Sacramento and the Makings of a Digital Capitol
by Jonathan Benett
posted on 05-21-2020
As brand marketers introduce more and more digital innovation to deliver positive, relevant experiences, customer expectations have risen exponentially. Yet, this demand for great experience isn’t limited to consumer brands. Today, people expect service levels at city government to match service levels at big e-tail brands such as Amazon despite the budget limitations local leaders are faced with. And if residents don’t receive what they want, they can ‘review’ activity in the form of voting for the opposition at the next election.
To succeed at the ballot box and in the bars, ballrooms and living rooms of the city, local government is increasingly turning to digital solutions to achieve success. Throughout its history, Sacramento has weathered challenges only to emerge stronger each and every time. The California capital has a long history of establishing itself at ahead of historical curves, choosing to prevent issues before they arise. In fact, following the great flood of 1862, city leaders looked forward to the future when spending $1.5M to raise the entire city up by 15 feet above the flood level.
As they have shown time and time again, Sacramentans know from hardship. But, they also know that investment in now prevents issues later, which is why the city thrives and survives boasting growth that make the metropolis the fastest-growing city in the largest state in the US.
Today, as the California capital faces another challenging chapter, its city leaders are faced with a number of quandaries: How can they ensure that residents get necessary, critical information in the right way at the right time? How can they improve the way Sacramentans are engaged with and prove that decisions being made are effective? And how can they do this in a way that delivers value for the over 500,000 people who call the city home and pay for its programs through tax dollars? Luckily, they already have a solution.
Digital solutions for a growing metropolis
Beginning earlier this year, the City of Sacramento began going paperless using products like Adobe Sign and Adobe Forms. These solutions helped residents engage with the city in a more seamless way, reducing the friction city administrative staff had with hard-copy document record-keeping and the time delay and expense encountered by residents through postal issues or the need for in-person visits to government offices to complete transactions. After seeing the positive results of the move to a cloud-based document solution, the next step in the city’s journey towards delivering residents better experiences and value-for-money was to turn to enterprise software to address the city’s communication issues. But, with over 500,000 stakeholders to service – and the threat of the ballot box to keep the government on its toes – errors and lagtime had to be avoided, so any option had to seamlessly integrate into existing infrastructure.
Expanding email effectiveness
The City of Sacramento turned to Adobe Campaign for the solution – and immediately put it to the test by leveraging the partnership to better communicate with the over 170,000 readers on its email subscriber list. It was a massive challenge for a fledgling relationship, and Adobe Campaign handled the opportunity deftly.
For many years, email has been the preferred way in which city residents kept engaged with city updates and information. Through Adobe Campaign, the City of Sacramento can now layer intelligence about each of the subscribers on the list and use that intelligence to tailor correspondence and guarantee relevance. With COVID-19 and the accompanying economic impact, ensuring that residents get information that meets their needs in a timely manner is now even more critical. Through Adobe Campaign, the city is safe in the knowledge that its subscriber database is up to date while information on how subscribers have engaged with the city following correspondence is added in real-time to individual resident profiles.
For example, when the city gets feedback that a subscriber is greatly interested in and reacting to health updates, they can ramp up sending health-related intelligence to that subscriber so that the resident feels secure and safe. Alternatively, if the resident is ignoring health updates in favor of economic impact statements, the city can share the numerous ways the local government is keeping Sacramento moving, while weaving in softer messaging around basic activities residents can do to stay healthy so that any choices residents make to ensure financial stability aren’t done at the expense of public health.
“As more people rely on government service during period of crisis, It is more important than ever before for government agencies to be agile to find creative ways to provide residents easy access to services,” says Mrudul Sadanandan, Sacramento’s IT Manager for Enterprise Apps. “It is apparent that having the right solution/partner and concrete strategy for creating, distributing and monitoring the impact of critical communication to residents helps improve transparency and effectiveness.“
Realignment reaps rapid results
Following implementation of Adobe Campaign, subscriber numbers have gone up by 30,000. And engagement numbers also spiked as personalization efforts meant that emails were no longer landing in SPAM boxes or perceived as irrelevant. This has been incredibly useful during the COVID-19 pandemic as the city strives to reach more eyeballs with more time-sensitive information than ever before.
Says Sadanandan: “About 98% of our emails are now delivered to inboxes instead of junk folders. We were able to track that in Campaign. Before, we weren’t even able to track it. Now we have numbers that show a reduced bounce rate on emails and higher click through rates to our webpages, showing that people are really reading — and not just deleting — email from city. All that, we credit to Adobe.”
Forward into the future
As the capital of the largest state in the United States, Sacramento is under the microscope for every decision they make. City leadership have set a mandate to become the best managed city in America – and they are well on target to achieve this goal. With stay-at-home orders now preventing in-person local government interaction, Sacramento’s forward-thinking decision to turn to digital solutions is bearing fruit, ensuring that city residents stay informed, engaged and aware. Less need for face-to-face transactions means less chance for the virus to spread. And with more stakeholders than the global workforce of Apple and IBM combined, that’s a big pool in which disinformation, insecurity and efficiency could be the difference between life and death.
“Eventually, our goal is for every citizen to have a single login for the city so they can interact with all of the different departments through a single lens,” adds Sadanandan. “The reality of a single login isn’t far off. Sacramento has already taken definitive steps towards building a modern, unified experience for citizens. Our initial work with Adobe has positioned us well to deal with the effects of the global pandemic and our partnership will help us lay the foundation to be even stronger when we are presented other challenges.”