Email marketing has become the most universally accessed digital communications channel after the internet. O2’s ‘Mobile life report’ 2013 shows that daily we spend nine minutes on email via a mobile device.
A cost effective communications channel – the majority of council customers have an email address, it reduces spend on print, face-to-face and telephone channels, it reduces internal staff time through increased automation and an easy to use interface. Improves customer satisfaction – it gives customers the choice whether to opt in or out of information, info is provided in bite sized chunks, info is provided in a timely way. Supports a centralised communications strategy – data is managed by one system rather than many, there is a consistent use of council brand guidelines. Supports a research based communications model – it is very easy to measure the success of communications and adapt accordingly.
Southampton City Council
The story of ‘Stay Connected’
Before and after – pre July 2012 and post July 2012
Why an email marketing system? Why GovDelivery?
The journey it took to acquire an email marketing system
The targets we set
The outcomes we achieved
Top tips if you are considering going on this journey
The Journey - Pre July 2012
Relied on Outlook to send group emails.
Service areas managed their individual email lists. No
centralised management or segmentation.
Did not de-dupe email addresses and had poor/inconsistent
ways of managing un-subscribes.
Unable to make email visually appealing due to email size
Did not know whether the information we sent was useful or
Post July 2012
We have a branded e-alerts systems called ‘Stay Connected’
We have a total of 65,000 unique subscribers, 9,453 of which
signed up via our website or the wider network, the remainder are
uploads. Compares favourably against an average of 28,000
Daily Echo copies sold daily.
We have 35 listed topics for the public to subscribe to. Over
3,766 people are subscribed to 6 or more alerts.
Post July 2012
We have 10 private topics e.g. Safe City Partnership Bulletin,
School Head Teachers Bulletin, Neighbourhood Watch Wardens
We have a total of 125,329 subscriptions across both public and
We have sent over 2.3 million emails since July 2012.
We send out between 5 and 12 emails every week.
We consistently achieve an open rate of between 25% - 60% for
alerts (industry average is 5%).
Our most popular alerts
Essential library service information (40,862 subscribers)
Sustainable travel (8,197 subscribers)
City events weekly update (7,253 subscribers)
Culture Vulture (7,010 subscribers)
Waste and recycling (4,784 subscribers)
Community news and events (4,296 subscribers)
Library news and events (3,521 subscribers)
Local news update (3,420 subscribers)
Why an email marketing system?
A cost effective communications channel
Improves customer satisfaction
Supports a centralised communications strategy
Supports a research based communications model
The financial model work well for LAs – it is based on
population not on number of licenses or on number of
The system allows automation with social media.
The system focuses on getting you the highest number of
subscribers by providing you access to the GovDelivery
network with 2.8 million UK users.
Identified the need on arrival in post – gap in our comms mix.
Recommendation paper including audit of all existing email lists in
scope. Nov 2011.
Worked with Capita IT to do an options appraisal of systems that
met our criteria. Consulted other LAs re their systems.
Consulted staff sending regular group emails - created a ‘User
Presented recommended option to Council Management Team.
Conducted a 3-month pilot with GovDelivery.
During the pilot we did research with customers and internal
66% of customers rated the service either good or excellent (another
25% rated it OK). 75% felt more informed about council services and
many customers praised the start of such a service.
Returned to Council Management Team to request funding for
GovDelivery after the 3-month pilot.
Worked with service areas to identify savings on print and design to pay
Gained agreement from Council Management Team to continue the
service based on the funding coming from existing budgets. Dec 2012.
Continual working with GovDelivery to improve the service. May 2013.
August 2103 – tracker research
Aug 2013 Research
To help us make improvements to the service, we recently carried
out a survey of subscribers (across all public topics), asking for
their feedback on the service.
982 people responded compared to 677 last year.
The respondents represent a wide range of age groups and
subscribers from across the city and the wider region.
The Journey - Aug 2013 Research
A total of 81% of subscribers rated the service ‘Excellent’ or
‘Good’ which was a 15 percentage point-increase on previous
year at 66%.
In a similar vein the number of subscribers who felt more
informed about council services because of Stay Connected rose
by 16 percentage points from 75% (2012) to 91% (2013).
87% of the 2013 respondents also said they would recommend
the Stay Connected service to a friend.
“Excellent service that has helped me avoid closed
roads already, and keeps me informed about cultural
events. Keep up the good work.’’ Aug 2013
“It's a really convenient way to stay up to date with
local news and developments; and I like the weekend
what's on guide.” Aug 2013
resulting from research feedback
Send events related alerts earlier in the week
Improve our cross-selling of alerts
Refresh look and feel
Reduce length of email introductions
Stop sending Twitter round-up emails
Look into sending out links to council meeting papers
Figures are cumulative from July 2012 start date
Direct subscribers or
via the GovDelivery
Target no. of
Actual no. of
Centralised data - uploaded 66,492 email addresses
from across the council.
Increased automation – we pull from our news RSS
feed for the ‘Local news’ alert.
Better understanding of our effectiveness - we track
open rates (unique and total), click-throughs, bouncebacks, unsubscribes, and shares.
By talking to customers via Stay Connected we have:
Created an integral comms channel for the organisation and
Reduced spend on print
Increased automation - via our press RSS feed
Increased awareness of events, increased participation in
consultations and research
More frequent comms during times of crisis
Created a product which can be sponsored
My Top Tips
Get Director, Head of Service and Cllr buy in.
Use internal ambassadors to sell the channel to other teams.
Involve your design team in branding and have a good stock of images. Make
alerts consistent and visually appealing.
Get the balance right between what you put in the alert and what you ask people
to click through to.
Train one member of your team up as a super-user.
Set up a sign off process.
Prompt subscribers regularly to sign up to other alerts.
Provide subscribers with incentives to engage.
Use adverts on alerts to cross-sell council services.
Create visually appealing buttons to encourage click-throughs.
Market the e-alerts service.
Link to the sign up page in as many places as possible via your website and via