That proof of “This Week in Kirkland”’s success is both quantitative and anecdotal.
With 6,845 subscribers, the newsletter saw an average open rate of 43 percent between December 2022 and May 2023, with click rates averaging between 5 and 8 percent. And while each issue contains numerous sections to encourage engagement, a recent online community survey related to a potential parks ballot measure saw 1,315 total responses (approximately 30 percent of the total) come from “This Week in Kirkland” outpacing all social platforms combined (Facebook, Twitter, Nextdoor, and Instagram) by 11 percent.
The success is due in part, Wolbrecht said, to creating a “a very efficient and effective process and culture for the folks feeding in the content.” But he also was quick to add that a continued focus on providing easy access to resident services has also been a strong part of the newsletter’s success.
By placing easy access to “Our Kirkland,” the city’s constituent response management system, Wolbrecht said that he believes that “This Week in Kirkland” is not only changing how Kirkland’s communities are engaging with pertinent information, but also changing behaviors in how they reach out to public services.
“There’s a trend I’ve observed where we’re seeing fewer random phone calls,” he said. “Having an anchored table of contents at the top of the email changed, I think, how people use the newsletter. They can do a quick scan, see what was relevant to them, check it out for 30 seconds and move on.”
The breadth of topics covered in such a centralized approach has also had an impact on how Kirkland’s City Council approaches their communications strategies around upcoming issues, seeing the newsletter as a critical engagement tool.
“Now, oftentimes, when they’re being briefed by staff at a council meeting about a big project or a big engagement effort, they’ll be sure to mention the need for the communication channels and the newsletter,” Wolbrecht said. “It’s really been that top to bottom buy-in that has contributed to our success.”
That success has spawned growth into future messaging channels, with SMS text messaging becoming a significant tool in communicating updates for an upcoming construction project that will create daily impacts for three months. Wolbrecht said that the opportunity to expand touchpoints with the community is just the next step in building effective communications strategies.
“We hadn’t been collecting user telephone numbers during sign-ups or having it as a required field, so a lot of our databases have been missing that piece of data,” he said.
The size of the project, and the attention Wolbrecht expects it to garner, will only benefit the growth of other topic channels and overall communications and engagement.
“It’s going to provide opportunities for continued exploration,” he said. “That’s definitely an exciting and intriguing area for us for future connections with the community.