2020 posed an interesting challenge for the USAGov outreach team. We needed to focus on getting the latest pandemic information to the public, and we wanted to collaborate with agency experts to promote other timely and important topics too.
One of those timely topics was the 2020 Census. People were calling the USAGov Contact Center, searching for information on USA.gov, and crowdsourcing questions on social media to learn about response deadlines and how the census would be conducted during the pandemic. Given the importance of the census to local communities, we started sharing information early in the year and connected with the Census Bureau. Following a Census Bureau presentation to the government-wide Multilingual Community of Practice (COP), we ignited a collaboration with their 2020 Census National Partnerships (NP) team.
Starting in March 2020, we met regularly with the NP team and set expectations of what topics they were looking to promote, including:
- What the census is and why it’s done
- The benefits of filling out the 2020 Census
- How to respond to the census--online, by phone, and through the mail
- What questions to expect from the census
- Important dates, websites, and changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic
We combined the priorities and changing deadlines of the Census Bureau with the reach and strategy of USAGov, along with data from both programs, to create clear, helpful messaging.
Amplified key information via outreach channels - We used all of USAGov’s English and Spanish social media and email channels to promote information on the benefits of the 2020 Census, how to respond, census data security, and other priority topics provided by the Census Bureau. We reached more than 678,000 people with this information.
Created new and updated existing web pages to highlight 2020 Census priorities - We worked with the USAGov content team to share census information directly on USA.gov and USAGov en Español. This promoted our web content and helped Census engage typically harder-to-reach populations, such as Spanish-speakers, through our existing audience.
Highlighted the 2020 Census on USA.gov and USAGov en Español homepages - From July 1 to October 5, 2020, we highlighted our census web content directly on our homepages. This made the content more visible and brought more than 12,000 additional clicks to our census web content.
Featured and syndicated original content - Our team repurposed information from the 2020 Census site as a bilingual guide hosted on USA.gov’s and USAGov en Español's featured article pages. We distributed each article through a wire service to local and national media outlets. Since mid-June, these articles have been picked up by 223 media outlets and have nearly 12,000 views.
Used Instagram to target a younger audience - College-age people are one of the harder populations to reach with census information. We regularly shared @uscensusbureau posts as Story Highlights on our Instagram page and created our own original messages.
Focused outreach efforts on Spanish-speaking communities - One goal of the NP team and an opportunity we supported was to provide official information from a trusted Spanish-language brand to people with low English proficiency. We used the USAGov en Español channels on Facebook and Twitter to disseminate census information and reached more than 138,000 people during the targeted campaign.
Over the course of 2020, we learned a lot about what aspects of the census interested our audience:
- Top social media posts included how the Census Bureau protects people’s data and privacy, and information about temporary jobs as response takers.
- Data can be compelling for our audience! They engaged with posts containing simple data points and easy-to-read data visualizations showing things like census response rates by state.
- We tested poll features on social media posts to increase clicks. People engaged enthusiastically and we’ll continue to test this and other new ways to directly socialize with our audience.
- Many people indicated that they were concerned about the impact of the pandemic on the 2020 Census, including how to interact with census takers in their community.
We’re grateful that despite the challenges of the pandemic, we were able to work directly with the experts at the Census Bureau, and we’re excited to see the first round of 2020 Census results.
If you’re from a federal agency looking for new ways to reach your audience, learn about partnering with USAGov at usa.gov/partnerships. Connect with us!