Omnichannel communications are the future of citizen engagement. Your citizens today are tethered to multiple devices and communicating with people and brands around them using more platforms and digital tools than ever before. Citizens today want to chat with a customer service representative on a tablet, receive a confirmation email of their purchase on their smartwatch, and post an image of the product they purchased to all their social media channels without duplicating the post creation in each system.

If your citizens are interacting with the world around them using a multi-pronged, integrated, and dynamic engagement communication experience, shouldn’t your municipality use the same techniques to connect with them in meaningful and personal ways? This question raises not only citizen engagement strategy concerns, but it also raises cost concerns. According to research cited by Cybra, the opportunity cost of not embracing an omnichannel approach is 10 percent lost revenue. How can budget-strapped local governments not adopt the most cost-effective digital communications approach?

If the idea of omnichannel communications sounds like a topic for a public information officer and not a chief information officer, keep reading. As the leader of your community’s digital infrastructure and systems team, you owe it to your citizens to understand why content as a service (CaaS) is more than a passing trend or current buzzword supporting the shift toward omnichannel messaging, and how it can serve a dual purpose of engaging citizens while saving you and your staff time.

What is CaaS?

CaaS is a data management model that allows entities to access, manipulate, and share content from a single, integrated data repository. The platforms used to manage CaaS models rely on an API-first data integration model and allow entities to manage content in an agnostic way while easily distributing messages via multiple channels using a single publishing system. If this sounds impossibly technologically improbable, know that the secret to CaaS lies in the integration between a back-end data repository and front-end display layer. CaaS publishing tools enable content to be formatted appropriately for any communication channels from text-only in-office kiosks to your local government website.

Why Does CaaS Matter to Local Governments?

There are two critical reasons why CaaS should matter to local leaders:

The Time-Saving Benefits of CaaS for Your Municipality

Municipalities Need an Easily Manageable and Impactful Citizen Communication Strategy. Your community is a more than a brand. It’s a public entity responsible for delivering time-sensitive and potentially life impacting news and information to the citizens it serves. Just like a brand, to reach today’s busy citizens, you need a digital communication strategy that leverages multiple channels without requiring a multisystem management process. CaaS Supports the Next Evolution of Citizen Engagement. As citizens become increasingly reliant upon and comfortable with constant connectivity, they are seeking more meaningful connections with brands, entities, and their civic leadership—and they want such interactions embedded seamlessly into their daily information gathering behaviors. The old workflow model that fueled your citizen engagement strategy meant a boil water notification had to be written and published separately via your website, mobile app, push notification system, email, social media, in-office kiosks, and digital road signage. Today, it means the message is written and published one time and can be accessible by citizens via any of the communication platforms mentioned, in addition to wearables, smart televisions, voice-controlled personal assistants, and the next technological advancement of the future. Ask yourself where all your various departments’ content (red: data records, digitally displayed text, images, videos, files, and form submissions) lives today. Stop counting when you run out of fingers on one hand, because that number of systems is too many to easily manage without the risk of data redundancies, inconsistencies, errors, and non-integration frustrations. Here’s another question instead: if your administration needs to notify citizens of a boil water advisory, how many systems are used to maximize the reach of the message? We’re guessing you’d mention your local government website content management system (CMS), your citizen mass email notification system, Twitter, Facebook, your phone and text message alert system, your digital road signage software…go ahead and stop again. We get the idea, and so do you. Too many non-integrated systems slow the spread of time-sensitive information, resulting in the risk of errors and requiring endless training, upkeep, and management by you and your staff.

A Real-World Application for CaaS in Local Government

Consider these time-saving benefits of adopting a CaaS: 

CaaS tools offer more insightful reporting and analytics tools so you and your department leaders can collaborate on the channels making the biggest impact in your digital engagement strategies to further refine your outreach strategies. When you focus on effective communication channels, you’re not wasting time on ineffective processes and workflows. When information needs to move quickly, it can, which means you and your teams spend less time managing multiple systems and responding to questions from panicked content managers who can’t keep all their user credentials straight and need their passwords reset. Again. You have fewer systems, databases, hardware, and software to manage and maintain. You spend less time training content managers from multiple departments on various software systems. And retraining them. And training them again when new there are enhancements to each of the systems. And training them again on the systems they use less frequently. And training their new hires. You get the idea. Increased agility for deploying digital projects, which means faster implementations and launches. Greater data security, which means less time evaluating, safeguarding, and optimizing security systems—and greater protections for your civic and citizen data. Imagine a scenario—the type of scenario that plays out daily in municipalities across the nation. Your community is hosting its annual Summer Strawberry Festival. It’s the one day every summer where citizens flock to your town park for fresh bowls of strawberries and ice cream, to meet and mingle with one another, and enjoy local music and activities. Your parks and rec department is expecting thousands of attendees. There’s just one problem: the weather forecast is calling for rain. Further complicating your event management process, the current sky is blue and cloudless—and the festival is supposed to start in an hour. You can’t risk a downpour ruining the event, yet if you don’t decide now to cancel the day and announce a rain date, you’ll risk families showing up only to be washed out.

Before the advent of CaaS, the only recourse parks and rec departments and communications teams had was to dispatch multiple team members to use multiple systems to distribute cancellation notices. One sends an email to a list of citizen subscribers, a second posts to Facebook, then separately to Twitter, while someone else adds a cancellation message to your local government website. Using a CaaS model, the message is crafted one time, and distributed to all your critical communication channels, leaving you with only one thing left to do: update the printed banner that hangs over Main Street with your rain date.

With CaaS, CIOs can save time, reduce the number of systems they manage and maintain, and support their administrative teams to keep citizens informed and engaged. It is the next evolution of citizen engagement, and it’s starting now.

About the Author: Rachael Walker

Rachael is a Product Marketing Manager at CivicPlus. She holds a Bachelor of science in Business Administration with a major in marketing from the University of West Georgia, and an MBA from Jacksonville State University. She has over eight years of experience in the marketing space marketing space focusing on technology.