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  • Success Story
  • City of Winder, Georgia

How Winder Empowers Growth and Civic Pride Through Messaging

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For some governments, 5,000 subscribers might not seem like a large number when it comes to e-mail engagement. But for Winder, GA, that number reflected not only a growth of almost five times the numbers of subscribers in one year, it represents roughly a third of the city’s total population.

The dynamic impact and development of messaging and communications has helped improve relationships with both residents and vendors. With fewer calls from event vendors, and a growing community of online engagement from informed residents, digital government continues to change lives for the better in Winder.


  • 5X growth of subscribers in one year
  • Reduced number of vendor calls
  • 40% of job fair applicants connected through govDelivery
  • Increased subscribers, more than registered voters in city
Must have Granicus Solutions

Moving from “Pretty” to “Pretty and Effective”

Located east of Atlanta, Winder faced a problem common to many towns poised for growth in the digital age: an antiquated website that didn’t fully reflect all the city had to offer residents, both current and potential.

“It was not professional or modern. It wasn’t with the times,” said Maddison Dean, Winder’s director of economic development. “If you were to open our old website, from my perspective, a business owner or someone looking to move to the community wouldn’t have wanted to have anything to do with Winder.”

Dean took action by getting in touch with the point person for Winder’s communications: herself. Much like staff in many smaller towns, Dean wears multiple hats, also serving as the communications manager for Winder. So she spearheaded a digital refresh of their website to help strengthen the first impression that many may have of Winder as they come through the town’s digital front door.

While Winder used Granicus’ govAccess solution to bring new features to the town’s website, Dean also looked to refresh the digital communications that were sent to businesses and residents about town events, meetings, and other engagement opportunities.

Previous newsletters had been hit-and-miss in terms of success, said Dean. A printed newsletter sent by mail to voters from the previous municipal election was the first step, but returned limited results in terms of engagement.

“It wasn’t a broad selection of addresses, and tended to be the crowd more likely to already be engaged and concerned with what’s going on in the city,” she said. “Worse, it was a logistical nightmare. It tied up me and two interns for two whole weeks trying to put that together, and it was just not worth our effort, our time, or our resources.”
Maddison Dean, Winder’s director of economic development

Winder’s second effort came with a digital newsletter, designed by an outside marketing agency. But, while an improvement to the previous approach (especially in staff time resources), Dean said that they still weren’t reaching the impact they wanted.

“The agency made it look nice and pretty, and we published it on our website,” she recalled. “But it just kind of was, ‘Here's a list of our newsletters.’ It still required the community to visit our website, find the right tab, and read the newsletters from there.”

Dean knew the answer was finding a system that would provide easier engagement options for a broader audience of residents; and she hoped that might be found as part of the city’s digital redesign.


Targeted Engagement and Trustworthy Support

Dean wasn’t the only one who understood Winder’s need for a digital makeover both in design and engagement tools. Leadership and department heads all recognized the benefits that would come with a new approach. So while govAccess provided new opportunities for the town’s website, Dean looked to govDelivery as a way to start changing how Winder communicated with residents.

“I was really drawn into govDelivery's email newsletter format and how we could just kind of make it what we wanted to,” she said. “We can make different subscriptions by topic so if a resident is really just concerned about construction updates, and road closures in their area, they're not getting bombarded with emails about city council meetings or downtown events.”

govDelivery’s easy integration with social media channels also appealed to Dean as a way to connect broader audiences with the local government in a way that reframed some of the internal concerns around online engagement.

“Social media scares a lot of our department heads,” said Dean. “Comment sections on social media can quickly get out of hand if they aren’t consistently monitored for topic relevancy and foul language, and so, an email bulletin feels like a safer option when it comes to sharing pertinent information with the community. It reduces the risk of false information being spread and bickering between residents.”

The support provided by Granicus both during and after integration also helped staff feel comfortable about their new engagement efforts. With training videos and direct contacts with Granicus staff, Winder’s team of communicators were able to get up to speed quickly, and found themselves encouraged to increasingly think outside the box.

“It’s very easy to use,” said Dean. “The training videos were really helpful, especially when I was first getting trained on it, because I might have forgotten how to change a font or something at first. Honestly, I didn’t even need to refer back to the training videos but once or twice because the program and how it flows just makes sense."

Changes in Strategy, Impacts in Response

Armed with new digital tools, Winder has completely revolutionized their communications approach for both businesses and residents. Where previously, Dean said, she internally managed an event vendor email list of “100 or 200 people,” govDelivery has streamlined getting information to audiences.

“It's really taken away a lot of the back-and-forth phone calls and emails I’d have with vendors who wanted to be contacted every time there was an event coming up for them to register,” she said. “Now I just refer them to the website, have them sign up, subscribe to those vendor notices, and it's very hands-off for me.”

The impact in the first year has also been immediately felt in resident engagement with public meetings. Where Dean said that previously, residents would comment that they didn’t know about new policy discussions until public meetings, creating govDelivery topics about important city issues is inspiring more informed engagement from residents during those discussions.

“Adding in that govDelivery accessibility for topics about council or planning commission meetings, development or historic preservation issues, it helps keep the community more connected,” she said. “We certainly don’t have anything to hide, so it allows us to be more transparent with our community members, and hopefully getting fewer comments that it was the first time they heard of something. Now it’s ‘Oh yeah, I got that in my email.’ So that’s been really encouraging.”

From that transparency, Dean says a strong community of engagement even between residents is growing in, of all places, the social media channels that department heads had previously feared.

“I’m actually finding that I don’t need to filter social media comments as much now,” she said. “If someone asks a question, there’s another resident going on there responding , ‘The email said the meeting’s at 6 PM,’ or ‘You need to go sign up for the newsletter, and you’ll get the emails, too.’ They’re definitely taking ownership and pride in it, and they like having that tool. They like sharing that resource with their friends and family too. it saves me a ton of time and intervention so we can avoid the sense of the government stepping in and breaking up a natural conversation.”

That civic pride can also be seen in the number of Winder residents who have connected with the town government by subscribing to newsletters since the new program went into effect. In one year, Winder’s subscriptions grew five-fold, not only showing the value that the topic-based content brings for residents, but a strengthening of the relationship between resident and government.

“It’s great to have this sense of a community building and feeling more connected to the government, which can usually feel like this very far away, unreachable, intangible thing,” Dean said.

Residents also reap the benefits of this improved communication, as shown by the impact email messaging had on a recent job fair. As Dean admits, government job fairs can be a challenge with hard-to-fill roles, especially in the post-pandemic environment where remote working has become increasingly popular.

After promoting the job fair through govDelivery and traditional channels (newspaper and radio), as well as social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Indeed), staff found that roughly 40% of the job fair participants cited the govDelivery messaging as how they heard about the event.

“And that was something that HR had decided to try at the last minute,” Dean said of govDelivery’s impact. “I think we had about two weeks to get the word out there. It really showed how effective govDelivery can be for us to share that kind of information.”

Departments throughout Winder’s government are learning more about how govDelivery can change their efforts for the better. As a result, Dean sees the next year as one in which more staff members learn how to use the tool to meet their individual needs.

“There’s a real opportunity for each department to take ownership of their own information, and be able to share that comfortably,” said Dean. “People are hesitant to change and to learn new technologies or new programs. But I think because govDelivery is so easy to use, it shouldn’t be a problem to get them trained on it.”

“And, of course, increasing resident engagement and communication through more targeted messaging based on interests will always be a goal of any govDelivery plans,” said Dean. But early numbers suggest that her efforts are outpacing any original goals when it comes to civic engagement.

"I'm really happy with the number of our subscribers,” she said. “It's more than the number of people we currently have registered to vote in the community. So there’s a chance to make some positive changes maybe there, too.”