How the Top Communicators Beat the Benchmarks
Best of 2019:
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What are the best government communicators doing with email marketing to better inform, engage, and compel citizen action?
To help you understand what’s working in 2019, we rounded up amazing examples from local, state, and federal organizations along with helpful context: subject lines and send times.
So click around to find out how teams are beating email benchmarks in our 2019 Civic Engagement Benchmark Report and taking government communication to the next level.
Alerts & Announcements
Explore By Type
So happy you joined us! A welcome email is usually an automatic email sent to new subscribers. It’s a great opportunity to confirm a subscription, set expectations, and get citizens engaged with key content.
Subject Line: Welcome to El Segundo
Background: The El Segundo DED attracts developers and businesses by promoting their newsletter on their website. Subscribers receive an automatic welcome email.
Who: El Segundo Dept of Economic Development
A Greeting That’s Second to None
Why it works
This welcome email is second to none when it comes to best practices. Set expectations? Check. Provide next steps? Check. Branding is strong. Plus, it doesn’t waste a word. Subscribers are being captured from their website with a custom Granicus-designed overlay.
Build great email engagement by capturing relevant subscribers and telling them about what they’re interested in.
Subject Line: Welcome to our Foster Care Updates
Background: Michigan residents interested in providing foster care to children can sign up to receive helpful information.
Who: Michigan Department of Health & Human Services
Foster New Beginnings
Relevant text and imagery remind recipients of the importance of their help. An easy to find, well-worded call to action provides clear next steps for engagement.
There’s a human impact in nearly any government message. Find ways to bolster it to connect with readers.
Don’t forget! Whether for an upcoming event or an ongoing service, reminder emails nudge citizens and stakeholders to take action.
Timing: Day before collection, 3:04 p.m.
Subject Line: Bin collection reminder
Background: Citizens subscribe to this email to be reminded they put their waste bins out on time.
Who: Wrexham County Council, U.K.
Keeping the County Clean
The email does double duty. It reminds citizens to put their bins out and also makes Wrexham more efficient by reminding citizens what can and can’t be recycled with a fun graphic highlighting best practices.
Time your email send, like Wrexham does, for optimum relevance and impact.
Timing: Thursday, 2:52 p.m.
Subject Line: You've taken the pledge — now it's time to go fishing.
Background: This is a follow-up email sent to residents who took an online pledge to introduce someone to fishing.
Who: Nebraska Game and Parks
Fishing for a Follow Up
Include follow-up emails, like this one, when planning digital campaigns to capitalize on opportunities and drive action.
The open rate is high because the audience is aware of — and possibly expecting — the email. Plus, the subject line tells the whole story. The design is simple and includes a real image (not stock) for authenticity.
Thoughts? A feedback request email solicits input and opinions on any topic from your subscribers. A healthy feedback loop (whether good or bad news) gives you information to adjust or improve communications, service, or both.
Timing: Saturday, 6:00 a.m.
Subject Line: How was your license-buying experience?
Background: After buying a license, residents receive an email from the Michigan DNR asking about their experience.
Who: Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Giving License to Tell
This highly targeted email has great branding, messaging, and a well-worded call to action. The copy makes use of exclusivity appeals (“you are part of a small sample of people”) to persuade recipients to help their beloved agency improve.
Unconventionally, this email was sent on a Saturday. When it makes sense, test your sends outside standard business hours — even outside the standard workweek.
Timing: Monday, 5:39 p.m.
Subject Line: Reminder: Oregon Department of Energy Stakeholder Satisfaction Survey
Background: This reminder email solicits input and feedback from stakeholders.
Who: Oregon Department of Energy
An Energizing Reminder
Tweak, don’t overhaul, when you can. A simple “reminder” added to the front end of your subject line can nudge apathy into action with minimal effort.
While survey emails tend to average 20% open rates, this survey obviously struck a chord with subscribers. Timing helped, too. The email was sent the evening before the deadline, so recipients felt a sense of urgency to click through and take the survey.
Did you know? Informational messages tell constituents about something that is relevant to them. Most public sector emails, which include newsletters and updates, fall into this category.
Timing: Monday, 5:20 a.m.
Subject Line: Save time, go online
Background: To make it easier for citizens to report issues, apply for permits, and more (and to reduce burdens on city staff), the city moved to an online digital services solution.
Who: Aberdeen City Council, U.K.
Bringing Gov Services Online
Put citizens first. This subject line could easily have been “Council Announces New Online Services.” Instead, they put citizens first — in the messaging and, by offering online services, in reality. It paid off.
The open rate benefits from a citizen-facing subject line that quickly communicates the why (“Save time”) and what-to-do (“go online”). In the email, links to the new online services are organized in a manner that citizens can easily understand.
Timing: Tuesday, 8:00 a.m.
Subject Line: Tribal Member Health Benefits For You
Background: The WHBE runs Washington Healthplanfinder to give residents an accessible online marketplace to find, compare, and enroll in health plans.
Who: The Washington Health Benefit Exchange (WHBE)
Delivering Better Health
Put effort into understanding your audience, then personalize the email design and messaging cues for greater impact.
The unbelievable metrics can be attributed to a sophisticated segmentation combined with relevant messaging. It’s well-organized with subheads highlighting key messages. Even the subject line (“Benefits for You”) feels personalized.
Timing: Wednesday, 5:00 a.m.
Subject Line: My HealtheVet Update
Background: The MyHealtheVet Newsletter provides important information and services to veterans.
Who: Veterans Health Administration
Serving Content, Helping Vets
(fed median 14%)
Play the long game and build reputation by offering real value in newsletters. Open rates and click rates will follow.
This sturdy newsletter achieves results by consistently offering helpful content to their recipients. The email is well-organized with subheads highlighting the value of services for veterans. From subject line to content, nothing is gimmicky about this email.
Timing: Wednesday, 3:30 p.m.
Subject Line: September 2019 Newsletter
Background: The monthly newsletter is sent to subscribers interested in state educational technology information.
Who: Oklahoma State Department of Education
Educating on Education
( median 22%)
Provide a summary of links in your newsletter to give readers a shortcut to content they care about.
Many send newsletters, weekly or monthly roundups of helpful information. Few do it so effectively. This newsletter is rich with content. The summary of all links at the top makes it easy for deep readers and skimmers alike to engage how they prefer.
Timing: Monday, 8:29 a.m.
Subject Line: Experience a fascinating Pure Michigan weekend getaway
Background: A regular bulletin sent to subscribers interested in events and destinations in Michigan.
Who: Michigan Economic Development Corporation
Great visual content. Meaningful and punchy headings. Obvious and attractive calls to action. This email has it all. Plus, it’s sent on a Monday morning, when would-be travelers are dreaming of the weekend.
Optimize across email clients and for desktop and mobile devices, like this email is, to make sure all recipients have the experience you intend.
Timing: Tuesday, 12:15 p.m.
Subject Line: 2020 Census: What We’re Asking
Background: An email updating subscribers on what questions are to be included in the upcoming census.
Who: U.S. Census Bureau
Counting on the Census
With a brief, curiosity-piquing subject line, the email delivers important high-level information on a topic that has been rich with discourse. The green call-to-action button, visually contrasting the blue header, stands out to be clicked.
What questions can you answer for your subscribers? Try this FAQ-style positioned from the perspective of the reader (“What Should I Do?”) for maximum impact.
Here it comes! Alerts or announcement emails are similar in that they convey something new. They differ in severity — an alert is often urgent or breaking.
Alerts & Announcements
Timing: Friday, 6:36 p.m.
Subject Line: Hurricane Dorian recovery updates for New Hanover County
Background: This crisis communication regarding a major hurricane provides critical information during a time of urgency.
Who: New Hanover County Emergency Management
Eye on the Hurricane
When appropriate, improve click rates by withholding information from the email copy and requiring recipients to click. This gives another engagement data point, too.
With a clear subject line, and a bright yellow header that shouts “urgent!”, there’s no questioning the urgency of the message. High click rates are a result of design. Recipients must click to read the update.
Timing: Monday, 2:25 p.m.
Subject Line: RTD hosting public meetings to gather feedback on proposed changes to the LD1/LD2 and 225 transit routes
Background: With potential changes coming to transit routes, the transit district sought input.
Who: Boulder County, Colorado
Connecting to Public Meetings
Make meeting announcements more relevant by including in the email a few brief descriptions of what’s going to be discussed.
Sent to a well-targeted list, the subject line increases relevance by describing exactly what’s at stake. The message itself has great hierarchy. Dates and times are followed by proposed changes. At the bottom, a clear call-to-action connects readers to details.
Timing: Thursday, 1:53 p.m.
Subject Line: Detroit Launches Dart App for Mobile Transit Payments and Passes
Background: The City announced a new mobile app for improved transit service.
Who: City of Detroit, Michigan
Engaging the Media
Right-size your design effort. If a text-based email serves your goal, use a text-based email.
This announcement doesn’t have flashy bells and whistles. But it works for the audience of media stakeholders and journalists who simply want the facts.
Let’s connect! A major component of successful email marketing is having a solid and growing subscriber list. Strategic website overlays capture subscribers visiting relevant pages on your website.
Bringing Subscribers to Their Destination
How it works
On the homepage, MnDOT has a catch-all overlay that brings would-be subscribers to a subscription topic list. Then, on every construction project page, they have overlays (called “sliders”) that promote newsletters that offer specific to individual projects that matter to commuters.
Background: MnDOT offers residents and stakeholders a variety of subscriptions to stay up to date and promotes them using overlays.
Who: Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT)
See for Yourself
A Guide Through the Forest
To increase subscribers, the borough creates an overlay for each topic, and then places it on the associated page on their site. Of the 12,834 new subscribers in the last year, overlays have accounted for 5,331 — nearly 42% of their healthy uptick.
Background: Waltham Forest, a borough outside of London, increases citizen engagement through strategically segmented and targeted overlays.
Who: London Borough of Waltham Forest, U.K.
Driving Business Digitally
El Segundo combines a home screen overlay with a subtle (but not missed) slider overlay to increase subscribers.
Background: El Segundo Economic Development department combines its website and email strategy to bolster its reputation as the "Most Business-Friendly City in Los Angeles County."
Who: El Segundo Economic Development, California
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