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  • Success Story
  • Bellevue, WA

How SMS and Engagement Tools Helped Bellevue, WA Supercharge Communications

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Across the lake from Seattle, the city of Bellevue, WA, has always embraced technology. After over a decade of using Granicus’ digital marketing solution, they looked to take their engagement and communications to the next level. Thanks to their success with Granicus’ SMS capabilities and the tools found in their community engagement platform, Bellevue was able to build further success connecting with communities.

“It was a way to connect with people who were interested in city projects but, short of regularly monitoring city webpages, had no way of knowing something new was happening. “Since we launched govDelivery all those years ago, it's been a great tool.”
Claude Iosso, Digital Communications Coordinator

Project Metrics

  • 58% engagement rate 
  • 300% network impact
  • 290,000 subscriptions with an average 3.1 subscriptions/subscriber
  • 95,000  total subscribers

Looking to Build on a Good Thing 

Technology has long been a part of the cultural make-up in the Pacific Northwest. From Boeing to Microsoft to Costco, Seattle and its surrounding areas have long been known for innovative thinking and being on the forefront of using technology to meet needs. So, it’s no surprise that for over a decade, the city of Bellevue, WA, across Lake Washington from Seattle, has used the Granicus marketing platform as an important part of its communications strategies.

According to Digital Communications Coordinator Claude Iosso, the move came when the communications director at the time sought additional ways to promote city projects and initiatives. “We had been doing a lot of work on our new website, putting a lot of effort into making sure the pages about our projects and programs were effective and communicated well at launch,” he said. “But how would people know to come back when there are updates?”

Incorporating govDelivery into its communications allowed Bellevue to go beyond sending news releases about high-profile initiatives. People could subscribe for updates regarding all kinds of projects and programs of interest to them, from neighborhood street improvements to park class registrations. The city empowered residents to learn about and track any program that might spark their interest.

“It was a way to connect with people who were interested in city projects but, short of regularly monitoring city webpages, had no way of knowing something new was happening,” he said. “Since we launched govDelivery all those years ago, it’s been a great tool.”

Over the years, Iosso said Bellevue has maintained about 150 topics at any given time, keeping people in the loop about everything from City Council agendas to planning initiatives to job openings. “It stays around that number,” he added. “Some topics sunset, but then, usually, some new ones launch and the staff recognize they need an alert.”

With over 95,000 subscribers currently, averaging 3.1 subscriptions per subscriber, Iosso finds surprises in the data insights generated by both Granicus solutions, which has helped to affirm assumptions he’s held and ultimately understand his audience better.

“I knew that volunteering is popular, but it’s always been anecdotal,” he said. “We’d have leadership asking if there were really that many people engaged or if it was just a case of the most civic-minded people being the loudest. The numbers helped show that a lot of people are genuinely interested in it.”

“For us, the emphasis for govDelivery is reaching people who've actually said, ‘I want to know about this.’ It allows us to be much more targeted.”
Claude Iosso, Digital Communications Coordinator, City of Bellevue, WA

New Channels of Connection 

But just as their tech company neighbors around the Puget Sound region upgrade and adapt to technological changes, Iosso found that Bellevue’s communication strategies needed to also broaden. Most notably, text and SMS messaging provided an essential way to connect with communities who use their mobile phones as a primary source of information.

As with any shift in technology, Iosso knew that internal education would be an important first step to incorporating text/SMS into their communications and engagement plans. Fortunately, that learning curve wouldn’t include having to learn new tools.

“It was great that govDelivery had text capabilities just added to the system,” he said. “It sort of just snuck in there.”

The familiarity with an existing system also helped build a bridge to multi-channel communications with city departments that originally didn’t see the value of text/SMS messaging.

“Early on, a lot of staff and team admins didn’t have an interest in using it,” Iosso said. “They didn’t really get why you would use it, and it was just another thing you’d have to deal with. But now, I think we’ve brought them around. There’s been a huge growth in the number of users using texts to get their alerts, and it just keeps on growing.”


Broadening Engagement 

While SMS offered a valuable avenue for telling people in the community about what Bellevue is doing, the city also wanted another way to hear from residents. Granicus’ EngagementHQ, with several interactive features, offered a solution. Bellevue launched it as “Engaging Bellevue,” and facilitates input on several planning initiatives and construction projects on the platform.

Iosso describes Engaging Bellevue as “more of a two-way or multi-way platform” that provides a compelling combination of communications and project engagement. Surveys can be presented in multiple languages and the interactive maps allow users to tag locations. The Transportation Department is conducting road safety assessments around schools, and with Engaging Bellevue parents can pinpoint problem locations.

“If we have a project where we’re hoping to collect feedback,” he said, “Engaging Bellevue facilitates that.”
Claude Iosso, Digital Communications Coordinator, City of Bellevue, WA