We talk to Joanne Sweeney, founder of Public Sector Marketing Institute and organiser of Europe’s only dedicated Public Sector Digital Marketing Summit as our latest Marketing Maestro. She answers our questions about the future of marketing and media as part of a series of articles produced in association with New Statesman Media Group’s AI-driven content marketing solution Lead Monitor.
What’s been your proudest achievement in your current role?
I’m very proud of the fact that I get to work with government and public sector pros across the world to help them improve and scale their digital communications. I feel very strongly about the standard of digital marketing and social media in this sector as their focus is always #SocialMedia4Good and public interest messaging.
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What do you see as the main differences between B2C/B2B marketing and marketing to the public sector?
B2B/B2C marketing in the private focuses on building awareness, engagement and conversion for lead generation and sales. In the public sector the focus is on building public trust and demonstrating transparency. Without public buy-in government and public sector agencies face major challenges in policy implementation and engagement on key issues.
The public expect a seamless experience with their public sector providers, just as they expect it from Amazon, Netflix or a utility provider. We are living in the age of digital disruption.
Describe best practice when it comes to public sector marketing – how do you cut through the noise?
Public sector marketing is simply about owning the conversation on topics that you are responsible for. Trust marketing is a tactic I deploy with my clients by creating long-form content that is discoverable on search and social, so this could be creating a podcast, having a weekly Q&A series, creating infographics to highlight important stats and facts or going live to engage in real-time. Long-form written content still plays an important role for search marketing success.
Do you think the tender process is too complicated?
Often the procurement process is off-putting and is restrictive for smaller agencies and consultants. I think a scaled approach to public procurement would be preferable. However, I understand the need for checks and balances to protect and uphold good practice when spending public money.
What is your biggest bugbear in public sector marketing?
I wish more public sector pros insist on specialists with this knowledge. I would also suggest they Google ‘public sector marketing’ and variations of it, such as, ‘social media for public sector’, ‘social media for government’. I look at the monthly search volume for these terms and it occurs to me that even the sector doesn’t realise there is a difference between private and public sector marketing and hence misplaced strategies are implemented.
How important is it for the public sector to take marketing itself seriously?
It’s absolutely crucial, because right now the balance of power has shifted into the hands of the public and unless public sector step in to be the authoritative voice, citizens are going to discover another ‘source of truth’. Without a strong digital communications strategy, this sector will continue to fall behind the curve of digital transformation. It’s not if but when they step up and take ownership of their online marketing.
And finally, how big a role does tech play in the form of embracing social media, AI, and automation?
Google says we are only 1% of the way into how technology is going to change our lives and our businesses. Artificial Intelligence is disrupting marketing and communications. Right now, the privacy versus personalisation debate is challenging big tech and digital platforms to create brand new ways of marketing. The saviour is Machine Learning, a subset of AI, the ability to recognise patterns (as humans we provide lots of digital data), interpret big data and provide intelligible solutions.
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