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Four Ways to Boost Citizen Engagement

As citizens demand ever better digital services, many government organizations struggle to deliver them, even with larger investments in customer-focused programs. Connecting with the public goes beyond updating a website or posting to Facebook. Your agency needs high digital communication engagement rates to be effective in delivering services and programs.

In a recent webinar, “20 Tips to Boost Your Engagement,” the GovDelivery team shared best practices and tips from agencies that have successfully transformed citizens’ experience with government through better engagement.

These tips generally fit into a four categories: 

Have a Strategic Plan

The most important part of any plan to improve engagement is to know your organization’s goals and develop a strategy for achieving them. Every email, Tweet or Facebook post should push towards accomplishing those goals.

You can leverage existing content—such as printed materials—to incorporate into your digital communication templates. And you should test those templates to make sure they actually work. The subject lines in your email messages should make people want to open and read the messages, for example. You can compare the effectiveness of different approaches using A/B testing.

When the Army’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation office was trying to...

How to Field Questions From the Public Like a Pro

No matter where you work, you will at some point have to answer questions from the public. It might be an employee, a journalist, a customer, or even a member of Congress.

Now this may sound obvious, but most of the time people have better things to do than sit down and contact you with their concerns. So if they're exercised enough to do that, there is probably something significant on their minds.

And while you may think it's easy to simply respond, here are a few tips that may help you build your reputation for integrity by handling public inquiries effectively.

Mechanics: Acknowledge the inquiry. Give the question a ticket number. Answer within a reasonable period of time. Make it clear when they should expect to hear from you.

Basic Content: Get to the point immediately. Make sure you answer all the questions or address all the issues raised. Keep responses short and provide links to further information. Don't answer more than was originally asked.

Scope: Be thorough. Go the extra mile to offer alternatives, options and resources. However, don't speculate about things you don't know or can't back up.

Attitude: Talk like...

To Make the Most of a Three-day Weekend, Be a Little Lazy Before and After

Three-day weekends are tricky—72 hours isn’t enough time to properly indulge in wanderlust, but studies have shown a short vacation can be just as good (pdf) for decompressing as a longer one, even if short means fewer than five days.

By following these guidelines, you can make the most of your freedom, however brief:

Don’t let that last workweek get you down. The final few days before time off are undoubtedly stressful, but a higher pre-vacation workload can lead to a dip in well-being (pdf), according to one Dutch study. (Likewise last-minute housework.) Kick your long weekend off right by wrapping up loose ends, and hitting the gym or taking a walk on the way home. “This will help you to mentally disengage from your work, get rid of stress hormones and prevent complaints during your first days off work,” says psychologist Jessica de Bloom.

Set an away message—no, really. Smartphones foster all kinds of productivity, but the pressure to get ahead makes it easy to ignore overstimulation. “People may worry about job security, want to increase their salary, or advance in their career, so they feel that they have to be more dedicated to their...

Your Work Matters; Make Sure Others Know Why

For employees across government, the anticipation of a new administration creates considerable uncertainty. Career civil servants—who often have dedicated years of their professional lives to the development of regulations, research, and projects affecting countless Americans—confront the possibility that their work may be halted or reversed by a new administration. The prerogative of a new administration to alter the regulatory and administrative direction of federal agencies can negate the value of years of effort. 

Most governmental performance requires active collaboration between federal employees and the American public. The interaction forms the narrative of trust between career civil servants and citizens. This trust materializes in the development of some of the most creative advancements for addressing social, economic, and structural challenges.

But these achievements must be adequately communicated in a manner that sustains the public’s commitment and a new administration’s recognition of the need for continued improvement. 

A recent Washington Post article titled “The solutions to all our problems may be buried in PDFs that nobody reads” demonstrates the need to improve the way we communicate information about research and projects that address problems of global magnitude. World Bank officials recently conducted a study concerning the public’s...

Predicting the Future May Be Easier Than You Think

Getting predictions wrong can be costly. It’s not just weather or loan defaults that get predicted. The intelligence community in 2002 officially concluded that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that was part of the rationale for why we went to war. They were wrong. How can similar misjudgments be avoided in the future?  

A recent article in Harvard Business Review, by Paul Schoemaker and Philip Tetlock, describes how organizations—and you—can become better at judging the likelihood of uncertain events. While they write about commercial companies’ use of prediction tools, their insights apply to government as well.

The Challenge

In the wake of the Iraq intelligence failure, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity set out in 2011 to determine if it was possible to improve predictions of uncertain events. It selected five academic research teams to compete in a multi-year prediction tournament. The initiative ran from 2011-2015 and “recruited more than 25,000 forecasters who make well over a million predictions.” Forecasters were challenged to respond to such questions as: Would Greece exit the Eurozone? What’s the likelihood of a financial panic in China?

Some teams used computer algorithms. Others focused on the use of...

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