There is a standard mailing list function within Citizen Space, which collects and holds email addresses within Citizen Space. You can read more about how this works, and how to activate it per consultation, in this article.
Alternatively, you can choose to use our 3rd Party Email add-on (with a provider such as MailChimp) instead. You might be wondering, why are we offering some third party, monkey-themed plugin instead of our own, proprietary setup? Simply because it's already a really polished product that does everything you need at low cost, with great support and no hassle – so why would we make things more difficult or expensive than they need to be?
If you want to activate this, or ask any questions, simply get in touch, we're happy to help. Below is our guide to using MailChimp with Citizen Space, but there's lots to learn about MailChimp as a stand-alone app too. If you want to get to grips with it at a more advanced level, we can recommend some people who can help with this. (PS. If you use something other than MailChimp, like GovDelivery or Campaign Monitor, drop us a line because we can probably work with that too :)
How to get set-up
Step 1: Get yourself a MailChimp account
If you don't already, you'll need to get your organisation set-up with MailChimp. It's free if you have fewer than 2,000 subscribers, and you don't plan to send more than 12,000 emails per month. Visit mailchimp.com to read more about their pricing plans, terms and conditions, and features.
Step 2: Input your Citizen Space taxonomies into MailChimp
Once you've got a MailChimp account, you'll need to set up a list of taxonomies as MailChimp Groups.
We strongly recommend that this list relates to the taxonomies you use in Citizen Space - your Audiences and Interests. However, it's really important to know that MailChimp currently has a limit of 60 groups and we're aware that this might be less than the taxonomies you want to use, so you may need to arrange your Citizen Space taxonomies into more general Groupings.
Step 3: Setup a MailChimp sign-up form
This is the form that your stakeholders will use to confirm they want to receive updates from you. In this article, MailChimp walks you through creating forms and the different types.
Step 4: Tell us you're ready to go with MailChimp :)
Once you've created the sign-up form, you'll need to provide us with the link. It is at this point we will activate the MailChimp add-on. Once this has happened, members of the public will see an additional tab in Citizen Space.
This tab will then show the sign-up form you created in MailChimp in Step 3:
Adding to your MailChimp list
Once you've got your sign-up form, you're not just limited to adding it to Citizen Space! You can insert a link to the sign-up form anywhere, such as your organisation's website.
(You can get an embed code from MailChimp to place the whole sign-up form into web pages. We're not convinced this is the best idea, though, as the form looks massive once embedded in a page - it's probably easier to just link people to it.)
You could even sign people up manually. For example, you could print a paper form, encourage people to fill it in at events and then do the data entry yourself when you get back to the office. Or, even better, you could take a tablet device along and sign them up directly, online. MailChimp even have an app for that, Chimpadeedo.
Maintaining your mailing list
To keep things tidy, there's one central mailing list in MailChimp where every stakeholder's details are stored in a profile, including their selected areas and interests.
Once you have set up your Groupings in MailChimp, you'll need to manually update any changes to your Citizen Space taxonomies.
Keeping people engaged
At the bottom of this article, you'll find links to lots of great MailChimp user guides to help you become au fait with managing email campaigns.
Here are a few of our top tips for effective stakeholder emails:
Who: choose your audience segments carefully. Don't fatigue your list by sending everything to everyone every time.
When: don't overdo it. Look out for trends that get particular success, such as the time of the day. Remember that different audiences will have different expectations and preferences – so full-time mums will be running to a different schedule than retired professionals or students.A pretty good approach is to send a monthly digest email, and then occasional emails for specific consultations.
How: People who've signed up to this list have inherently expressed an interest in hearing from you about these topics – so you don't need to be apologetic, or try super-hard to make things interesting. You have space to be pretty matter-of-fact and get to the key information quickly.
The rule of thumb with all these things is appropriateness: if you have a high profile, highly significant public consultation that affects everyone, your stakeholders will probably be more annoyed if they don't hear about it. By contrast, if you email every stakeholder each time you modify any consultation, you'll quickly see the unsubscribe requests racking up.
So there you have it!
If you've got any questions about the mechanics of MailChimp, your first point of call is their outstanding set of user manuals. If you want any more help or advice on using MailChimp with Citizen Space, drop us a line. And if you want to become a MailChimp guru, we've got some friends who we can recommend as experts.