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Making the most of email

May 16, 2011

Last Thursday evening I attended the MailCamp event – “a one-off show & tell workshop for people interested in how the public sector uses email marketing, newsletters and alerts to better engage with an audience”.

Email is largely seen as old fashioned , but as Thomas Gensemer, the mastermind behind the Obama for America campaign, notes “it is still by the far the richest form of digital communication”. Getting email communications right can therefore have a significant impact on the community leadership abilities of locally elected representatives – as I’ve discussed previously through a case study on Cllr Catherine Lewis – and efficiency of a council.

Here then a few key ideas from the event:

People want targeted emails – going back to Obama for America, over the course of the campaign “more than 7,000 different messages were sent, many of them targeted to specific donation levels (people who gave less than $200, for example, or those who gave more than $1,000). In total, more than 2 billion e-mails landed in inboxes. (Four years before, Sen. John F. Kerry had 3 million e-addresses on his list)” This “individual’ approach meant many people thought Obama was communicating directly to them and therefore were more likely to stay engaged with him” and respond to the calls to action. A full case from Blue State Digital on the 2008 Presidential campaign can be found here.

Be human – recipients of an email are less likely to open it if it comes from a ‘do-not-reply’ or ‘info’address. Have an objective for the email, be interesting, invite responses (after all, the purpose of the email is to engage), and remember that less is more.

Building a following – this won’t come without a bit of effort. Use social networks to point people towards your newsletters (and vice versa) and use things like your email signature to advertise its existence.

Evaluate your messages – use analytics to see how many people open your e-newsletters and what clicks get clicked on. This information is extremely valuable as it allows you to better target your content so that it is attractive, relevant and valuable to your readers.

What technology to use – For individuals, Mailchimp was suggested to be the best email service. Free up to 12,000 emails a month, Mailchimp provides a number of automatic step-by-step features to that help build decent looking templates and provides easy-to-use analytics. There are some useful videos on the website that explain the service better.

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Online tools training events

The LGiU have put together a range of support sessions to help councillors and officers get the best out of online technology. These support sessions are ran in-council and equip attendees with the knowledge required to identify what tools and techniques best suit the digital make-up of the local environment. For more information please call Rob on 020 7554 2855 or email rob.dale@lgiu.org.uk

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