The majority of our efforts in the Digital by Design Programme are concentrated on building our new websites and digital tools. As part of the Comms team my work has been to communicate our new digital offer and to encourage customers to access Council services this way. Ultimately, people won’t use our new digital products if they don’t know about them!
Engaging our staff
Before we could get down to the wider public campaign we started with our own staff. Clearly we needed to communicate the benefits of the new digital products to them, particularly those with frontline contact with residents. The more our staff can confidently use the Council’s digital offer, the more comfortable they will be promoting it and the better advocates they will be for the new websites and digital tools.
The first step was to communicate the objectives for the Digital by Design programme: the need to deliver services differently to reduce costs and the benefits the new digital products offer for employees as well as customers. Part of this involved demystifying the technical jargon including the new agile methodologies. Explaining what was being developed and why, in Plain English, is easier for non-technical and technical staff alike to understand. The ‘Vison’ video is probably the best example of this approach.
Engaging our residents and businesses
In this blog we have talked a lot about our agile approach and how we are interacting with our end-users as we build our new products, rather than presenting them with a fait accompli. This required a different approach to Comms.
As each new product was released in its minimum viable form we initially used ‘soft’ Comms, meaning that we promoted it to small samples of our target audience. This allowed us to elicit user feedback, improve, refine and develop the products, until we reached a level of confidence that they are ready for a Comms release to the general public.
Creating confidence in Digital Stockport
By the end of 2016 both My Account and the new stockport.gov.uk website had gone live, been tested and improved over several months and were ready for launch to the public. We required a Communications and Marketing campaign that would:
- build confidence and trust in Stockport as a Digital Council
- promote awareness of the new website and My Account
- generate behaviour change among Stockport residents and service users to make the website their method of choice for contacting the Council.
Our primary target audience were Stockport residents who had access to the internet and were already using the web for banking, shopping etc. but didn’t currently contact the Council online. For this group we needed to raise awareness of the benefits the new website would have for them, such as time-saving, efficiency, availability 24/7 and ease of use. Also to build confidence in their own ability to access services and information independently.
Recognising that not everyone who uses Council services is online, we also prepared a separate programme of ‘DigiKnow’ Comms. These were targeted at people who don’t currently have digital skills or who have low confidence in online service, to assist them getting online. We hope to gradually convert some of this group over time from Digital Non-User to Digital user.
Launching the Council’s Online Services: DigiFeb
To celebrate the launch of our new website and online services and to encourage residents who aren’t using digital yet, we organised ‘DigiFeb’. This was a series of events and roadshows offering fun digital activities and learning opportunities across Stockport.
We prepared an integrated Marketing Communications campaign linking together all our activities under the theme ‘We’re online and ready when you are’ to show that information on and access to Council services is available online 24/7.
A range of Comms and Marketing activities with the message ‘Want an easier way to contact your Council’ aimed to drive people towards use of the website in general.
Tactical messages built on this, relating to services that currently drive high volumes of traffic towards the Contact Centre, such as council tax, bins, benefits, library books and faulty street lights.
And of course we threw a lot of promotional effort into making the individual DigiFeb events a success.
Our Communications and Marketing mix included:
- Outdoor media (billboards and bus rears)
- Online advertising (Facebook, the Manchester Evening News Stockport area, local website advertising)
- Social media
- A leaflet sent out with the Council tax bills
- Event posters and leaflets
- Press releases
- Staff and Member briefings
- Council newsletter ‘Stockport Review Extra’
What’s coming next?
DigiFeb may be behind us but we are still working to build awareness of the website and My Account. ‘We’re online and ready when you are’ will continue to guide our Comms. We will also be rolling out our DigiKnow initiative with our Assisted Digital Steering Group partners.
In line with the practice of continuous release you can look forwards to hearing about new features over the coming months via this blog and social media. We will also periodically promote a package of all the major new products, together with the newest features to the public via local media and bespoke opportunities such as via the annual ’Stockport Review’ newspaper in July.
If you missed any of our digital events, you might be interested in checking out the following:
DigiKnow Brinnington Roadshow: video
Want to be part of Digital Stockport?
We are still looking for more software developers and content officers to join our team – if you are interested visit our Jobs page to view our vacancies.