Institute for Digital Government continues its series of interviews with Štěpán Soukeník, communication consultant with GovDelivery, a digital communications platform that serves governments and public sector organizations worldwide, whilst promoting digital engagement and civic participation. Our focus during the interview was to discover more about GovDelivery’s mission and achievements and thus provide our readers with an insight into a successful way of making use of digital technologies for the benefit of both governments and citizens. We hope that we have caught your attention and made you curious, and that you will enjoy our discussion as much as we did!
Raluca-Andreea Manea (IDG): What is your role within GovDelivery? How did you decide to get involved in this initiative?
Štěpán Soukeník (GovDelivery): I am a communication consultant working with government and city officials in Europe to develop GovDelivery’s European operations. I regularly meet government communicators, change strategists and digital leaders to discuss how other organisations around the world are using GovDelivery’s digital communications technologies and citizen engagement tactics to transform the way government and citizens interact. I began to work for GovDelivery following two years of post-graduate studies in the UK, where GovDelivery has its European headquarters. I’m now based in the Czech Republic and it’s wonderful to be supporting more European organisations with their citizen engagement strategies. I’m excited to be part of this work to improve public services and change millions of lives.
Raluca-Andreea Manea (IDG): How did GovDelivery appear? What is the mission of GovDelivery?
Štěpán Soukeník (GovDelivery): GovDelivery aims to help government organisations build stronger, healthier, happier and well-connected communities. Our technologies empower government to engage citizens at scale and in ways that lead to real action and positive behavioural change in society. GovDelivery launched in 2000 – you can read more about our company journey here. Our customers use GovDelivery to increase citizen engagement in critical programmes and public initiatives, grow their audience online by cross-promoting content across the GovDelivery Network, maximise the use of their online services, build communities around data, and create modern learning experiences.
Raluca-Andreea Manea (IDG): What are the main benefits of an organization that is part of the GovDelivery network?
Štěpán Soukeník (GovDelivery): More than 1,800 public sector organisations are part of the GovDelivery Network, which has a reach of over 120 million citizens worldwide and is currently growing at a rate of 50,000 new subscribers a month (in the UK alone). Being part of the network can dramatically increase an organisation’s reach and lead to better outcomes for more people. When someone subscribes to receive e-updates from one organisation, at the end of the sign-up process, they’re given the option to subscribe to other relevant organisations’ e-updates too. Another benefit is that of driving more people to the information and services they need. While there are many ways citizens can find their way to the UK government’s website, being part of the GovDelivery Network directs nearly 3.5 million visitors to GOV.UK each year, thus often making GovDelivery the top referrer of traffic to an organisation’s website. Also, as regards increasing one’s reach to the audience, we shall note that Hertsmere Borough Council doubled its subscriber numbers after implementing the GovDelivery Communications Cloud. The number of subscribers gained through the GovDelivery Network can in some cases represent the majority of an organisation’s subscriber base – 90% for the UK Space Agency, for example.
Raluca-Andreea Manea (IDG): How does GovDelivery contribute to the relationship between the governments and the citizens/the communities?
Štěpán Soukeník (GovDelivery): Offering citizens the chance to opt-in to receive regular information on the things that matter to them, in the way they want (for example online, by email or SMS, on their phones, immediately), can significantly boost government’s reputation and the trust of the people it serves. For example, a survey of Southampton City Council’s subscribers to its e-bulletins service (delivered via the GovDelivery Communications Cloud) revealed that 94% of people felt more informed about the council and its work.
GovDelivery technologies empower public sector organisations to be proactive in their communication with citizens, providing millions of people with the timely updates they need to take decisive action, make better decisions, and change their lives for the better.
Our powerful GovDelivery Network and Communications Cloud drive traffic, usage and greater understanding of public data to help connect more people with valuable resources – which they can make good use of. We help government be more transparent and open, which can significantly improve the relationship between government and citizens. In modern society, citizens have come to expect an exceptional “customer experience” from companies in the private sector to organisations in the public sector. Our technologies help government meet the demands and expectations of the modern citizen, by transforming the “citizen experience”. GovDelivery helps provide you with the information you need, when you want it, and on the device and platform you prefer. When government helps make citizens lives easier, a more trusting and respectful two-way relationship can develop between the “citizen and the state”. Life is better that way!
Raluca-Andreea Manea (IDG): How does GovDelivery support digital engagement and citizen participation?
Štěpán Soukeník (GovDelivery): Our team of digital engagement experts work closely with government to design and deliver powerful campaigns which drive recipients to be better informed and take real action. Our technologies empower outcome-focused communications between government and citizens. For example, through the delivery of targeted and timely digital communications, millions of citizens receive the information they need to: stay safe during emergency situations and in the event of food recalls and contamination risks to health, save hundreds of pounds a year on energy bills by opting in to a community scheme, or pay the right tax and on time and help HM Revenue & Customs close the “tax gap”.
Furthermore, organisations can use real-time analytics to refine campaigns in-motion, and optimise their activities to achieve greater results and higher levels of citizen engagement. A/B testing enables our customers to test what messaging and digital engagement techniques are most effective. You also have access to advanced segmentation capabilities to enable you to deliver highly targeted and personalised communications which drive people to take action.
Messages sent to the right person at the right time result in higher engagement rates. With our technologies, you can collect and use valuable customer insights to boost the power and impact of your communications. Learn what works. Learn what doesn’t work. Adjust your campaigns. Optimise results. You can read more about how our technologies are boosting citizen involvement in a range of initiatives in Nigel Bishop’s seminal whitepaper for government communicators and change strategists: Engagement for Change.
Raluca-Andreea Manea (IDG): What are the main achievements of GovDelivery until now?
Štěpán Soukeník (GovDelivery): GovDelivery has helped thousands of organisations around the world connect with citizens in ways that have led to healthier families and stronger communities. With a reach of 120 million citizens worldwide, served by 1,800 government organisations using our technologies (which includes all US federal government departments), we’re proud to be supporting big changes in government, changes in the way government and citizens interact, and fundamental changes to the way services are being delivered all over the world – from North Lanarkshire Council in Scotland to the UK Space Agency to the European Parliament to the US Department for Transportation. You can read more about how we’re helping government change lives and society for the better on our blog and in our case studies.
For example, by using email and SMS messaging sent via the GovDelivery Communications Cloud, the US Department of Health & Human Services was able to drive up public engagement with the healthcare.gov website. This accounted for over 18 million site visits during the 2016 open enrolment period for its “Obamacare” initiative. Through direct response outreach activity, hundreds of thousands more people have been able to gain the health insurance they need. Also, through two-way text messaging, we’re supporting the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Reintegration Services to get ex-offenders back into society and improve their life prospects. Last but not least, GovDelivery events are among the most anticipated for digital leaders in government. Our GovDelivery Public Sector Communications Conference takes place in the US and UK annually, and the London event has grown to be the largest conference for public sector communicators in the UK, with 300 attendees and 700 watching live online during the 2016 event.
Raluca-Andreea Manea (IDG): Which do you think are the biggest opportunities that the digital technologies create for the institutions and organizations of the public sector?
Štěpán Soukeník (GovDelivery): In an increasingly digital world, the public sector has an opportunity to use digital engagement tools to support its objectives. By collaborating with each other through the GovDelivery Network, public sector organisations can reach millions more citizens and achieve its goals in more effective and efficient ways. Digital presents a huge opportunity to work efficiently and monitor progress and results. Reaching citizens at scale is essential for maximising the success of government initiatives and improving more people’s lives. Using advanced digital communication technologies and marketing automation techniques available with solutions like the GovDelivery Communications Cloud, organisations can deliver powerful and targeted campaigns which impact the key pillars of government transformation: shifting channels – reducing costs, avoidable contact – efficient delivery, reducing demand – adding value, increasing income – generating growth, changing behaviour – improving outcomes
Raluca-Andreea Manea (IDG): What are the main elements that the institutions of the public sector should take into consideration when designing their (online) communication strategy?
Štěpán Soukeník (GovDelivery): While all public-sector organisations can benefit from implementing digital communications tactics to achieve their goals, developing an online strategy is important. Organisations must start by identifying clear objectives and the measurable real-world outcomes they’re trying to achieve. For example, is your organisation working to increase the number if citizens who receive their annual flu vaccination? Or perhaps it’s to boost recycling rates in your community. Only when we’ve identified the real impacts and outcomes we’re striving for, can we determine the best digital strategies to implement. We need to know if they’re working or not, and adapt. Next, work to increase the reach of your organisation.
According to the latest Benchmark Report, reach is the most important digital metric that the public sector should be tracking. In other words: the larger the audience, the greater the potential impact. In digital communications, the GovDelivery Network allows citizens who subscribe to updates from one organisation to be offered sign-up options from related government organisations as a final step in the sign-up process. Some organisations have seen an increase in their subscribers by up to 4000%, as a result of using the network. This is one tactic that is unique to government organisations in the GovDelivery Network – we can help each other achieve our outcomes with cross-promotion. Once public sector organisations have maximised their reach, next steps include identifying the right channels and messages to connect with citizens. By using marketing tools and automation like segmentation and message testing, public sector organisations can identify which digital strategies are working well and toward achieving their desired outcomes, and then adjust and optimise their digital engagement campaigns accordingly.
Raluca-Andreea Manea (IDG): Do you believe that there are differences in the communication and interaction between the administration and citizens, at the European level? For example, between Eastern and Western countries? Or particularly at the level of Eastern European countries? How do you regard this situation in Romania, for example? And how do you think these differences could be fixed?
Štěpán Soukeník (GovDelivery): Individual countries, even in the EU, have had different starting positions in their journey toward a more open government. Still there are cultural and political differences between former Eastern-bloc countries and countries where democracy has been in place for longer. However, many Eastern European countries are making grand shifts in their citizen engagement strategies and adoption of digital technologies, for example Estonia (significant digital transformation) or Slovenia (national branding campaigns). Having the right technology and resources are essential. And convincing the top-tiers of government that investment in digital tools can bring about huge change and benefits – the evidence is clear, check out our examples online. It’s also important that governments are equipped with the right digital skills, language skills, and an understanding of communication science and practice.
Romania is catching up from lower positions in DESI and in other comparative research studies. This isn’t a bad position to be in though. It’s an opportunity to implement new technologies. Sometimes, governments which have legacy IT infrastructure that’s around 20 years old, it is harder to replace them and innovate in 2016. If today you decide to undergo a “creative destruction”, i.e. adopt the latest and future technologies: cloud-based solutions, the Internet of Things, and fiber networks, then you can quickly overtake the digital leaders of today in Europe. It is about having the courage and desire to do things differently, and put citizens at the heart of everything you do.
Finally, Štěpán has invited us to register for GovDelivery’s online webinar on digital engagement, that is going to take place on 29th November – Engagement that Supports Change in Modern Government.
Also, he has offered us some contacts details and encouraged us (and you) to follow GovDelivery on social media: