All Politics Are Local, Does That Apply To Email Too? – Plus Your Weekend Reads!

The phrase, "All politics is local" is a common phrase in politics, coined by former Speaker of the U.S. House Tip O'Neill. The message is simple, a politician's success is directly tied to his ability to understand and influence the issues of his constituents. The same is true for email. You have to target your email messages to the heart of what people care about. Make your message matter to them.

But how do you do that? Bob Ainsbury is Chief Operating Officer at GovDelivery (GovLoop's parent company). Ainsbury told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that the way the government connects to the public is changing. And changing faster than it ever has before.

"The way government reaches out to the public is evolving, but the medium on which they reach out to citizens has remained fairly static for some time. The way governments are reaching out is starting to change because they are starting to learn how the effectiveness is working when they do reach out. There is more effort now in the industry to ensure that their communications are making a difference. We have gone from the send things out phase, to a get people responding phase," said Ainsbury.

What hasn’t changed?

"Email is a rock, email is the platform within which the core communication messaging is set. People forward emails. They might quote something on Twitter or social media, but at the heart, not only in the public sector, but across the universe, email is still the lion share of the mechanism to get digital communication out. That’s unwavering and there is evidence every month to support that," said Ainsbury.

Why is email the medium of choice?

"Email allows me to look at things at the time I want to look at them. Email allows me to filter things for relevance. I can calibrate my emails and I find it very easy to respond to them when I want to. Although email is parallel to the old physical world, it is so very much different from the physical world in that it really is a two way conversation. Although my Granny used to write me a letter everyday, I never wrote back. In the case of email it spurs both informational content and interaction," said Ainsbury.

What about social media?

"Social media is a very observational place, and a spot where people like to be controversial to generate interest, so other people observe them. A great quote from Sweden said, “We have 200,000 likes, and it has sponsored zero flu shots.” The whole point is “likes” don’t cause action. A Twitter posting doesn’t get someone to make a healthy meal for a child. Therefore we find social media to be more of an observational mode. It is a valid, relevant and important media, that we want to support, but it is in the context of an overall digital strategy," said Ainsbury.

How do you maximize your message?

Ainsbury said communication specialist need to:

  1. Understand their audience.
  2. Communicate things in an impactful way.

"We have this presentation that shows the day in the life of someone receiving email. You look at the email they have in your inbox by 10am. And you have to remember when you communicate by email, it is unlikely that the person is hanging around hoping that the email gets to them. They are scanning their email. You have to remember that the context is no longer this thoughtful live environment. You have to do things to generate interest," said Ainsbury.

Mobile is more than responsive design?

"We have worked with many organizations to help them drive mobile adoption. People looked at mobile as a responsive design problem. How do I take my email and make it readable? In fact, that is only 25% of the change. The rest of that change is making the information really clear (which is difficult)," said Ainsbury.

How to get the click:

  • "If you have a link and you want people to click through to find more information, make that link a button. If you make it a button that will get clicked, if you make it a hyperlink in the small text, you might not get a click. In fact, we get double the clicks on response rates, double the action towards what people want to accomplish," said Ainsbury.
  • "Segment your audience. The Centers for Disease Control for example has two very distinct audiences. One group contains, parents, families, schools and in the other has professional researches, nurses and doctors. The professionals may be interested in the morbidity report, but it is unlikely that the consumer audience has the same appetite for that. That is a stark example. Don’t think of the million people you have subscribed to your list. Think of the 100,000 that are interested in the fitness of health for families. Understanding that audience is the key to getting them information. Just the same way I don’t want to receive information from J.Crew on purses, because I am a guy and I don’t buy many. It seems simple, but it is a very important best practice," said Ainsbury.

Focus on the metrics:

"The best way to calibrate effectiveness and understand it is to look at the metrics and the data. We have spent quite a bit of time making sure there are metrics in the system to help people realize what has efficacy. No one wants to communicate if no one is reading it. It is not how many emails that got sent that matter, it is how many of those emails were responded to and acted upon," said Ainsbury.

  • "How you can connect with more people and how you get those people to take action. The best practices work on both. Very rare in this world now, do people just expect you to read things. We expect people to take flu shots or move cars in a snow emergency. We expect people to attend events. So there are really clear and measurable ways you can look at to see if people took action. So combining the two, looking at how the audience gets grown, and how audience takes action is quite simply what we do."

"We send about six billion communications a year to 61 million unique people around the globe. That is well above a Nielsen sample. We have massive sampling of what is effective and what isn’t," said Ainsbury.

Weekend Reads:

We know weekend time is precious, so we try to pull some stories throughout the week that are worth your time… and may just plant a seed for new ideas…

  • WIRED: FEMA enlists designers to rethink disaster relief. Wired’s Kyle Vanhemert looks at how the Federal Emergency Management Agency turned to design consultancy Frog to improve its Disaster Recovery Centers. Frog redesigned signage—“the difference is that it changes the mental state of a survivor coming to the center”—and even applied its design skills to looking at ways to improve community relief efforts that spring up after every disaster. The overall effort was not about making FEMA facilities “look pretty,” but providing a new perspective—in this case that of the survivor. FEMA’s experience with Frog helps illustrate why design has become a buzzword at many organizations. Done right, a design-focus allows organizations to see their operations “through a different lens,” — a critical skill if used to gauge how stakeholders and customers view the organization.
  • McKinsey Quarterly: What executives should know about open data: Novel and more accessible forms of information from government and private sources represent a new and rapidly growing piece of the big-data puzzle: Not all data that’s valuable is internal and proprietary. New initiatives by governments as diverse as those of the United States, Mexico, and Singapore are opening the spigots of readily usable public data. Corporate information too is becoming more “liquid,” moving across the economy as companies begin sharing data with their business partners and, sometimes, consumers. Also surging is the richness of the information from data aggregators, which are assembling, rendering anonymous, and selling (to interested third parties) a wide range of data flows. Then add huge volumes of data from social-media interactions, available from providers of digital platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.1 These new sources of open data represent an expanding trove of largely unexploited value.
  • MacLife: 8 Apps for Enjoying the Sochi Winter Olympics: The Winter Olympics are once again upon us. The world’s finest athletes are gathered together for two weeks in Sochi, Russia, where they will test their skills against top competition from around the globe in 98 events across 15 sports. These competitors have trained for years for a chance to take home a medal — that's a lot of preparation time. Luckily, it only takes a few minutes to download all of the apps you'll need to follow the games. We've compiled eight of our favorite options to follow the happenings in Sochi over the next couple of weeks. Grab these apps and treat your favorite chair like the first-place podium, because you’re sure to bring home the gold in Olympics-watching.
  • And CBS News: Hero saluted at State of the Union faces toughest battle yet

 

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