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5 things I’ve learnt about GovDelivery

As you may have read, I recently joined the GovDelivery team here in the UK and am busy getting up to speed about how the company and its technologies work. This has entailed a lot of different types of learning, and as Dave Worsell put it, “it’s been like drinking from a fire hydrant”.

Usually in new roles we quickly slip into the organisation’s way of doing things and all too soon forget what it’s like to be new. We forget the questions we asked, as well as the things we found surprising and interesting at first; before too long these become commonplace and passé.

That’s why I thought I’d share five things I’ve learnt since joining GovDelivery while they are still new to me.

GovDelivery sends messages. A LOT of messages

Okay, so if you know anything about GovDelivery then you’ll know they send emails and SMS messages… 2 billion a year to be exact. Sending digital messages is at the core of what is called the “Communications Cloud”. Through a user interface that’s so easy even I can use it, users either create messages with a simple WYSIWYG editor or they sit back and relax while RSS feeds from their existing website(s) do the work for them. These e-bulletins and messages then go out to however many thousands, tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people are signed up to receive them.

That’s a lot messages, all going from organisations to people who have actively signed up to receive the updates. Excellent. And truly excellent delivery rates too.

In fact, at time of writing GovDelivery connects 9.5 million citizens in the UK, all of whom receive targeted bulletins on the topics they’re interested in. From recycling reminders to bad weather alerts to event updates to planning applications to job opportunities to health advice and much, much more besides. These are messages that can make people’s lives easier, and better.

To help organisations build trusting and better relationships with the citizens they serve, they have control over the look and feel of their e-bulletins, branding them for a seamless customer experience. Take a look at 12 great emails from GovDelivery customers to get some ideas.

Oh, and if you think 9.5 million registered subscribers in the UK is a lot; GovDelivery actually has more than 120 million users worldwide. Put it this way, if GovDelivery were a country, it’d be the ninth biggest in the world, just above Russia. And because we grow globally at a rate of 50,000 new users every 24 hours, it won’t be long before we’re taking over from Bangladesh in eighth position. Our community is already bigger than Spotify’s.

It’s not just emails

“So you send emails then?” was the response when I tried explaining my new role to my family. Well, yes, but no. It’s so much more than that.

Yes, the Communications Cloud platform sends out messages and it does this via email – primarily because despite the best efforts of Facebook, Twitter et al, email is still the most ubiquitous comms channel out there and the most reliable. But if it was just about email then there are plenty of other platforms out there to use; GovDelivery’s capabilities are deeper than this.

The GovDelivery platform is a tool for getting meaningful messages out there to the people that need them. Think bitesize one-liners to get an emergency notification across, more in-depth newsletter-style updates with links to further info, drip campaigns which educate citizens and encourage behavioural change over time, segmented campaigns which evolve based on a subscriber’s actions or socio-demographic characteristics, and messages which prompt action – transactions online, citizen feedback, event participation, and, easy contact with government.

We’ve also invested in a brilliant one-way and two-way text messaging tool, allowing organisations to text citizens knowing that these messages get opened 98% of the time, and are read within 3 seconds of opening 90% of the time. These are jaw-dropping stats, especially when you have urgent information to get across. For example, see how the Centers for Disease Control is helping to curb the spread of Zika using text.

Using the two-way communication feature you can get users to text you back, following a simple tree of responses to send tailored questions and gather useful feedback. Hey, if it’s good enough for my dentist – and for Sky, Vodafone and other big digital players – why isn’t it good enough for you?!

GovDelivery also has toes in open data (especially Drupal-friendly DKAN work), as well as a knowledge network for government called GovLoop – it’s like Facebook but for “govvies”.

We also share a range of best practice guides and case studies and run a load of webinars. So do have a browse at to see what’s coming up. I recently moderated our webinar Citizen Engagement that Supports Change in Modern Government which I recommend for anyone involved in communications and business transformation.

Reach matters

We all know what Wembley stadium looks like, even if we’ve not been there; imagine it empty but for a single person sitting in their seat. No matter how loud they shout and sing, no matter how engaged with the game they are, they are never going to be heard outside of the stands. The impact they can have is very limited.

Now, imagine 1,000 people there. Better, yes, but again, even if every single one of them jumped up and down, the echo would only resound in the confines of that stadium. Also, odds are that not everyone will be singing, though the noise of 10% of them would do more than the single person they replaced.

Then, fill Wembley to the rafters – 90,000 bums on seats. Suddenly everything changes. There’s a ripple effect – if she’s singing, I will sing too. Even though many fans won’t shout and sing, there is constant noise, and it’s almost deafening. People outside the stadium know about it.

It’s not that much of a stretch to point out that this correlates with the approach you should take to growing your audience, for government-citizen messages. Sending updates to the same small list you’ve had for years simply isn’t enough. You need to actively been trying to reach as many people as possible to increase the number of people engaging with your content, and actually DOING something about it.

The GovDelivery Network is growing in the UK by 50,000 people every month. Joining it will help your organisation engage more people than ever before, all without you needing to do a single extra piece of outreach. The cross-promotion of your services happens automatically. And you’ll be able to see the impact of collaborating with other organisations in the network using the simple analytics dashboards.

Having 100 really engaged people is good. Having 100,000 is better.

We get out and about – want to meet?

In the past, I’ve worked at places where I have been quietly pulled to one side and told – explicitly, clearly and in no uncertain terms – that my job was to stay at the office and not to go out to meet and speak with other people in other places. They had their jobs, I had mine; no good would come of going out into the world and trying to share ideas or collaborate with others.

Take that thought and flip it on its head. That’s GovDelivery.

In the first month of my being here I’ve attended events and conferences as varied as one on using digital communications platforms to generate income (attended by 20 people), to the GovDelivery #UKComm16 annual conference (attended by over 400 people). I’ve been to meetings in Sussex, Surrey and across London, as well as spending the best part of a week in Liverpool at the LGComms Academy event. GovDelivery really commits itself to staying relevant to its customers, and getting under the skin of the challenges the public sector is facing.

Our team gets out and about for sure. And I’m up for many more chats and meetings about how we can help your organisation keep citizens informed, safe and well. Just drop me a line and I’ll be there.

Nice guys don’t have to finish last

This last point is a little introspective perhaps, but it’s another one of those things which soon gets forgotten among the hubbub and acceptance of a new organisational culture. Professional doesn’t mean po-faced. Brilliant doesn’t mean boring. The GovDelivery team are reaffirming to me that you can be both supremely talented and passionate about your job while somehow still having a lot of fun (as anyone who joined us on the second night of LGComms will attest to).

The team at GovDelivery has welcomed me into the fold with open arms and warm smiles – in the same way as they do with customers. I’ve already started to refer to us as the ‘GovDelivery family’, which is the best way yet I’ve found of describing the way the team supports clients and each other, while still pushing them to be even better than they currently are. Nothing makes my colleagues prouder than seeing success, which is celebrated all round every time.

Not every office is like that. I’ve looked around places before and counted on one finger the number of people I worked with that I’d want to share a meal or a glass of wine with. So far, I’ve not met a member of the GovDelivery family who I wouldn’t want to spend time with. That matters a lot.

What I’m trying to convey is that this is a great team to work with both on a colleague basis and as a customer. Genuinely.

The future

So what next? Where do we go from here? Well, I’ll certainly continue getting out and speaking to people, trying to be helpful and connecting good ideas with good people. It would be wonderful if you – yes you, reading this – could drop me a line and let me know when would be good to speak over the phone or over a cup of something hot. We can share some ideas and look for an opportunity to collaborate. I’m part of the GovDelivery family now, and I want to extend the same opportunity to you.

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