The Power of One

By Dave Worsell, Director, Government Solutions, GovDelivery UK

I was recently asked to present to the UK Government Digital Service (GDS) for a “Lunch and Learn” session.  The purpose of the presentation was to demonstrate the importance of proactive public sector communications and some of the risks and pitfalls when providing proactive communication on a very large scale.

For many Email Service Providers (ESPs) there is strength in numbers.  If you’re sending 1 million messages for a major retailer it doesn’t matter if a few go missing or if a few end up in spam filters provided the vast majority do reach their intended audience.  After all, the recipient doesn’t really care if they don’t get the latest special offers on wide-screen televisions and provided you sell enough, neither do you.

It’s a very different story if you’re sending safety alerts and public notifications.  Every message matters.  Ensuring Peter, the local pharmacist, removes a polluted batch of medicines from his shelves might be the only thing that matters to his customers.

A recent study by ReturnPath estimated that as many as 1 in 5 emails don’t reach the intended recipient and this could increase to 1 in 4 as Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and spam filters get more sophisticated.  What if Peter’s message is one of those?

Building large scale message delivery capability is very difficult and expensive as our blog post, The deceptive simplicity of pressing send, explains.  For this reason, many organisations use ESPs to send messages for them. However, as a government communicator there are some important things you need to know.

ESPs go to great lengths to ensure deliverability rates are as high as possible.  They work with the ISPs to manage reputation.  It’s important for them that your “sender reputation” is as high as possible. Why? Because, your reputation impacts their sender reputation and this impacts the reputation of all their clients.

In order to maintain reputation scores and highly impressive deliverability rates (99%+) major ESPs provide sophisticated content filters and spam analysis tools and insist you check your messages deliverability score before you can send the message.  It’s down to you to make the necessary changes to any message that fails these tests.

What happens when you can’t change the message?  What if your message contains keywords that trigger spam filters? For example, the product you’re recalling is a Viagra tablet with a dangerous pollutant or the campaign is about a drug awareness course?  What if you can’t re-write a ministerial statement because it fails the spam checks?  Even if you could, do you have time when lives are at stake?

Before deciding on which ESP to use take a quick look at their delivery rates but much more importantly how they achieve them.  Using message pre-parsers and spam scoring tools is great for ESP reputation management but when you need to get a message out urgently is it what you need?

GovDelivery sends 262 million notifications each year for UK government and this figure is predicted to reach 2 billion in a few years time.  However, it’s delivery of one message that matters most.  The power of one.

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