Nottinghamshire uses citizen engagement tools to inform residents

Nottinghamshire County Council uses digital citizen engagement tools to communicate with local residents, keeping them informed during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

To keep residents and other stakeholders up to date on a range of developments and services available in the local area, the council decided eight years ago to develop its email distribution capabilities using govDelivery platform, a cloud-based email marketing service for local councils developed by US-based public sector technology supplier Granicus.

Integrated into Nottinghamshire’s IT estate and branded as Emailme by the council, the service has since grown to 86,000 subscribers, with each signing up to an average of three bulletins containing information on topics of interest to them – from waste and recycling updates to job vacancies and what’s on in the area.

During the pandemic, Emailme has been used to communicate important updates, such as general health and safety messages as well as notifications about which services are still open or temporarily closed due to government restrictions.

“GovDelivery has been a really useful tool for keeping our stakeholders informed during this period. The platform has also got more recognition from leadership within the council as a result. It’s had greater visibility as a tool, and we get really good engagement from it,” said Paul Belfield, a senior communications and marketing business partner at Nottinghamshire County Council.

“We had to close recycling centres down due to Covid-19 restrictions. When we were finally in a position to re-open them thanks to the relaxed rules following lockdown, we needed to quickly inform residents that they needed to book a time slot to effectively manage social distancing at the centres given the surge in demand for waste disposal. The platform has been a useful channel for managing that process, along with social media and the website,” added Belfield.

To gauge residents’ satisfaction with the platform, the council regularly sends out feedback surveys to all subscribers. According to the most recent results from the end of 2020, 95% of subscribers indicated they felt more informed about what the council is doing because of Emailme communications.

A further 68% said the use of Emailme also made them more satisfied with the council as a whole, while roughly 81% either agreed (46.3%) or strongly agreed (35.7%) the informational bulletins became even more important and useful during the pandemic.

According to the council, the real value of Emailme is in residents no longer having to phone the council every time they have a question, providing cost efficiencies for the council on top of timely access to information for residents.

Due to the success of Emailme throughout 2020, the council is now looking to improve its integration with the Granicus govService, a digital service delivery platform that automates front and back-office processes to reduce cost and streamline services, which is currently managed from within the council by a separate team.

Belfield said a key objective for the council was to align the two Granicus services as much as possible, which will be working on further integrating and joining up the products going forward.

“We want to work closely with our customer service centre colleagues who use govService and take calls, and further improve those touchpoints with the council,” he said.

“The objective is to look at how joining the two products could add value in areas such as school admissions by clearly communicating what next steps parents need to take and thereby reducing the number of calls and associated costs to our call centre. It’s about the automation of those systems, giving our customers exactly what they need.”

He added that Granicus has been “very supportive” in getting Emailme operational, providing bespoke advice and training to help its use progress towards the business outcomes the council wanted to achieve.

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