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February 7, 2013

Lessons We Can Learn from the Big Game

Lisa Watkins

This weekend was, of course, a huge event–so if you didn’t hear, the groundhog predicted an early spring this year!

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(No one asks the squirrels what they think of the weather…)

But there was also another big event this weekend as well that you may have watched with several billion of your closest friends. Whatever team you rooted for (and whatever you thought of the game’s outcome), it had some lessons that we can all learn from. Here are a few:

1. Know (All) Your Audience

If you look at various demographic reports, football is a diverse sport in terms of its fan base; typically it’s factored as a 40/60% gender split (women/men), and the age ranges of fans is pretty evenly distributed from children to seniors. Those who advertise during the game (mostly) know that the days of thinking that only one type of viewer watches the game are over, and that any myopic thinking could result in losing a huge opportunity to appeal to millions of other viewers. Whenever we design content and communication, whether to our constituents or to our internal personnel, we need to ensure that the message is either compelling to a broad population, and/or that we have the ability to easily create content targeted for multiple key demographics when needed. Don’t assume that all users have all of the same abilities either; communications need to work for people with vision, hearing, and mobility impairments, as well as other, less obvious disabilities such as color blindness. Adobe tools provide various means to ensure that your communications are accessible, although as always, some validation will need to be done by humans.

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(Acrobat XI Actions panel)

2. Creativity

We also need to make sure that our most important communications can stand out from a sea of others. While advertisers might use (good or bad) gimmicks to differentiate themselves, the government can instead place critical information in the right hands at the right time by effectively using good design, information architecture, and social media.

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(Creative? Why, we’ve even got that in the name!)

3. Legacy Data Capture

Before the game begins, there’s always a series of feel-good stories, some of which are about retired players or previous games. Players and coaches scour footage of past performance to build strategies. You probably have a lot of legacy data that is valuable too, but are you using and managing it? Creative asset management can be a daunting task, but with the right tools (Adobe, of course!), you can ensure that you have an effective knowledge management solution in place. And that’s one of the best feel-good stories there is!

4. Engagement

Businesses often tout the importance of retention versus acquisition; that is, it’s significantly more costly to acquire a customer than it is to retain one (especially one who has brand loyalty). We see that in the means in which the teams engage with their fans to develop deep loyalty – they have amazing communities on the local and national levels, and they’re always looking at new uses for technology to build upon their message. But in the government space, you don’t have to worry about promotions, awareness, or retaining constituents, right? Well, yes and no. While the buck may stop at your agency in terms of providing services and support that the public needs, you still need to be efficient in engaging with your audience. Regular, targeted communications and information that you can share in multiple formats (Web, mobile, print, etc.) work towards establishing engagement with people and reducing time spent on supporting basic information needs. While you may not be building ‘fans’ in a traditional sense, using multiple external channels to engage with the public can be beneficial in increasing efficiencies and reducing costs. And who isn’t a fan of that?

5. Security

As cameras turn onto the coaches, you’ll see them cover their mouths and turn away. Why? Because information is valuable. Some information should be transparent and open, but some needs to be secure. Does your workflow ensure your data’s security? What level of encryption do your documents have? If you’re using a secure platform like Acrobat, you know that there are several layers of data security that ensure your information’s integrity. Adobe’s Cloud offerings also provide best-in-class security to streamline workflows without worrying about sending content for review/collaboration through multiple services at various levels of security and access. Did I mention how well it integrates with solutions you probably are using already?

6. Measure

Hard work can be for naught if you don’t have the means in place to measure performance. Players review their plays, advertisers review their impressions and conversions. So how do you know if your communications and content is even reaching the public? How can you tell if you’re using time and resources efficiently? Are you using multiple forms of measurement for multiple creative formats? Which metrics matter? Simplifying analytics for your content can help you see the how, when, where, who, what, and why.

7. Responsiveness

What happens when the lights go out? Responsiveness is critical to any organization, but the government must be especially prepared to deal with not only natural disasters, but any unexpected activities. While the game announcers scrambled to fill air time, several brands were seizing the opportunity to engage with viewers on social media. It made them look good, and at the same time, provided information.

Many people now hear news on Twitter well before traditional news channels can develop content, and the potential for misinformation is huge. Ensure that you have the proper channels in place to communicate information in multiple formats, both for internal and external users. Social media isn’t just for advertising and awareness; it’s an effective tool to add to your entire communications strategy for just-in-time information and disaster planning too. It’s a useful means for teams to collaborate with one another and for departments to share information on a micro-social level. It also ensures that people can be up-to-date wherever they are, since they can get data on mobile devices.

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8. It Ain’t Over Until It’s Over

Perhaps the most important lesson we can learn from the Big Football-Season-Ending Game is that our work is never done. Even when things seem to be heading one way, we have to stay in it to win it. Your ‘team’ counts on you as well; the better you can perform, the better you can serve. And while you may not get confetti and fanfare, make no mistake–all of you are champions too.

Did you enjoy the game? What lessons did you take away from it? Let me know!