Warning: these three mistakes could derail your communications strategy.

Communications professionals in the public sector increasingly work in an environment of high expectations and low resources. Having a robust government-to-citizen communications plan in place is not optional, it is crucial. Delivering channel shift – encouraging citizens to access services in new, cost-effective ways – is a prerequisite in the digital age.

In these circumstances, getting things right first time is vital. But unfortunately even the best laid plans can be derailed if you make any of the three following mistakes.

In the first of several blogs following 2014’s LGComms Academy, Dave Worsell from GovDelivery talks us through these top three mistakes and how to avoid them.

1. Don’t assume if you build it, they will come

They won’t. Government needs to spend more effort on achieving the ‘shift’ in behaviour and less time building the ‘channels’. Having the best website, CRM system or a comprehensive range of online transactions doesn’t guarantee success. These services are only truly successful when more people use them. Government needs to do far more to get many, many more people using their online services.

2. Beware of public expectations

Competing for attention in today’s highly congested digital communication space is a major challenge. Gone are the days of the council press release. The public expect to get what they want, how they want it and they want it now (if not sooner). The public expect highly personalised communications, tailored specifically to their needs and individual lifestyle. Above all they don’t want to be bombarded with irrelevant information.

3. Don’t see your communications team as an overhead

There’s a trend during the current period of austerity where communications teams are seen as an overhead and are often the first to bear the brunt of cost cutting exercises. If we are to achieve Digital by Default then the changes to government services will need to be communicated effectively and resourced appropriately. Central government has identified this gap and assembled the highly successful Government Digital Service (GDS). Smart, lean, agile digital communication teams are what’s required. They may not be cheap, but they have the potential to be a game changer provided they get support across the entire organisation.

Dave Worsell is Director at GovDelivery, an email services provider that enables public sector organisations connect with more people, deliver relevant communications and get people to act.

Posted on 13th June 2014