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Your Audience: How Do They Consume Your Information?

October 13, 2015  |  Jason Wright
Welcome back to the third in our series on focusing your communications to the customer. This month, I want to zoom out a bit from the generation of content and look instead at the vehicles we use to communicate. Because when we ask ourselves, “How I can satisfy my customer’s needs?” a lot of times we have to look system-wide to find truly tailored solutions.

For example, my department at the City of Milton has recently done a good deal of research into how people are consuming the information we send. Did you know, for example, that the majority of e-mails are now opened on mobile devices?  So why are we sending out press releases? We want our customers to have a fantastic brand experience (remember that conversation?). So let’s satisfy their needs in the easiest and most engaging ways possible.

Let’s take a look at Milton’s new, modified email format.

This is a full-service release for our new tornado siren project. You’ll notice it incorporates regular text for our newspaper and Web site content folks, but also a video telling the whole story for those who just want a quick story. And here’s the thing – both the written words and video stand on their own. They both satisfy a different set of needs.

Now, right below the video you’ll see big linked widgets linking the user to the city calendar, CodeRed sign-ups (our emergency network) and past council meetings. Here’s the thing: If you can link one thing, you can link anything. So let this single e-mail act as a sort of “mini-Web page,” offering tons of connectivity and information to the customer.

As you scroll down, you’ll see the big e-mail and social buttons – again, oversized because this will more than likely be read on a mobile device.

Here’s another, later version of this new e-mail format. Here, we created a “guide” for parks and recreation. Like most other cities, we traditionally produced a quarterly guide that we would either print or link to if we wanted to promote parks and recreation activities.

But this is 2015. Most of our providers can take payments online. And they offer so many different programs, why wouldn’t we just let them generate their own content for us?

So here you have our solution. Each provider gets big, nice photos and their logo. Everything is linked up. It’s as simple as, “Oh yeah, my kid wants to play football,” and the user is right into the football provider’s Web sign-up.

No muss, no fuss – and look at how clean and organized everything is. There is no mistaking what this e-mail is meant to do. It’s easy, it’s beautiful, and it suggests Milton is committed to quality service using technology.

So seriously … why are we, as an industry, still sending press releases?

Think about that for a while, and I think you’ll come around to our way of thinking. See you next month. 
Jason Wright is Communications Manager for the Georgia Tech Research Library. Up until November 2015, he was the Director of Innovation and Engagement for the City of Milton where he oversaw all aspects of the city's branding and communications efforts, including transparency, automation, design, photography, printing, web services and social media and public outreach.

Prior to Milton, Wright spent seven years working in the magazine and newspaper business. Most recently he was editor of both the Milton Herald and Alpharetta–Roswell Revue and News, where he wrote, edited, photographed for and oversaw design of the weekly papers. Prior to that, he worked as a writer, editor, designer and photographer for local, regional and national publication.