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Top Takeaways from Granicus Summit

Granicus hosted its first-ever Virtual Summit last week, with more than 800 federal, state, and local government leaders who attended from across the United States. We hosted sessions for leadership, like elected officials and city managers, communicators, clerks, IT, planners, and more across four different tracks. We hosted 28 speakers including Paralympic Medalist and Best-Selling Author Bonnie St. John; our own Mark Hynes, Granicus CEO; and speakers from the Environmental Protection Agency, Indiana FSSA, Fullerton, CA, Minnesota Census and many more. Here are the top takeaways from the event:

1. “Speed, Agility, and Collaboration are the Institutional Muscles We’ve Developed”

Over the past seven months, governments have led the charge in demonstrating resilience and reimagining how they provide information and services to their communities. The COVID-19 pandemic created urgency for change, and there was rapid adoption of the tools that enable it. The pace of ideation, decision making, learning, and iteration all accelerated dramatically as government leaders reduced barriers and implemented the tools they needed quickly. As one Virtual Summit participant put it, “speed, agility, and collaboration are the institutional muscles we’ve developed.”

2. The Level of Engagement with Governments in 2020 Has Been Unprecedented

During the Virtual Summit, CEO Mark Hynes took a moment to review the incredible impact of government communications in 2020. So far this year, governments at all levels have sent 8 billion digital messages to citizens and residents in their communities – 4 billion of which were COVID-19 related. This number represents a dramatic increase (43%) over the same period last year, all while maintaining an average engagement rate of 65%. Additionally, 25 million more citizens joined the Granicus Subscriber Network since the pandemic began – the largest jump in opt-in subscribers to government communications in the 15 years of reporting that stat. This level of engagement with government is truly unprecedented, and is a testament to the dedication of local, state, and federal government leaders to connect their communities to information and services they needed as the pandemic continued to evolve.

3. People Fall Down, Winners Get Up, and Gold Medal Winners Get up Faster

Granicus was honored to welcome Paralympic medalist and best-selling author Bonnie St. John as the special guest keynote at the 2020 Granicus Virtual Summit. Bonnie shared many of her life lessons as she overcame the challenge of losing her leg when she was 5 years old and went on to be the first African-American woman to win a medal in any Paralympic event. One of her lessons that resonated with the theme of government’s agility and speed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic was a takeaway from the 1984 Winter Paralympics. She said,

‘I was ahead in the slalom. But in the second run, everyone fell on a dangerous spot. I was beaten by a woman that got up faster than I did. I learned that people fall down, winners get up, and gold medal winners just get up faster.” – Bonnie St. John

4. The Transition to Virtual Public Meetings Opened Up a New Era of Opportunity

For centuries, the option for the public to participate in in-person public forums within government buildings represented a cornerstone of our democracy. But when the COVID-19 pandemic began, many government buildings needed to close their doors to keep the public safe. In response, governments brought the experience online to residents — running 25,000 virtual public meetings with Granicus govMeetings solutions. Not only did this keep the concept of the town hall open and transparent, it provided a new opportunity for residents to participate. In Olathe, KS for example, going virtual meant a huge spike in public participation – going from 8 attendees in-person to 557 attendees virtually.

5. Measure Beyond the Click; Focus on What You Want to Improve

One of the most popular Virtual Summit sessions was with Granicus’ Chief Product Officer, Bob Ainsbury, whose session titled “Government Communications — There Is No Going Back,” covered the advanced capabilities and tools that government communicators are using now, and will use more of in the future. One of the key focus areas was on measurement, and how to shift the mentality of measuring vanity metrics (opens, clicks, etc.) of government communicators to outcome-based metrics (services delivered, families registered, etc). Additionally, Ainsbury predicted that communicators will use more of the advanced features within communications tools (like A/B testing and drip campaigns) to advance outcome-based metrics even further in 2021.

6. The “Quickest Win” Revenue Opportunity for Gov is with STR Management

While local governments are accustomed to needing to accomplish more with less, there are plenty of reasons to feel discouraged about pending budget and resource shortfalls. However, a great area of revenue opportunity was highlighted during the 2020 Virtual Summit for governments – some seeing between 5 and 20 times the return on investment. Short-term rental (STR) compliance management (most commonly associated with vacation rental listings on sites like Airbnb) has been proven to maximize benefits for cities, counties and states in 2020 – from tax revenue to reduced noise complaints. Creating an effective STR program doesn’t have to be a huge lift – and can be one of the quickest ways to bring in resources when budgets are tight.

7. Focusing on Service Delivery Now Will Reap Massive Rewards in the Future

A year ago, could anyone have imagined a scenario where in-person processes for critical services were no longer a safe option? This reality, in addition to the enormous increase in demand for government benefits, programs and services, meant that governments had to shift to digital options quickly – and, in some cases – on a massive scale.

In one of the Virtual Summit sessions, “Peek Into the Future: Lessons from the U.K. on What’s Coming for U.S. Governments,” digital transformation expert Hilary Jones and Wrexham Council’s digital transformation lead Kay O’Flaherty provided a recap of what happened in the U.K. when governments were facing massive budget shortfalls 10 years ago, and invested in technology that enabled digital access to services. The result? Digital has helped to reduce costs associated with delivering government services while improving their quality.

BONUS: There Are Silver Linings in the Darkest of Clouds

This year has been incredibly challenging on many levels. Millions of people around the world are experiencing financial, work, life, and societal conditions they haven’t dealt with before. These challenges call the work of the public sector into focus in new ways, and the 2020 Granicus Virtual Summit reminded all of us that when times are most challenging, public servants can persevere with incredible resilience. Out of the many dark clouds, there are stories of those who found the silver lining – whether it was the ability to respond quickly or use technology to find new areas of opportunity in their communities. We’re inspired by this work every day, and why Granicus is proud to serve a sector that is mission-driven.

>>> To watch all of the tactic-rich sessions from the 2020 Granicus Virtual Summit, visit the on-demand page here.