Where to start: Personalisation in the Public Sector

Megan Engard

Partner content: It’s often not thought that digital personalisation on the web can be applied to public sector agencies and departments. However, expectations of the citizen services that public sector agencies deliver is changing, and monolithic government behaviour is no longer accepted.

A proliferation of digital channels, increasing pressure on agencies to provide real-time and customised information to the citizenry – especially in times of crisis, and an overall need to use digital platforms to reach large numbers of people, have changed the dynamic of communications in the public sector.

The APS (Australian Public Service) also wants agencies to be digital in their engagement practices. The benefits of providing a customised online experience are proven by research.

Digital personalisation and the public sector

A McKinsey Public Sector Journey Benchmark Survey in 2018 showed that satisfied customers are nine times more likely to trust the agency providing a service, validating that those departments that embark on web personalisation and optimisation will improve their relationship with citizens.

But it can be a massive undertaking, so where do they start?

Our experience is that many departments can find the content creation and collaboration challenge daunting and difficult. There is often a complex communications and content team structure in place.

We also recognise that data collection in government can be a thorny issue. But small changes to your agency’s privacy policy, including how long website behaviour data is stored, means that agencies can embark on personalisation initiatives.

We believe a good first step on the road to personalisation is to create an internal cross-functional team that encompasses IT, communications and marketing, backed by senior leaders within the department.

The first task of the cross functional team is to establish a clear strategy for the program. One way to do this is with a Strategic Objectives Framework that assesses the agency’s goals, applies them to the marketing objectives, and is then reflected in the content and personalisation plan.

The agency can then assess what digital actions are required and how personalisation and content optimisation can deliver on those strategic objectives.

In government agencies there is often no clear commercial call-to-action, such as buying a product, so the success metrics are focused on lighter touch actions, such as getting citizens to download research, use a self-service platform, or prompting them to visit high-value content sites.

We can then assign a relative point value to citizen actions and determine if a personalised digital campaign is working or not.

So, how can you personalise your digital services to make your organisation efficient, and get more of the right content into the hands of your constituency, and measure the success of these efforts?

Public sector agencies can embark on this journey by developing quick win personalisation tactics that are easily implementable, such as geo-based IP targeting.

Campaign personalisation is another quick-wins tactic, where a department’s campaign activity can be used to tag incoming traffic from other sources, such as paid search, display, social posts or emails.

By identifying which external content asset a person comes from, you can start personalising the content to that citizen.

Finally, implicit personalisation is a great tool for government agencies due to the vast amount of content available on many government sites and tools.

This kind of personalisation allows agencies to track the behaviour of website visitors and create different audience segments based on what content they have engaged with. This then enables the agency to serve up relevant content the next time they visit your site.

In short, your content needs to match what the audience is looking for amid the spider network of websites and content assets that you govern.

Batching people into relevant segments and working out what they want or need by building different data points and individual profiles is imperative.

Departments should focus on creating good content, simplifying website visitor journeys, and establishing accurate digital audience personas.

Megan Engard is a digital strategy consultant for the Asia-Pacific and Japan at Sitecore, the global digital experience company.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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