By Lauren H. Dowdle
Tasked with taking care of the public, local governments often rely on the support and involvement of the community to help make that possible. One of the best ways to achieve those goals is through regular communication—and what better method of doing that than sending residents emails?
Campaigns that keep them informed, encourage engagement, provide valuable information, and help cultivate trust between them and the municipality will have the most success.
To ensure your email marketing campaigns are hitting the mark, incorporate these 10 strategies to engage community members.
Start the conversation
Before creating emails about specific topics like road construction, staff changes, tax-free holidays, or upcoming city events, establish an initial connection with subscribers via an automated welcome email. Sending welcome emails when they sign up will set the tone and give them an idea of what types of messages they can expect going forward.
Let them know how often you send emails so they can be expecting them—or better yet, let them choose the frequency.
The more they can personalize their experience with the campaigns, the better their engagement will be.
Give them the option to choose which department(s) they want to receive information from—either when they initially sign up or as a call to action (CTA) link in the welcome email.
With that information, you can then segment them into list(s) for specific topics, including economic development, events, parks & rec, mayor updates, city council notes, alerts, library events, court calendar, and more.
When they receive the type of information they want to read about, they’re more likely to engage. Provide targeted, personalized content as much as possible.
Ask for feedback
Communication should go both ways, so ask subscribers to share their ideas and suggestions via email. Put together a survey and include the link in the email, or encourage them to answer a question or give a rating via email. Ensure the campaign comes from a working reply-to email address so their responses go to someone who can answer or direct their messages.
Tell them up front how many questions they will be asked or how long it will take to complete. To receive more targeted responses, focus on specific interactions they’ve had with the municipality—like if they recently renewed their license, reached out about an issue, or were impacted by city changes.
Requesting feedback from the community not only shows them the local government cares about what they think, but it also helps officials identify what’s important to the people they serve so they can improve in those areas.
Event and reminder emails are some of the most engaging content you can send. People love knowing what’s going on, especially if it’s something they don’t want to forget—like deadlines, registration notifications, street closure dates, etc.
Make sure these emails include everything they need to know: dates, location (including the address), what they need (ex. documents), links for more information, who to contact with questions, and any FAQs on the topic.
Keep it short
The type of information municipalities need to share often requires lengthy text to ensure everything is properly covered. However, big chunks of text aren’t a good fit for emails. Instead of trying to cram every detail into an email, include a paragraph or two that covers the basics.
Then, include a CTA that links to more information on your website like in this example from the City of Atlanta:
Including photos or images is another way to break up the text and engage subscribers. Photos from past events or ones of city leaders can make the email more personable, easier to read, and catch their attention. It’s best to use original photos, as opposed to stock images, but any photo is better than none at all.
Remember: Test the email before sending it to your subscriber list in case any of the images are broken or distorted.
Feature various groups
From school achievements to updates from local organizations, highlight the exciting announcements from the people and groups who make the community special. That will help residents feel more connected to others around them and the city as a whole.
Here’s an example from the City of Birmingham that includes a brief blurb and link to a video with the story:
Adding photos of these people and groups will also encourage engagement because subscribers will want to open the email to see if they recognize anyone.
Bonus: Share ways residents can get involved with or support the groups you feature to build a greater sense of involvement and community.
Shine the spotlight
From city leaders to first responders, it’s also important to highlight the people who play a large role in the public sector so community members become familiar with them and trust their authority. An easy way to do this is with a Q&A.
Ask the featured person about their past work experiences, what they love about their current role, what makes the community special, or anything that gives your audience a better sense of who they are and why they’re a good fit for the job. And don’t forget to include a photo of them!
Make sharing easy
When you send an email campaign, it goes out to your subscribers—but the campaign doesn’t have to stop there. Include “share” or “send to a friend” links so that your audience can send the email to others and post it on their social media.
Or, simply add text at the end encouraging them to forward the message to a friend. The more people you reach, the better the engagement is going to be.
Mix it up
Providing a variety of email marketing content like we’ve covered here will help you better engage with subscribers. Don’t stick with one type simply because it has been successful in the past—or because that’s how it’s always been done.
Regular newsletters are great to have in your toolbox, but they shouldn’t be your only method of reaching your audience. A well-rounded email marketing strategy for municipalities will not only engage residents, but it will also build trust, loyalty, and a close-knit community—no matter its size.