talking about food, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram”, Christina explained.

Communicating these critical food updates takes place on a number of platforms, including via e-alerts using the Communications Cloud. The FSA publishes the news on their website, and GovDelivery pulls the info through automatically from the RSS feed. It’s then sent out via an automated e-alert to over 102k subscribers with an average engagement rate of 61%.

Christina made no bones about the FSA’s ambition to reach more people – it is imperative. But they’ve made a great start! The FSA is a great example of why building an audience is so important – they MUST be able to reach people at scale when something goes wrong, and in advance, to help people plan and adapt their behaviour to mitigate the risk of health and safety problems.


Speaker: Gareth Jones – Digital Customer Support Lead – HM Revenue & Customs

  • Small businesses want to be tax-compliant but are time-poor

Gareth explained that one of the ways HMRC is using the Communications Cloud to engage different audiences is communicating with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) on their tax requirements. Their approach is research-based and focuses on equipping SMEs with the knowledge and skills they need to be tax-compliant. Most SME owners want to be compliant but are time-poor, therefore salient tax advice is paramount:

  • There are 5.2 million SMEs in the UK
  • A lack of compliance by SMEs represents £16.5bn of the tax gap
  • 77% of SMEs do not employ anyone other than the owner meaning they are time-poor and need salient and quick support on managing their tax returns correctly
  • 70% of SMEs have a turnover of less than £60k, which means individually, their tax returns are relatively small, however collectively, the payments represent a huge sum owed to the government.


  • Email campaigns have helped to triple attendance at HMRC’s webinars

At different points in the customer lifecycle, HMRC targets SMEs with resources to coach them through how to be compliant. Regular webinars are proving a key learning tool, and these are being promoted via e-bulletins which achieve an engagement rate of 64% on average.

Gareth explained that this proactive communication with SMEs has already helped to dramatically increase attendance at webinars – over 120k people attended the webinars in 2015/16, up from just 40k last year. Again, this example highlights the importance of growing your audience as much as possible. The more people HMRC can teach about tax through its online learning resources, the smaller the tax gap!

Both the FSA and HMRC benefit from being part of GovDelivery’s unique “network” of public sector agencies. For example, HMRC sees an average Network Impact of 51%, meaning thousands more people are subscribing to their e-updates thanks to the cross-promotion of digital updates across the network.


  • An action plan for everyone

For government communicators, reach is everything. It directly correlates to the number of people you’ll be able to assist / inform / engage into action. Gather customer insights to allow you to segment your audience, and deliver targeted communications which prompt better awareness and knowledge > intelligent decision making > positive action in communities which aligns with desired outcomes.

If you’d like to find out more about how your government organisation could use GovDelivery’s digital communications toolkit to drive up engagement with your programmes and services, please get in touch.