Email best practices for government
Is your team or agency optimizing your email campaigns and operations? Here are some email best practices.
Image source: Adobe stock.
We all know that the COVID pandemic has dramatically changed our society.
Accurate and timely communication of information, such as updates about essential services and vaccine availability, has become one the biggest needs for government agencies.
At the forefront of government to citizen communications is email.
To ensure you are optimizing your email campaigns and operations, here are a few best practices to pay attention to as your agency continues to advance its digital communications and services.
Personalize your messaging
For Nicholas Kern and his team at Oregon Department of Human Services, a key focus that produced results was personalization.
The problem was their emails used to be directed “for the masses” and were “not directly framed for who it was supposed to be reaching.”
Today, the Oregon Department of Human Services have defined specific target audience segments so they can share content that is directly relevant to them — which improves the experience. On top of that, through their segmenting, they identified different languages their audience preferred to read, and already translated their content into 11 languages for them (with more to come).
Phase out legacy programs one step at a time
Recognize the realities of phasing out legacy systems. It is never easy to move from existing programs when thousands of workers are so accustomed to its functions.
According to Kern, he and his team at Oregon’s DHS still have some manual processes they are actively working to phase out. But he offered this assessment of their next steps during Adobe’s Digital Government Symposium:
“We have to listen. We have to stay nimble. We have to know these old systems are in the background. We still need to provide service to those we serve. We need to put processes in place for us to do it in a way that the programs can achieve their critical services that they provide, yet are phasing in — or fold in — these new technologies and slowly walking away from the things in the past that dictated the way we do work.”
Oregon’s DHS uses Adobe Campaign to quickly target different audiences, track performance directly, and serve their audience faster and more reliably each day.
Unify website experience and consolidate communications platforms
The Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) gives grants, loans, and work study funds to over 40 million people — distributing $120 billion in aid every year.
The goal? Keep 40 million students, parents, and borrowers updated and engaged during their entire loan journey with FSA (which could last 20 years).
Through their Next Gen FSA initiative, the team has made great strides from merging what once were multiple websites — into a single, digital front door: StudentAid.gov. And with Adobe Campaign, they consolidated multiple platforms internally and externally, while creating personalized and modernized email campaigns, text and push notifications, single IVR, and more.
“The key for us throughout all our communications is personalization: making sure individuals feel this message is just for them but also being able to provide the right message at the right time in their customer journey,” said Wendy Bhagat, director of awareness and outreach at FSA.
A simpler, easier, and thoughtful experience is the goal — but behind the scenes, so is efficiency and agility as needs and/or laws can change abruptly.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, the FSA team were able to “put up a page very quickly onto Studentaid.com that addresses these flexibilities and offer some Q&As.”
Minimize the role of IT in sending email
Your IT support team has a lot to worry about. From software and hardware implementations to training and network security. One of the best gifts you can give your IT team is to minimize their role in your email communications.
The CDC, for example, uses Adobe Campaign to deliver a consistent message across multiple channels, including their website, email, text message, direct mail and social media platforms.
One of the key benefits the communications teams rely on is the ability to create their own campaigns and adjust workflows and audience segment lists without involving the IT department. This saves people in IT and Communications a lot of time, and allows important and time-sensitive messages to be sent out faster.
Use analytics to improve communications
Prior to COVID-19, CDC saw an average of 3.2 million-page views per day. By March of 2020, when the COVID pandemic was gaining full steam, the daily average page views grew to 65 million.
To deal with the rapid influx of visitors and requests for information, the CDC relied on a combination of solutions, including Adobe Analytics and Adobe Campaign.
In particular, Adobe Analytics provided CDC with “high water” alerts and daily Adobe Analytics predictions. The agency was able to access valuable insights and take action — producing the right content at the right time using terminology that works.
The demand for up-to-date information regarding COVID-19 has generated a substantial increase in email subscriptions. CDC recognized that their email subscriber list would continue growing over the foreseeable future, so with a sense of urgency, the agency used Adobe’s solutions to streamline workflows and leverage analytics to ensure that information was being communicated to millions of people — while improving outreach based on reader interest.
Some additional email best practices:
- Create branded templates that provide a familiar, user-friendly structure for readers and are easy to quickly update.
- Prompt new readers to subscribe. Include a notice of subscription status at the top of the email.
- Give subscribers options. Let readers select which topics to follow, the level of email frequency and the language preference and delivery method (such as text alerts combined with email subscriptions).
- Optimize publishing frequency and content. With analytics and email working together, publishers can determine which times or days’ work better for sending content to the targeted audience and which content has better click-through rates to the website.
- Utilize cross-platform engagement reporting. With a combined view of content consumption versus silos of systems for websites, mobile apps, and email, content owners know which content is working and which is not — across the board.
Now is the time to improve your email
The public’s need for information and personalized communication is only going to continue to grow.
With your agency needing to deliver more information about its digital services, now is the perfect time to review your email best practices for campaigns and operations.
In addition to this blog post, we invite you to download the ebook: “Email Best Practices for Government: Improving communication with the people who matter most,” which contains even more information and best practices that your agency can adopt. We have also included a self-assessment to evaluate your email system maturity here.