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Q&A from the Digital Communications Webinar with Nottinghamshire County Council (Part 1)

Recently we held a webinar with Martin Done, Service Director Communications and Marketing and Sarah Lay, Senior Digital Officer of Nottinghamshire County Council to discuss the Council’s new branding efforts and outreach to drive avoidable contact and channel shift initiatives. You can watch a replay of the webinar hereemailme

Due to an overwhelming number of questions from the webinar, Sarah and Martin spent some time answering the feedback that they weren’t able to get to during the webinar. Below is part one of two blog posts reviewing the questions asked from attendees during this webinar. The questions and answers have been lightly edited for context and brevity.

Andrea: ­Did the resident and staff bulletins you started sending with GovDelivery replace your traditional online newsletters?­

Emailme has been a partial replacement for some of the Council’s offline publications, as part of the channel shift project to reduce print spend (£179,000 cost saving). This project has reviewed and relaunched publications in a more cost effective format – these include County Life (to all residents), Family Life and What’s On (through key contact points) and Your Life (again, through key contact points). There is also a magazine for Frontline staff which is currently being reviewed.

We don’t currently send like-for-like emailme versions of the publications but rather carry the information across the relevant emailme topic bulletins. Whether we move toward a full eNewsletter as a replacement for offline publications in the future will need to be reviewed over time.

Some email marketing was done by some service areas before the implementation of emailme. For example our What’s On guide and several library bulletins were sent out monthly through another email marketing system. Moving to emailme allowed us to improve the presentation and user experience of these bulletins, actively increase the number of subscribers as well as improve the evaluation and tactics to improve success over time. Service areas have been happy to move into a system offering these improvements.

Michelle: How have you gone about getting staff to buy-in to use the GovDelivery solution?

So far our work with services has been mainly with those who were already using email marketing and have been transferred into GovDelivery. They’ve been positive about the opportunities and improvements this move has offered but the way we manage the bulletins has been in consultation with them. During this first six months we were keen to give Communications and Marketing ‘hands on’ time with the bulletins and system so they’ll be confident in advising and supporting services to do more of this directly for themselves in the future.

Jim: What are your email sign-up targets for 5 years time?

Due to political cycles we have only set targets for Communications and Marketing activity up to April 2017. And due to the initial contract with GovDelivery running only until October 2014 we haven’t set firm targets beyond this. Our target is for 35,000 subscribers by October 2014 (equivalent of 5% of Notts population).

There is large-scale Digital Development transformation project about to get underway to improve the digital platform and tools as well as the culture across the organization. I would expect this to have a positive impact on subscriber figures (ie more online tools integration for channel shift, potential for customer accounts etc) so would estimate we’d been looking at achieving 100,000 subscribers by April 2017 (equivalent of 12% of population). We would need to adjust this over the next few years depending on technology developments and adapting user behavior across digital channels as well as the Council’s own digital capability.

We aren’t just measuring on this quantitative measure though. We also have targets on engagement and satisfaction levels across the emailme service and we are likely to set these on a topic basis too. We will also look at percentage of people feeling informed. These, along with savings, relate back to the overall strategic aims of the organization. The engagement levels are available within the GovDelivery system and are currently an average of 40% (aim for 45% by October 2014) and satisfaction and feeling informed are gauged through the survey we ran with all subscribers. This was done in April 2014 so we’re still analyzing the responses to set targets but feeling informed was 43% of subscribers and satisfaction with Council as a result of emailme was 69%.

Jack:   One issue we have with a similar system we use is the management of the system and the content going out to specific areas. We have a lot of contributors (neighbourhood teams, pre-crime units, etc) and are looking at the way we manage our content, consistency and frequency.  Is every message created or at least go through your office?

At the moment all bulletins come through the Communications and Marketing team to be sent out via the GovDelivery system. The way we create content for the bulletins varies from topic to topic – some service areas curate or create their content and then send it to C&M to pop into templates and send (with a final tidy up to house style too), while other content is written or curated by C&M on the services behalf.

Within GovDelivery you can set permissions so service areas can only edit or create bulletins within a topic. We workflow the creation of bulletins outside of the system, which allows us greater scope for cross-promoting topics between bulletins, adding in signposting to relevant web or social content which a service may not be aware of as well as ensuring consistent quality on house style and technical points like share buttons and hyperlinks for images.

John: Adults Social Care and Health is a large and growing budget area – with service users needing diverse and complex information and advice. Many of these residents are also difficult to reach via digital channels (not on broadband, no smart phones).  Do you have a strategy for increasing channel shift for these target audiences?

We are currently working on our digital strategy for this service area, particularly in light of the Care Bill as well as the considerations you raise.

Digital inclusion generally is also an issue which the organization is considering how to best help to address. LocalGov Digital, the practitioner network (of which I’m on the steering group), is also a signatory on the Government Digital Service’s Digital Inclusion Charter to look for ways of increasing the amount of people able to get online.

Check out the replay of the Nottinghamshire County Council webinar to get the full story.