Public Sector Marketing: A hit or miss!

Happy diverse people enjoying in the park

A lot goes behind the marketing of a social campaign that we either embrace with all our hearts or dismiss in the blink of an eye. Public sector marketing is like walking on eggshells since you stand the risk of offending a large chunk of the public with just one advertisement. At the same time, if done right, it could be rewarding and lead to a positive behavioural change in society. In her seminar on Marketing in the Public Sector, Caroline Berryman, Manager Communications, Community Engagement & Marketing, York Region, talks about the nitty-gritty of social marketing. Let’s look at what she had to say!

The emergence of going digital

Caroline emphasized the importance of being open and adapting to a dynamic job role in the marketing field. This is an ever-evolving domain that requires marketers to be on their toes in any situation. For example, with COVID-19, digital marketing grew like never before and required advertisements to adhere to the changing global mandates. Since she is currently working in the public sector, Caroline had a lot of insightful marketing tips in that arena.

Especially with the onset of the pandemic and everything going digital, it became a necessity to find online tools that could seamlessly translate everyday physical tasks to the online world. BangTheTable and Social Pinpoint are two community engagement and mapping tools that can come in handy for any marker trying to serve their community better.

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Public sector and social marketing

Let’s say you are habitual of delivering a message door-to-door to a community, intending to directly reach the ones affected by a cause. And suddenly, one day, that is not permitted anymore. As a marketer, you need to find the best alternatives immediately. This is where digital advertisements with granular level geo-targeting enter the picture. You don’t have the luxury of time to wait situations out. You need to adapt to the fast-moving virtual world lest you start trailing behind your competitors.

An important trick is to keep your customer at the centre of your planning process and strategies. For a minute, walk in their shoes and see if you are comfortable with the buying journey. There is no way that the actual customer will be happy with your offering if you are not convinced about the product or service yourself. Additionally, make sure that you give them a smooth website experience that is mobile and desktop friendly.

In the public sector, you are selling an idea as opposed to selling a product in the private sector. Here, the marketing campaigns are more educational and informative. They aim to convince people that the idea will eventually benefit them and society at large. Anti-smoking campaigns or the Mothers Against Drunk Driving campaign bring positive behavioural change.

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The dilemma of authenticity

An attendee put forth an important point that social campaigns can often come across as inauthentic and bogus. How does one make sure that the audience believes in the message being communicated? Caroline had an interesting take on this. She insisted on the importance of spokespeople as a part of a campaign. When you include the real voices of people directly affected by a cause, like residents, it makes the whole experience authentic. In other words, testimonial marketing is the way to go for public sector social campaigns.

Bringing in bees to Richmond Hill

Caroline and her team recently spearheaded an exciting project in the York Region. They involved the local residents and school kids in creating a pollinating bee and butterfly meadow on a wasteland that was otherwise attracting garbage and diseases. They drafted a communication plan to educate and promote community benefits to the residents. To add gravitas to their initiative, they prepared area-specific signage, door hangers, and recyclable materials that helped convey the project benefits along with the construction timelines. These designs can be found on their website.

Furthermore, they collaborated with a local school to involve children in the planting process. This would help them learn the importance of saving the environment, green living, and the correct planting techniques. Additionally, to make the project more interesting, a contest is being conducted that would allow the localities to name the meadow. As aspiring marketers, we were asked to help generate ideas for communicating this content to the residents.

Amongst a barrage of interesting ideas, a few stood out for me. For a start, conducting word games on paper for children would be interesting. These papers will have the contest details, which will eventually reach their parents. Another idea was to add a local geo-filter on Snapchat and ask people to use it while sharing their contest entries. Lastly, using puns on the road to lead people to the meadow sounds fun. Along with these signs will be the contest details to excite the residents. All these ideas aim to involve the local communities and might prove beneficial in spreading awareness for the contest.

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The takeaways

When it comes to social marketing, there is no foolproof method to it. Like I said, here we are selling an idea. It can get quite complicated to measure the results because you can’t track the sales. Thankfully, digital media allows you to measure the engagement of your online marketing efforts. It could be a great starting point in gauging the level of interest and feedback from the target communities. So, keep evolving and adapting to the newer digital tools designed to aid your marketing efforts. This seminar definitely piqued my interest and I might just try my hands in marketing for the public sector.

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