How to Communicate About Government Services

November 2, 2018


Like marketers everywhere, communications professionals who work for government agencies are facing unprecedented changes and challenges. Today’s world relies on quick, visually appealing messages, and it’s essential for the public sector to meet those demands.

Whether you’re promoting your government agency’s latest initiative or just providing information about public services, you can adapt and refine your communications by pairing savvy marketing approaches with creative strategies that will take your efforts to the next level.

When most people think of their experiences with government agencies and services, they imagine forgettable brochures, text-heavy websites and bureaucratic language. Luckily, more and more government agencies are starting to realize that investing in marketing and communications can pay off by making constituents satisfied, well-informed and engaged.

Whether your budget is small or large, you can create dynamic PR campaigns that make your services more appealing by following these steps:

Use data to refine messages

The public sector differs from private organizations in important ways, but they both require PR pros to lay the groundwork for building effective marketing campaigns and communication strategies. To develop messages that meet their needs, it’s crucial to gather demographic data on the public you serve.

Before you begin crafting your communications campaign, identify your audience so you can better target your messaging. Analyze demographic data to learn who your constituents are and how they get information. Are they younger and more likely to rely on social media? Or are they older people who prefer printed materials? Would billboards be a more effective medium for your messages than public service announcements on the radio?

Data can answer these questions and predict trends in news cycles and public interests. It can also shed light on how recent media articles about your government agency are affecting your public image and services. Data can also provide the best snapshot of the constituents you serve.

Once you’ve identified your audience, determine what you want them to know and what you want them to do with that knowledge — to register to vote, for example, or to make healthier lifestyle choices. Or maybe you want them to start using your website for emergency-response services. Start by drafting the end goal and then work backward from there.

By combining the data you gather with calls to action, you can refine your marketing campaigns and communicate the efficacy and availability of the public services you wish to promote. When you have gathered the data you need and have a clear picture of your constituent base, it’s time to use your creative juices to make your messages appealing and relevant.

Employ simple, memorable slogans

Communication should make your government agency seem less bureaucratic and more human. People connect with people, not with policy-speak. Think about how you can humanize the essential services your agency provides by telling stories that will raise awareness and change behavior.

Translate the information into layman’s terms and get creative with catchy slogans and taglines for your marketing campaigns. Even in the public sector, memorable phrases can be incredibly effective — such as “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Who would have thought the simple tagline “I Love New York,” coined by the New York State Department of Economic Development in 1977, would take off the way it did? Or that the Peace Corps tagline “The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love” would evoke such emotion? 

Make your government agency memorable with simple slogans and taglines that stand out and draw in your constituents.

Be creative on social media

In today’s world, breaking news instantly ignites social media activity. The same thing happens when you use social media to inform and engage the public about their communities. Social media is even more effective for promoting public services.

Whether a new campaign is about preventing wildfires or providing meals for the elderly, social media helps get the word out. It’s especially useful when you have a small budget and need to stretch your marketing dollars. On social media you can be creative with your messages by using fun gifs, photos and videos. Creating hashtags to boost your visibility and engage with the public helps start online dialogues.

In your social media posts, displaying your graphics and tagging important organizations will help spread your government agency’s information by tenfold. Analytics tools on social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter will show you whether your messages are resonating with the public.

People often use social media sites to cross-reference information about public services. Make sure your creative and appealing messages are the first ones they see.

By using social media to connect with the public and amplify your government agency’s marketing campaigns, you will also meet the demands of a hyper-connected world.

Make it visual

Don’t underestimate the power of strong infographics or images. Studies show that people respond more favorably to appealing visuals. Think creatively about visual content that will give you a communications advantage.

Rethink your website, brochures and text-heavy documents that weigh down your messages. Make it easier for people to find information by using better graphics. Look for ways to visually present information about your government agency’s services. If you have photos of community events that can showcase your services, replace stock images with more personable pictures.

With tools like Canva and Piktochart, it’s easy to create visuals and infographics with no design experience and a small budget. These tools will help you design beautiful flyers, posters, presentations and reports that keep constituents engaged.

It takes only a small effort to rethink the way you market your public services. By focusing on creativity, your communications can resonate with the constituents you serve. And in today’s world, they expect nothing less. 

Brenda Duran

Brenda Duran is communications director for the LA County Registrar-Recorder County Clerk, in Los Angeles. Contact her at bduran5@yahoo.com.


Stacie Rivera says:

Thank you, Brenda. This topic is rarely addressed and I love that you wrote about the critical nature of how government must take time research and assess before launching into a campaign. Critical to inform the public (and something that I have found is scant in practice).

Nov. 9, 2018

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