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comms2point0 UnAwards 2014 - Best email marketing category

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Hard hats at the ready... A local council is actively engaging with its residents

How does a local authority create a free, direct line of communication with tens of thousands of its residents? Dudley Council’s communications team have donned their hard hats and ‘dug deep’ to find the answer...

Rather than solely relying on the media to share the authority’s news, direct communication with residents has become an essential part of Dudley Council’s work. For a number of years this had been done via social media and the council website to share latest news and information.

But as part the authority’s community council initiative, the creation of a community e-bulletin became a priority. In 2013/14 the council undertook its biggest ever budget consultation, attracting 4,500 responses. The opportunistic communications team asked people to provide email addresses if they wished to be contacted again in the future. From this, 1,500 email addresses were provided.

The e-bulletin was established (utilising its free Absolute Newsletter software) and read-rates from the first bulletin to this engaged group of residents were higher than 90%. But not content, the communications team continued to carry out promotional work on social media and in the local press to encourage more people to sign up and subscriptions rose to 2,500 actively engaged residents.

The e-bulletins, sent out on a fully responsive email template which displays well on mobiles, tablets and PCs, are only issued on a six-weekly basis. This has kept read-rates high and minimised the number of people disengaging/unsubscribing. They are issued the week prior to school holidays so each bulletin features ‘what’s on’ news for parents and children in the school break. As well as this, the bulletins incorporate harder news from the council to provide varied content for everyone.

With the format in place, the communications team then embarked on a ‘data mining’ exercise across council departments which would reap unprecedented rewards. From council tax e-billing to leisure centre memberships and from customer call centre contacts to library members, the communications team left no stone unturned as they delved deep into all council systems.

Emails were sent to all addresses to offer the option to unsubscribe. In total the council e-bulletin now goes out to 50,000 valid borough email addresses. And the first bulletin sent out to the 50,000 list still received a very high read rate of over 40% (compared to e-marketing averages of approximately 20%).

So what now? Well Dudley’s communications team are going for the full monty so ‘you can keep your hat on’ as the mining work continues and a further 70,000 addresses will be added in the coming weeks and months.