There is a revolution happening in the private sector that is about to disrupt federal communications, outreach, public relations and stakeholder relations. In the private sector, traditional marketing, advertising and public relations are making room for a new player at the table: inbound marketing. Inbound is lowering marketing costs, improving the ability to measure impact and creating new expectations from customers. Government needs to adopt many of these best practices to keep up with the demands of citizens and stakeholders. It’s what we at Corner Alliance call inbound for government.
First, some background. In the traditional model, marketers pushed out content and messages: think advertising, tradeshows, press releases, etc. Government largely followed suit, adapting private sector marketing practices and calling them outreach, communications and public affairs.
In the new model, the rise of Google, blogging, YouTube, social media and the Internet in general has changed the way people buy products and find information. Today people don’t read sales brochures (at least not at first); instead they search Google or Yelp for helpful information and recommendations. The goal of inbound and content marketers is to attract you to their content as a way to begin a relationship. Essentially, the message has changed from what you want to say as a marketer to what the customer or citizen wants to know. So why should government adopt this model? We see three main reasons:
- You get better results. If your goal is citizen education, adoption of some government product or service or to simply raising awareness, then inbound has to be a part of your arsenal as a government leader. People want short, targeted and mobile-ready content across a variety of platforms.
- The tools are low cost. Blogging is an extremely cost-effective way to get information out. Shooting quick video on an iPhone doesn’t cost anything and posting to social media sites is about as easy as it gets. Instead of spending millions on conferences and workshops, you can now reach many more people with blogs and podcasts and get better engagement to boot.
- It’s measurable. We have tools to manage and track engagement like Hootsuite and SumAll, to name just two. Now we can test which messages attract the right set of stakeholders. Now we can measure the impact of a government product or service.
In some sense inbound for government is nothing new. Producing good content that is relevant to citizens and stakeholders is just good communications, and lots of government agencies use social media. Inbound for government is more of a change in mind-set to a more citizen-centric communications and stakeholder model. We also need to be mindful that government has some goals that are different from those of a commercial marketer. While there is much to be learned from those commercial marketers, we need to adapt inbound to a government-appropriate context.
Now it’s your turn. Do you think inbound will make an impact in government?