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Those of us who’ve worked in government communications for any length of time have probably had a conversation with someone from Business Area X that started something like “I want to do 12 Facebook posts to tell people about this thing they have to do”.

Deep breath. Count slowly to ten. Find your happy place.

“Oh, and I want a ten-minute video as well”.

Tropical island. Sandy beach. Concentrate on that happy place (because if I don’t, I’m gonna scream!!!!!!!!).

As professional communicators, we know that growing an audience and gaining trust is hard work. Not helped when people just want to SOS (sending out stuff).

Lola Berry knows about growing an audience. She’s an Australian nutritionist, author and all-round media personality who has built a large and loyal audience across multiple platforms. We spoke to Lola about her journey, and she shared a couple of simple and important reminders for all communicators, even those working in the ‘Department of not very easy to market’.

Lola is entirely authentic. Read her blog or watch one of her videos – she’s the real deal, her content is engaging, and it’s obvious she knows what her audience wants.

“You need to provide something that is engaging and is of value to your audience,” says Lola.

I can hear you thinking ‘easy when you’re talking about food; people love it! But not so easy for my work in government.’ Maybe, but the same basic things still apply.

Value can come in many forms. It might be information that makes it easier for people to interact with your department, helps get them out of a sticky spot in life or addresses a pet peeve. It’s about finding what is valuable to your audience as opposed to just what we need to tell them.

Engaging content doesn’t have to be funny, feature a big-name personality or be the child of a huge advertising budget. Simple, low-cost content can be just as engaging. But it means going deeper than just conveying information – it’s about finding something people can relate to, something that connects emotionally.

Let’s take demographic information. Potentially pretty dry stuff. Or is it? Demographer and social commentator Bernard Salt AM has recently been telling stories of Australian social trends, but with a running theme about the cost of smashed avocados. He’s turned statistical information into a treasure trove of stories using something we can relate to. And it’s kept me engaged.

Government departments are awash with information, and opportunity abounds to directly engage your audience in many ways. Often, the same bit of information your contact from Business Area X wants to tell people about can become a great story if we turn it 180 degrees to find value from the audience perspective.

Engaging content that’s of value to your audience. It works for multi-media personalities like Lola Berry, and it’s no different for any level of government looking to grow an audience and gain trust for the long term. Sending stuff out just won’t cut it.

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