Most of us rely heavily on the internet and computers or smart devices to help us stay informed and communicate with others. In many ways, digital communication has been a great step forward to make our lives easier. Messages are instant, websites and social media feeds offer unlimited space to provide the latest updates, and the internet has become widely accessible – mostly.
Recently, I was listening to a couple voice frustration over renewing their passports. They had taken all the proper steps but unfortunately, the important documents needed for renewal had not been returned. An in-person visit wasn’t in the cards to correct the issue, so they turned to technology. They were unable to reach a customer service representative on the phone or via email. The website was not user-friendly and simply compounded their frustration. This made me think of the work we’ve done related to accessibility – and how important the topic still is despite technology allowing most of us to access information at our fingertips.
When you develop a communications plan, accessibility is a crucial aspect to keep in mind, although it can sometimes fall by the wayside given how much time we all focus on digital spaces. Whether it is annual planning or a specific campaign, it’s important to remember to develop messaging for audiences of all backgrounds – from digital natives to those who may not have a computer or smart device to access online information. A significant portion simply do not have access to these resources. While members of your audience may be tech-savvy, some do not rely on online platforms to get their information. And this latter group may account for a higher percentage of your audience than you think.
While most Americans use the internet and are on social media, it’s not 100% – and you can’t assume that means those who are active online regularly follow your organization. There is always going to be a new audience out there for your organization to reach, or as one of my college professors use to say, “No matter how many followers you have, most people still aren’t following you.”
So, how do you reach this group?
In an increasingly digitized world, printed materials are still important. Consider brochures, fact sheets or flyers around your office for people to read and take with them when they enter your facility or at events you may host. Another highly effective strategy, and perhaps still one of the best ways to get messaging to all audience members, is producing and sending mailers directly to homes. Consider a printed newsletter or one-page insert to send a few times throughout the year that highlights important reminders, contact information and the latest news about your organization.
While your website and social media pages should be user-friendly for all to navigate, these platforms cannot, and perhaps should not, cover everything. This is when promoting customer service is key. Some people may have additional questions that online platforms do not fully address and others just prefer or may need to speak to someone on the phone or face-to-face.
In both your online and printed communications, it’s important to offer multiple calls-to-action that can be utilized by your entire audience. Provide webpage links, phone numbers (that actually connect to a real person) and office hours to ensure people have the information they need to learn more and receive additional assistance.
It can be easy to assume information online will reach everyone given most of our daily lives, communication and tasks are weaved through these platforms. It’s worthwhile to remind yourself of the different ways you can reach all members of your audience and their varying reliance on technology. Some may use technology exclusively to stay informed and some may not use it at all. Even if most of your audience is tech-savvy, they may not prefer to get their information or address certain issues through online platforms and wish to speak to members of your organization in-person or over the phone and read printed materials.
Regardless of what methods your audience uses to stay informed, have diverse platforms for your messaging to help maximize your organization’s reach so you can offer multiple ways for everyone to connect with you.