5 strategies for government to turn emails into click and connect experiences

Whether someone’s inbox is organized neatly into folders or overflowing with unread messages, one thing is for certain — email is an essential communication tool. The trick is to break through the noise of emails that lack usefulness or meaning and not contribute to this overflow yourself. For government agencies, email can be an especially valuable way for you to deliver necessary information to citizens. As with any business, these messages need to be specific to your audiences. But unlike other businesses, government agencies must cater to the diverse needs of an entire population that depends on your services.

Delivering engaging emails is closer than you think. Here are five strategies for improving your email communications to the public that will build trust and deepen relationships.

1. Create designs that click for your citizens

Delivering useful information within your emails is the main goal. But design helps people connect with that content quickly. A well-designed email is accessible, personalized, and responsive to the device it’s being viewed on. Some citizens may not have access to the internet on a desktop. Instead, they may be using only a mobile phone or smart watch. Because people have varying levels of access to devices and channels, your design needs to be cohesive across all of them. By keeping the design polished, you can also avoid the risk of your emails looking like spam and ending up in a junk folder.

Start by building an asset library to help match imagery to audience profiles. That way, you can deliver more relatable content that entices people to click.

When thinking about design, ask your team:

2. Never stop optimizing your agency’s communications

Despite the growth of the digital economy, government agencies are still heavily reliant on paper processes. Many still use fax machines and require wet signatures on documents. While this reliance makes building and delivering emails feel like you’re always playing catch up, it also means that embracing technology can have a major impact.

The path forward is clear. “If we can start with things like paperwork processes, people will become much more adept and much more comfortable at leveraging technology to automate what they do every day, which helps accelerate our path to do the really cool AI stuff,” says Thomas Kenney, chief data officer and chief of AI at U.S. Special Operations Command. Using artificial intelligence (AI) can help you identify the best times to send messages, automate recommendations to improve communications, and analyze data to send citizens the right message at the right time.

“If we can start with things like paperwork processes, people will become much more adept and much more comfortable at leveraging technology to automate what they do every day, which helps accelerate our path to do the really cool AI stuff.”

-Thomas Kenney, Chief Data Officer and Chief of AI, U.S. Special Operations Command, Adobe Experience Makers Government Forum

For example, the City of Sacramento optimized their email communications so that now about 98% are delivered to inboxes instead of junk folders. “Before, we weren’t even able to track it,” says Mrudul Sadanandan, IT Manager of Enterprise Apps at the City of Sacramento. “Now we have numbers that show a reduced bounce rate on emails and higher click through rates to our webpages, showing that people are really reading — and not just deleting — email from city.”

While AI can provide valuable insights, your data needs to be organized for it to be truly impactful. By unifying citizens’ data into a single, secure system, you can gather insights while still making sure that data is protected. According to a recent survey from Adoe and Deloitte Digital, while most United States citizens trust government agencies with their data, some citizens still have worries about security or privacy (10%), data being sold, shared, or used without permission (7%), hacking or breaches (7%), and surveillance (2%). By investing in modern technology, you can honor security and governance policies while decreasing the strain on cyber and data security professionals.

While optimizing your email communications, consider these questions:

3. Understand and cater to every citizen

Citizens need trustworthy, meaningful connections at every step of their journey. The Adobe and Deloitte Digital survey showed that 44% of United States citizens search for information on government services directly from an agency. Whether it’s online, in person, or over the phone, they all expect a clear, easy-to-follow journey.

While search is a primary way for citizens to gather information, you can make a greater impact by anticipating their needs and delivering information in bite-sized pieces — without the use of jargon — and on channels that are easily accessible for the viewer.

Government sources are held in relatively high regard compared to other sources of public information. Adobe and Deloitte Digital noted in their survey that close to half of United States citizens surveyed view agencies as more trustworthy and up to date than other sources. Government agencies should capitalize on this trust by proactively providing people with exactly what they are looking for through email.

“If you fail to meet people’s expectations, the consequences in government are much bigger than what you see in the private sector. In the private sector you can decide not to go with a certain vendor anymore. Whereas in government, your customers are always going to be your customers. They’re not going to move somewhere else.”

-Mrudul Sadanandan, IT Manager, Enterprise Apps, City of Sacramento

While having this trust upfront is beneficial, it’s also imperative to keep it. “If you fail to meet people’s expectations, the consequences in government are much bigger than what you see in the private sector,” says Mrudul Sadanandan, IT manager of Enterprise Apps at the City of Sacramento. “In the private sector you can decide not to go with a certain vendor anymore. Whereas in government, your customers are always going to be your customers. They’re not going to move somewhere else.” When building communications, maintaining this trust is all the more reason to make sure citizens’ experiences are useful and engaging.

Ask these questions to start improving your personalization:

4. Ditch batch and blast emails that decrease trust

When people continuously receive irrelevant information, they stop opening emails — or they unsubscribe altogether. When those emails come from government agencies, they may miss important information later, like the deadline for a services application or a change in their benefits. If the messages you’re sending aren’t useful for everyone in your audience, it’s time to start segmenting based on their journey. Capabilities like audience behaviors, triggers, and automatic segmenting can help identify audience behaviors and triggers and automatically segment them into appropriate groups without adding any extra work for your staff.

Adjusting your email audiences can have a major impact. For example, by using segmentation capabilities within Adobe Campaign, the City of Sacramento achieved a 30% increase in the number of subscribers and a campaign open rate of 24%.

When approaching email segmentation, consider these questions:

5. Connect every government experience

Email is just the beginning of your relationship with individual citizens. The actual conversation continues in a variety of channels — on and offline. Still, 74% of citizens report frustrations with accessing information about government services and indicate a need to strengthen the user experience. “The risk is that the adoption of the content you’ve created is going to diminish over time because they’re frustrated with it,” says Thomas Kenney, chief data officer and chief of AI at U.S. Special Operations Command. Start delivering a complete digital journey by approaching communication across a variety of channels.

“The risk is that the adoption of the content you’ve created is going to diminish over time because they’re frustrated with it.”

-Thomas Kenney, Chief Data Officer and Chief of AI, U.S. Special Operations Command, Adobe Experience Makers Government Forum

A citizen who’s looking for school closing information has a different journey than someone searching for new programs for seniors. Each approaches this information through different channels, and with varying levels of technical ability. Add orchestration and journey management capabilities to connect these experiences. By tracking every interaction with citizens, you can analyze, personalize, and optimize unique journeys to help them find the service or information they need through their preferred channels.

Explore these questions to connect with your citizens better:

To dig deeper, learn how Service Canada is supporting federal government initiatives to better understand the public they serve in our Adobe Experience Makers Government Forum session, Personalizing the Citizen Experience.

Harnessing connections

Strong communication builds trust. And for government agencies, maintaining citizens’ trust is the top priority. “Trust is earned, not given,” says, Michel Laviolette, former director of general digital services at Service Canada, Government of Canada. “Don’t take for granted that people trust federal institutions.”

While citizens generally trust the information coming from government agencies, that trust is weakened by the frustration that stems from irrelevant communications and poor experiences when it comes to trying to find the information they need. Instead, ensure your agency is taking the time to personalize email communications and develop them into connected digital journeys so that citizens will always feel supported.

Learn more strategies for government email communications and tips for implementing them in our eBook, Email Best Practices for Government.