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Public-Sector Trust – Digital Marketing In Action?

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If you are a government organisation or entity, you might think you are simply communicating to the public. The concept of marketing should not be foreign to the public sector: in a liberal democracy, the idea of demonstrating the institutional value of government programs to citizen stakeholders is important. 

The currency that binds the citizen and the institution together is trust. This may have been in bricks and mortar agencies; it’s now moved more and more to online spaces. Digital marketing is the art of narrowing a “trust” gap between consumers and businesses. Can government and the public sector do the same, using similar techniques?

Digital marketing public services during COVID-19

Demand for government services delivered exclusively online ballooned during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Australian Taxation Office, shouldered much of the burden when it came to providing individual and business economic stimulus: JobKeeper, JobSeeker, and the early superannuation release scheme.

That meant an intense and sustained rollout of content to inform and educate an increasingly rattled public. A content strategy such as this is a welcome and positive trend in digital marketing for the government and the public sector.

That means taking control of creativity, strategy, and deployment. Just “having” a social media account is not enough. A marketing manager needs to create a content strategy, and style guide, and take the reins of managing an online community. That means responding to comments good, bad, and indifferent. It also means giving people an opportunity to trust what’s being put out there – a crucial element in the success of any public institution.

Other examples of gaining public trust

People instinctively “know” that there is “someone” to complain to about spam and scams. Once people figured it out, possibly frustrated by clicking around endlessly, were they taken to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. However, their canny digital marketing led to the establishment of ScamWatch, which carries all the hallmarks of a slick and targeted digital marketing campaign: a dedicated site, social media awareness campaigns, and content optimised for search engines. It’s not just the place to complain – but be empowered against scams with up-to-date, credible information.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission also has great success with MoneySmart.gov.au, teaching parents and children about finance and managing money. Again, it produces highly authoritative and accessible content, is interactive on social media, makes slick and easy-to-digest videos; and it’s all about engendering that trust in government institutions.  

The perfect element in digital presence

Thanks to the content strategy of these government sites, citizen stakeholders perceive the value of these institutions as high and trustworthy. The Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual online survey conducted in 28 countries with over 33,000 respondents showed that business was the only trusted institution left in the world – and said 2021 was the year we were “Declaring Information Bankruptcy.”

Information bankruptcy is difficult to recover from, but digital marketing with reliable information is key to building up public “credit.” Trustworthy content is the crucial element in digital marketing today, says Satwik Chavda, co-founder, and director of digital marketing firm Conquerr.

“Trust in government jumped seventeen points during the pandemic according to the Institute of Public Administration Australia. This is even in the face that governments lost trust globally. This trust rests on government organisations providing trustworthy, unbiased content that helps citizens in distress. The ATO is proof positive that reliable content improves trust.”

“Digital marketing isn’t just about the hard sell. It’s about producing good content. It’s about providing real answers to pressing questions. It’s about empathizing with your stakeholders and giving them reliability. 

“Trust is a valuable commodity; use it wisely.”

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