District of West Vancouver — Sending a Clear Community Message
Because West Vancouver is primarily residential, the municipality also provides extensive community services and facilities — a par-three golf course, public swimming pools, basketball and tennis courts, and a recently rebuilt community center all fall under its influence. As an indicator of community involvement with district services, the West Vancouver Memorial Library has the highest per capita circulation rate in Canada.
The district also hosts Canada Day celebrations, puts on the long-standing Bridge Festival, and celebrates music and the visual and culinary arts with its annual Harmony Festival.
Challenge: Uniting communications across departments and satisfying CASL as subscriber lists grow
“In 2014, we began a push toward centralizing communications. We were looking for a solution to unite email communications from our diverse group of business areas. Besides our traditional municipal functions, our art gallery, museum, and festivals each have their own marketing programs,” explains Donna Powers, Director, Community Relations & Communications, District of West Vancouver. “We wanted each of these areas to continue to work independently. We also needed to ensure that we had a single system in place so that the communications department had oversight into our message, branding, and editorial style.”
As if that wasn’t enough, 2014 was also the inaugural year of the Canadian anti-spam legislation (CASL). With growing subscriber lists and disparate email communications suites in use by multiple departments, compliance with the new privacy and confidential personal information regulations was not something they could put off.
“We knew that our existing systems were not compliant with British Columbian or Canadian privacy regulations,” says Powers. “But, as a government, we had a responsibility.”
Envoke as a single source of compliance and consistency
Despite the CASL’s three-year grace period for communications with existing email contacts, the municipality’s Legislative Services Department set out to find an immediate solution to ensure compliance for the municipality’s growing contact database. On its shortlist, legislative services came back with Envoke, the email communications solution for communication professionals. Envoke met all the district’s key criteria — multiple account management under a single solution, subscription management, CASL compliance, and Canadian data storage and mail servers.
“When the legislative team presented us with Envoke as an option, I actually got pretty excited,” says Powers. “Envoke combined everything — it was a Canadian company that meets Canadian legal requirements. It also had all the features we needed to both centralize our communications and gain compliance. ”
A clean transition
Despite being early adopters of Envoke, the municipality had few difficulties integrating its varied departments and business units under the solution. The communications team’s initial concerns over reconciling email contact information across its departments and importing the data to Envoke proved unfounded. Envoke customer service and technical teams provided customized onboarding services to ensure the transition didn’t interrupt the municipality’s business continuity.
“The transition and bringing contacts in from our previous systems went well,” says Ania Mafi, the Municipality’s Communications & Engagement Manager. “The team helped us get all the contacts off our different solutions and into Envoke. We essentially handed over an Excel spreadsheet and Envoke took care of the rest.”
With the data uploaded, it was equally straightforward to maintain.
“Envoke features, especially the robust CASL feature set, helped move us toward compliance by making it easy to remove dormant email addresses,” says Powers. “That helped us clean up contact data coming in from older, non-compliant sources.”
One brand, one content creation process
To aid in centralizing and ensuring consistent branding, each department has access to Envoke templates managed by the communications team using Envoke built-in branding controls.
The departments can also drag and drop to create and save department-specific headers and email privacy footers and commonly used email formats using the Envoke content editor.
“The recent content editor improvements have been a dream,” says Mafi. “The ability to drag-and-drop blocks and change layout options and format text and image behavior is a game changer.”
With one administrative account overseeing the departmental sub-accounts, the communications department exercises final approval over every email the district sends.
Multiple departments, multiple subscription lists
When it comes to subscription management, to maintain compliance standards, the district’s departmental sub-accounts do not share subscriber data.
Instead, each department has its own set of independently managed subscription lists. This means the Ferry Building Gallery’s subscriptions remain separate from the Art Museum and other departments. This allows the district to eliminate cross-list contamination and ensures that every communication they send reaches only its intended audience.
Efficient reporting and data collection
Envoke has evolved significantly since its engagement with the District West Vancouver began in 2014. The district has expanded its use of the email communications suite to follow suit. For smaller events, they can still easily manually enter email addresses collected off paper sign-up sheets, but the West Vancouver Art Museum and Ferry Building capture email addresses to their online subscription forms using an iPad, resulting in data ideally formatted for easy automatic import.
Likewise, Envoke reporting and Google Analytics integration provide district staff and council members with engagement figures and key performance indicators. It also allows the communications office to monitor how effective its messaging is within specific neighborhoods.
“We have one tight and integrated community where everyone is so engaged we send them updates weekly,” says Powers. “In response to a comment our CAO heard that they weren’t getting regular information, we pulled the numbers from Envoke and saw that their subscriber list had grown from 27 to 270 people in a year and a half and they only have 344 households.”
User-centric support and documentation
With a significant user base spread across the municipality’s different departments, Envoke training materials and proactive customer support team have been central to helping the district resolve problems and getting new staff and interns up to speed composing messages and creating new subscription forms.
“We have a new hire I wasn’t able to train personally, so I pointed her to the Envoke training videos and articles and asked her to send me a test message this week when she was comfortable with the system. With a whole support library of answers and the Envoke How To section at her disposal, she had no problem,” says Mafi. “For technical issues, there is always someone there to respond immediately. Customer support and service-wise, we are really happy.”
A strategic partnership
Since its engagement with Envoke began, the District of West Vancouver has amassed subscription lists of over 42000 contacts — each of its 11 departments maintains an independent sub-account and multiple subscription lists. The district currently sends 800,000 emails annually, and that number is growing.
Envoke has become a critical tool for the district’s communications department and a key part of an initiative to reduce waste and conserve resources when communicating with the community.
“We have grown our number of sub-accounts, subscription lists, and subscribers. My goal, year by year, is to use Envoke to decrease the number of paper letters we send,” explains Powers. “Now, when we begin a new project, we send one paper letter to the affected households. It explains the situation and informs them that, if they want updates, they need to subscribe.”
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