mobile management

How agencies craft mobile-friendly messaging

From style guides to web site color schemes, agencies like the Census Bureau and the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs are looking for ways to become more responsive to customer requests.

The Census Bureau has an internal style guide for branding and an external version to help with communicating about products and agency goals.  The Bureau of Consular Affairs has created a 30-page guide in consultation with a working group and meetings with various agency offices.

“We are trying to come up with a common language through meeting with subject matter experts so we can create better products and remove barriers.” Lori Lawson, a digital engagement specialist at the Bureau of Consular Affairs, said at the April 15 Adobe Digital Government Symposium.

Both agencies are also putting more emphasis on mobile website design and communicating with customers via social media. 

Lawson said her bureau recently went live with a mobile-friendly website to guide users through obtaining U.S. passports and visas and provide information on international travel such  advisories and checklists.

“It comes down to the convenience factor,” Lawson said. “It is hard to change behavior especially when you are trying to get someone to complete a frustrating process or a process that doesn’t fit into their existing habits of how they consume information.”  

To make information more consumable for mobile users, the State Department added color coding to its messaging for travel advisories at the same time it revamped its website. 

“It makes it easier for someone who is used to scrolling through Twitter to go on our [mobile-friendly] website and glance at top-line messages linked to color and very easily have an understanding what is going on,” Lawson said of the color-coded travel advisory system.

Updating the Census website to make it mobile friendly led to the agency reimaging how it interacts with customers who subscribe to agency services, said Anthony Calabrese, digital marketing lead at the Census Bureau. Census revamped its email marketing templates for a mobile or tablet devices, working to build a “comprehensive mobile experience from beginning to end,” he said.

“We send users messages initially that educate them about the mission of the bureau first and all of our resources,” Calabrese said. “We want to provide folks with personalized information, make sure that their transactions are secure and they are converting at a high rate to whatever goal we are setting -- whether it is attending a webinar, using one of our data sets or completing a survey.”

When it comes to preparing for the 2020 census, Calabrese said the focus is on adjusting the style guides and messaging as needed for today’s audience. “We want everything to be on-message and on-brand, so we are adapting to constraints to be mobile friendly and on social media.”

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for GCN, covering cloud, cybersecurity and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Before joining GCN, Friedman was a reporter for Gambling Compliance, where she covered state issues related to casinos, lotteries and fantasy sports. She has also written for Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily on state telecom and cloud computing. Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at sfriedman@gcn.com or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

Click here for previous articles by Friedman.


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