How effective are your government marketing campaigns?
September 01, 2022
Nearly every organization relies on marketing and communications to accomplish its objectives. In the private sector, goals typically include attracting new customers, increasing share of wallet with current consumers and delivering more top- and bottom-line growth.
In public service, these goals rarely apply. Yet government agencies at every level still need to be marketing and communications masters. Why? Because unlike private businesses, governments must serve everyone. Being able to communicate effectively with diverse residents/consumers is essential to achieving mission objectives.
Recent Accenture Song research set out to understand: How effective are current public service marketing and communications campaigns? The survey findings identified some surprising gaps and opportunities.
Our survey affirmed that U.S. federal, state and local agencies recognize the importance of marketing and communication strategies. In fact, more than half (53%) told us that a communications strategy is “extremely important” in achieving their objectives. What’s more, they’re using a wide variety of strategies and tools — with websites, email and text messaging emerging as the most-used channels.
Federal, state and local respondents who consider a communications strategy “very important” to achieving their objectives
Ninety-nine percent told us that they believe they have an effective communications strategy in achieving their departmental and/or program objectives. But when we probed on how agencies measure effectiveness, we uncovered some notable gaps.
Respondents pointed to “building trust” — a goal that can be difficult to measure — as the most important aspect of marketing and communications campaigns. Beyond that, many respondents face challenges related to aligning marketing and communications with organizational goals.
For example, nearly four in ten reported difficulties in understanding the impact of marketing and communications, which limits their ability to maximize the value of these investments. Among respondents’ other key challenges:
Nearly all marketing and communications respondents (98%) told us they believe their current strategies make it easy for residents/consumers to interact with programs and offerings — for example, by signing up, registering, logging in or applying. Yet they also indicated that their strategies fall short in getting their target audience(s) to take the desired action.
Believe their current strategies make it easy for residents/consumers to interact with programs and offerings
We also asked respondents to weigh in on how they think resident/consumer communications will evolve in the next three years. Responses included enhancing customer experience through different digital solutions and expanding to new communications channels and tactics.
The need for more effective measurement was another recurring theme. One respondent said, “It is crucial to rethink the methodologies of tracking and reporting.” According to another respondent, “Insufficient communication reporting, as well as irrelevant content, could be a challenge in the future.”
The Accenture Song research points to opportunities for agencies to improve their effectiveness in educating audiences and prompting action — from renewing DMV services to exploring eligibility for social services or enrolling in health coverage.
Where do agency leaders see opportunities to improve? In our survey, their top goal was to build trust by creating personalized experiences for residents/consumers. That could be as simple as using personalized greetings for email and text messages or giving people the ability to choose their preferred language and contact methods (phone, text, email, etc.).
As one respondent noted, “We hope to develop compelling and relatable creative content that applies to our residents. We hope that this will bolster trust between them and ourselves. We also hope to educate them on their needs as well as ours.”
Survey responses indicate an appetite for additional third-party support. Three-quarters said they are already working with a public relations (PR) agency. At PR agencies, media relations (earned vs. paid coverage) is typically a strength. Only 36% of respondents reported working with a creative agency. These agencies may focus on advertising, content production, communications, visual design, strategy and technology — or any combination of these services.
Respondents reported working with a creative agency
Topping respondents’ “wish list” is the ability to understand audience segmentation relative to the performance of their content. This finding suggests that working with creative agencies is an area of opportunity. Creative agencies offer the skills and qualifications to support internal and external communications. In addition to producing creative content, they also can provide in-depth audience insights — along with robust tracking to monitor campaign performance.
The good news? There are data-driven approaches to improve understanding of target audiences and development of measurement strategies. These insights can inform content development and channel selection — while enabling public sector agencies to measure and continually improve returns on marketing and communications investments.
An upcoming blog will take a closer look at the connection between audience strategy and creative development, along with measurement strategy and campaign setup. In the meantime, let’s connect via LinkedIn or Twitter. I also invite you to reach out to Meg Deedy, who contributed to this blog and partners with me in the public sector communications space to address client challenges.