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[Glasgow event recap] Putting a value to comms not a vanity metric

On Wednesday 6 December, folks from across Scotland and other parts of the UK gathered at the Lighthouse in Glasgow for Granicus’ final UK Public Sector Digital Engagement Day of 2017.

To a packed venue, speakers shared inspirational stories about why good communication matters more than ever. They gave examples of how their work is making a difference, both to the development and “digital transformation” of services, as well as to ordinary citizens’ lives. It was an opportunity to reconnect with why comms people do what they do.

Here is a sample of the learning shared on the day. Full slide deck here. If you missed the event and would like to find out more about it or get in touch with the speakers, please contact us.


1) Outcomes not “vanity metrics”

Dave Worsell, Managing Director of Granicus Europe, reminded us all that although vanity metrics are important (the size of your email subscriber base or social media following, for example), what really matters is the knock-on effect. What do those people know, understand, and do in response to your messages? Do your messages prompt behavioural change that improves lives, saves money, generates income, or accelerates programme outcomes? Dave gave some examples of how the UK public sector is using the GovDelivery Communications Cloud by Granicus to deliver real and positive change:



2) Times have changed – know your audience and go to them

When approaching any campaign or project, Stephen Penman, Head of Communications and Digital Learning at North Lanarkshire Council said communicators must ensure they:

  • Understand the strategy
  • Understand the money
  • Understand their audience
  • Understand that it’s about the content
  • Live in the real world
  • Demonstrate their worth

Stephen said that although newspapers are not “dead”, there is an array of marketing channels available that give organisations an opportunity to get “closer” to the citizens they serve and better measure the value of their work. Go to where your target audience is spending time. They expect you to. Stephen highlighted that an inbound enquiry over social media is as important as a phone call – perhaps even more so, given the risk of public escalation.

Though reach on its own could be considered a “vanity metric”, it is a strong indication of an organisation’s potential impact. Without a large and engaged audience, the public sector seriously hinders its ability to impact lives. North Lanarkshire Council uses the GovDelivery Communications Cloud and Network to grow its subscriber base for a range of topic-specific alerts. They monitor engagement rates to ensure they’re delivering audience-centric comms fit for their “people-first” overarching mission.

North Lanarkshire channels

3) “Save Time Go Online” – Social helps move people online

Gary Hurr, Strategic Manager for Online and Customer Care Development at Glasgow City Council shared some compelling statistics to show how social media is helping the council channel shift people to information and services online, reducing avoidable contact. For example, their “Save Time Go Online” campaign is reducing customer contact in relation to traditionally very-hot topics such as parks, street cleansing, roads, housing benefit and council tax.

Glasgow channel shift


4) Spend time with customer services to understand the pain points

One of Darren Caveney’s top tips (Co-creator of comms2point0 and moderator for the day) was for communications professionals to spend a day in customer services to really understand the pain points and find out what content is missing. Identify the gaps and address them in your team’s content strategy. And don’t forget to stay close to the team, monitor the stats, and be able to put a figure on the value of your work!


5) How to reduce recycling contamination and associated missed-bin calls

Wrexham County Borough Council borrowed an idea from Kirklees Council to help reduce recycling contamination and the number of bins being missed due to incorrect use. Huw Ap Dewi, Digital Projects Officer explained that they send educational email reminders about what can and can’t be recycled. These reminders have reduced contamination cases by 27% already, and the number of calls about missed bins by 48%. A tremendous time- and cost-saving to the council.

Wrexham emails

The team used to manually schedule hundreds of bin collection reminder emails a week – in English and in Welsh – for multiple rounds. Being the only Welsh-speaking member in his team, Huw is eternally grateful for the invention of marketing automation and audience segmentation… Using the GovDelivery Communications Cloud to automate this process has saved days and days of work every month.


6) Soon you’ll have an income target too

Darren highlighted that one in five communications teams in the UK public sector already has an income target which is on average £75,591. Not many of those teams are based in Scotland. However, the suggestion is that they’re looming on the horizon, since the graph of comms-budget-doom goes something like this:

Comms budgets

Darren recommends a new whitepaper, Income Targets: Comms Entrepreneurs, Income Warriors and Three Paths Forward, which includes 12 examples of how other organisations are adapting to meet the income challenge. It’s a must-read for anyone looking to get ahead and prepare for the impending financial targets, and add further value to their comms team.


7)   Use your email bulletins service to generate income

Dave Worsell invites anyone interested in generating revenue from their email bulletins to get in touch with Granicus. He and team are launching a beta project with the Council Advertising Network to help organisations monetise their email marketing channel. Ad space in targeted bulletins will be sold to relevant businesses. The pilot phase has shown no detrimental impact to audience engagement rates. Since email remains the best channel for ROI (return-on-investment) and public sector emails outperform all other sectors’, the opportunity holds much potential for local and central government comms budgets.


8) Increase participation in a community lottery which puts money back into public services

Andy Allsopp, Head of Communications and Marketing at Essex County Council revealed the early results of a community lottery scheme, The Essex Lottery, that puts funds back into services. Email marketing is generating the highest participation rate of all marketing channels, and already £160k has been generated.

Andy says “marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed” and reinforced the importance of a marketing-led approach to commercialising public traded services. Alongside Traded Services Marketing Manager, Karen Yates, Andy and team continually evaluate their campaigns and refine the strategy and tactics to ensure maximum return-on-investment.


9) Communicators must be “influencers” and challenge the status quo

Claire Aitken, Communications Manager at Dumfries and Galloway Council reflected on times-gone-by when print budgets ran high. She said today communicators must be influencers. They must challenge service areas asking for marketing support on the objectives, and the appropriate use of channels – especially print since it is costly (financially and environmentally!), and can be ineffective and difficult to track in terms of impact.Comms as influencers

Claire and team have already eliminated several laborious print-heavy communications processes (school/parent-comms for example), and instead use targeted email bulletins to deliver key messages and track engagement rates. As “digital transformation” across the sector pushes on, Claire urges comms teams to make sure they’re fit-for-purpose. Lay the groundwork now by providing digital opportunities for citizens to connect with your organisation, so that you have an audience to communicate with as more and more services come online. Open up different lines of communication ready to help channel shift more people when the time is right.


10) Call it a pilot and do it anyway…

To round off the event, Carolyne Mitchell, Digital Team Leader at South Lanarkshire Council spoke about knowing how to handle social media channels properly and manage a diverse audience. She recommended all communications teams conduct an audit of their organisation’s social media presence, understand what’s working, what’s a reputational risk, and rationalise accounts where possible, closing ineffective accounts. Carolyne has come across a council with 202 social accounts – surely that must be a record!? She said appropriate social media training is important. And if your ideas for positive change are met with reluctance, build your case and suggest a pilot project.

Social media public sector

You can view the presentation slide deck here. If you’re interested in learning more about Granicus solutions for the public sector, please get in touch.