Case Study: The Education and Skills Funding Agency
Educating the public sector about the power of email
Email is an embedded channel that the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has been committed to for a number of years and has educated its audience to look out for and rely on the information provided in its weekly newsletters and ‘newsflash-style’ updates. The primary objective is to keep the education and further education sectors up to date with the latest news both from the ESFA and wider Department of Education.
Email is an invaluable way to direct people to the detailed content available on the gov.uk website. As this website is now far more comprehensive and used by all aspects of government, as a result it is harder to navigate and more difficult to locate specific information. Email solves this issue as it signposts the recipients to the latest guidance and information specifically for their sector. Email is also used for 'news-flash style' policy announcements, so the ESFA can be confident that the right people are getting the right information as soon as it is available.
Engagement and data management have been the main considerations for the ESFA, along with its commitment to being a ‘single source of truth’ for the sector. With previous systems, the teams had not been able to adequately gauge the reach of their messaging, nor bring the communication needs of the various teams together as part of a consistent communication stream.
The environment is fast paced and it is essential that consistent communications can be created and signed off quickly and easily by multiple teams and authors. The ease and sophistication of the messages that can be built with the drag and drop editor fulfils this requirement.
The convenience of being able to contact large segments with tailored messages and then to reliably analyse their engagement is critical for the ESFA. For example, academies, just one of the audiences that it engages with, with more than 9,000 in the UK ensuring that timely and consistent data flow to this group, so that they are both updated with latest developments specifically affecting them along with important messages that require timely delivery.
“e-shot has a pivotal role within both our communications but also our data management practices. There are a number of types of providers that we need to ensure are updated and fully informed. Not only that, we have a complex set of procedures and deadline driven workflows that require reliable email communication. Engagement and interaction evaluation of these workflows is essential to our team’s success.”George Haffenden, Digital Communications Manager, Corporate Communications, Employer & Employee Engagement
How e-shot helped
The bulk of the information that the ESFA disseminates is held on the gov.uk website and, given the nature and detail required, it is the primary focus of the team. The role that email performs and the impact it has in getting the right people to the right information, however, cannot be underestimated.
And of course, where funding is involved there are lots of deadlines, based on the business cycle and depending on who you are. Education providers need to submit certain information to quality assure funding and there are a lot of reporting deadlines and spending submissions sent in for review. The timetable of which all needs to be managed, articulated and policed. Email is the obvious avenue for these essential communications both due to its reliability of delivery and ability to evaluate and analyse post send.
The reporting element is critical as it is here where it is possible to see both who is receiving the information and then who is engaging with it. This provides insights in terms of particular roles or segments that are more significantly engaged and allows more tailored communications and follow ups to both highly engaged groups or those that are ‘slipping away’.
e-shot was pivotal in a recent data management campaign where the analytics tools were used to scope and inform both a re-engagment campaign and a data update campaign. The result of these campaigns to re-engage and refresh data held on local authorities ensured that the team could be confident they held data on the key contacts they needed and that those contacts were suitably engaged. This also allowed developments to the communication strategy with segmentation by contact role as the team had the confidence that the right people were subscribed.
Results, ROI and the future
Reporting on reach and engagement has become easier and more insightful with the help of the analytics tools and reliability of delivery has increased as a result of email forensics. All these elements lead to future possibilities of increased segmentation and targeting to further develop engagement levels.
There are a number of teams within the ESFA that currently use e-shot and there are plans to roll this out further to ensure consistency and uniformity of outgoing messages.
As a result of various data cleansing and re-engagement campaigns, the ESFA has increased levels of confidence in its data, as well as having improved engagement across the board. Newsletters will continue to be an integral part of the communication strategy which both informs and drives traffic to additional information available on the gov.uk website.
There remain manual processes that the team are looking to automate, particularly around the funding workflows and information gathering elements of their communications. The team have scoped some straightforward automations using the automated campaign tool, and are confident that this would be a valuable step forward.
"As a government department we are held to a higher standard. Our ability to ensure that our audience receives the right information at the right time, that their data is accurate and secure and we provide a ‘single source of truth’ are the cornerstones to our communication strategy. And e-shot is key in making that happen."George Haffenden, Digital Communications Manager, Corporate Communications, Employer & Employee Engagement
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