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Are you losing it? [GDPR and subscriber retention]

With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) just around the corner (25 May 2018), the stakes have never been higher for public sector communicators. The race is on to keep and gain digital subscribers while there’s still a chance of reaching them, says Dave Worsell, Managing Director of Granicus (Europe) who recently spoke on a webinar: GDPR – An Overview for Public Sector Communicators.

While opt-in permission to communicate with citizens directly has been industry best practice for a very long time, the GDPR now mandates opt-in, and the penalties for non-compliance are severe. With this in mind, it’s clear that public sector organisations are going to have to work very hard to get that all-important opt-in permission, and ensure they have it logged for each existing and new subscriber.

But why go to all the effort of attracting new subscribers if you’re hemorrhaging subscribers at the other end of the communication process? Each subscriber can take advantage of other key features of GDPR requirements – like a simple way to opt out plus the “right to be forgotten”. Maybe your messages are no longer relevant to someone and they unsubscribe from the one subscription topic they knew about. Oops. You realise you had never cross-promoted other subscription options that they may have been more interested in. How will you invite them back into the fold and get them signed up to updates that are relevant to them? You can’t send them a reengagement email now like Wrexham County Borough Council does regularly (to revive dormant subscribers). They’re gone. They unsubscribed.

If your comms is weak and untargeted, or your average number of subscriptions-per-subscriber is very low, you risk losing those subscribers forever. Those hard-fought battles to get people signed up could be wiped out in the blink of an eye if your comms strategy and content isn’t up to scratch or your ability to reach people is too narrow. Unless you have an effective strategy to minimise subscriber loss, you really are going to be in trouble.

Here are our top six tips to stop you “losing it”:

1. Make your content granular 

Ditch the one-size-fits-all newsletter. Rather than offering a newsletter that covers a wide range of topics, try slicing it up into smaller more manageable notifications that cover specific topics. Give people choice about what they subscribe to to increase the relevance of your comms to their lives and boost your engagement rates.

2. Keep your content short

We keep saying it, but ensure your content is concise and to-the-point to maximise engagement with the message. Keep your subject lines focused and ideally below 70 characters. Here are 10 examples of effective email marketing in the public sector.

3. Target the right audience

Use audience segmentation (manual or automated with the GovDelivery Communications Cloud) to ensure you have the capability to send the right message to the right person at the right time. Targeted messages are more likely to resonate with your audience and result in the desired action or knowledge, suffering fewer unsubscribes.

4. Create interesting content

Keep your content focused on the message and engaging. Use A/B testing to optimise your subject lines, images, design and messaging. It’s significantly easier to write engaging and impactful content if you follow tips 1, 2 and 3. Check out our content marketing guide for more tips.

5. Cross-promote to maximise sign-ups

Ensure you cross-promote all the subscription topics (and channels) you offer to ensure subscribers sign up for multiple items. Enrich their engagement with your content and make your organisation’s comms indispensable by providing a range of support specific to different audience’s needs and interests. Continue to cross-promote throughout the subscriber lifecycle. Add a button or feature in your bulletins’ footer, and let subscribers know when new options are available or why another topic could be useful to them. The higher the average subscriptions-per-subscriber, the deeper the engagement with your organisation’s comms and the greater the potential impact of your programmes.

6. Allow people to unsubscribe

The GDPR requires you to allow a subscriber to opt out, so make it easy for them to do so. Likewise, unengaged subscribers are of no value so you’ll want to prune those. Set up a reengagement campaign series to give those sleepy subscribers a few chances to reaffirm their interest before you cull them from your mailing list. Remember, if a subscriber wishes to unsubscribe from a specific topic then so be it, however, they might still wish to receive communications on other topics, so ensure you offer options to unsubscribe from “just this topic” and “all topics” to retain subscriptions in other areas.

Platforms like the GovDelivery Communications Cloud enable you to set up a “picklist” of topic options people can easily select or deselect as part of the sign-up process, or when editing their preferences. These templates make it very easy for organisations to manage multiple mailing lists and segment their audience. The Communications Cloud also provides you with details about when and how someone subscribed to an update, giving your organisation the proof of opt-in it needs to comply with the GDPR.

If you’d like to find out more about how public sector organisations should be preparing for the GDPR and how the new regulation will affect comms practices in the public sector, check out the free seminar from #UKComm17