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Capturing new subscribers during severe weather

When severe weather hits, citizens come looking for information about public service changes and closures. For many residents, it’s the first time they’re visiting their council’s website, so it’s a huge opportunity for councils to capture new subscribers who they otherwise may not have engaged.

For example, already in the last 24 hours (before any snowfall there) Caerphilly County Borough Council has gained 1,000 new email subscribers. The last time it snowed in Caerphilly, the council gained 10,000 new subscriptions to winter weather alerts (among other updates) in just 48 hours! There is an appetite for information and opportunity for significant audience growth that you can’t afford to miss.

Now is the time to make your email and SMS subscription options as prominent as possible, and here are some things you can do in anticipation of (and during) severe weather to capitalise on the increase in web traffic and customer demand for information:

  • Send regular tweets and Facebook posts inviting people to subscribe to email updates.
  • Add an overlay message to your homepage and key landing pages such as waste and recycling, roads, libraries, and schools pages.
  • Add a widget to your homepage that pulls through your tweets, email bulletins, press releases, and other social media activity – the keywords relating to the weather situation will stand out and help drive sign-ups.
  • Include “text to subscribe” instructions on printed and ambient media (if you’ve got the budget!).
  • Update the screen savers across all your assets, and invite people to “text XXXX to subscribe” or “visit to subscribe to winter weather and emergency updates” (e.g. display the call-to-action on library computers, display screens at offices, customer contact points, and other public displays).
  • Update your call centre hold message to tell people how to subscribe.
  • Add a popup message to any customer apps.
  • Brief all your staff, especially front-line staff so they’re equipped to advise customers how to subscribe.
  • Brief your local press and persuade them to promote the sign-up links too.
  • Add sign-up links to all relevant news and press releases (e.g. about gritting and other contingency plans).
  • Include sign-up links for emergency updates at the end of any transactional messages – SMS, email and web.
  • Don’t neglect your staff communications – they may be local too and can act as advocates.
  • Include a link to subscribe to emergency updates in your “welcome campaigns” for other topics (since these updates will likely be relevant to everyone).
  • Ensure all managers are briefed on the comms available for staff and customers so they can relay the need-to-know info in team meetings.
  • Change your homepage banner and link to winter weather contingency plans that promote the option to subscribe to email updates.
  • Add a winter weather banner ad to the bottom of all your email bulletins to cross-promote the topic.
  • Share your sign-up links, banner ad and any other winter campaign artwork with local partners and encourage them to cross-promote.

For more examples of winter weather communications please see our recent blogs “Got your grit on? #BeastFromTheEast” and “When government communications matter most“.