Ministry of Social Development


"Salesforce helps us to be smarter about communication. We’re able to see what works and back it up with stats."

Kevin Lee,
Digital Advisor, National Communications

MSD puts ruler to communication; Salesforce provides answers

Kevin Lee, a digital advisor in the national communications team at New Zealand’s largest government agency, Ministry of Social Development (MSD) is one of a team that manages MSD’s communications channels and orchestrates ministry communications that reach 11,000 people in government and non-government organisations (NGOs). With Salesforce, he’s helped to transform ministry communication, replacing spreadsheets and bespoke software with a platform that delivers one-to-one communication and reporting.

Spreadsheets are great for collecting names, numbers and details that lend themselves to fields and cells. The trouble is, they don’t easily integrate with communications systems. So any changes or new information must be entered manually.

MSD’s brief outlined requirements for a central database and core functions to manage non-client communications such as subscriptions, campaigns, ad hoc communication, workflow and reporting.

A working model with rudimentary functions was available in just two weeks. The result was a fully functioning system known internally as Contact Database and Communications Tool (CDCT), based on Salesforce.

MSD’s stakeholder network is huge. They manage relationships with 11,000 people, from members of parliament to volunteers, and tens-of-thousands of individual messages. And like so many organisations these days, MSD recognised the potential for self-service tools to deliver more control to their members, in the process lightening MSD’s administration load.

Connecting CDCT to MSD’s website and emails established entry points for individuals to manage their profiles and change contact details. Website access is secured by a token-based system that emails a unique URL that points recipients to the right Salesforce form. Links presented in email footers also connect registered users to their personal profiles in Salesforce. 

Early work also focused on subscriptions. MSD offers seven newsletters, and journals, annual reports and media releases. So far 3,000 people have opted in to receive this material via email, and through their personal profiles they’re able to subscribe to and unsubscribe from lists, and specify subject matter interests.

Event RSVPs are managed in a similar fashion. People register online, or via an email link, accessing a Salesforce form to indicate special needs relating to diet or venue access. An automated email reply confirms registration, individual preferences, and provides additional event details.

The new system (and the consolidated database behind it) has been a boon for organising regional events. Previously event coordinators had to contact regional offices to produce invite lists. Now with everything managed centrally, they can do their work without having to bother their regional counterparts.

Lee said Salesforce reporting was extremely “rich” and steered future communication. “We’ve got the stats now and know what good practice is, and what isn’t. We know that this happened last time and we can back it up with the numbers,” said Lee.

But more than simply retrospective analysis, Lee said MSD is reporting future communications activity, which provided a more holistic view of the ministry’s entire programme. At the other end of the spectrum, MSD is able to analyse individual communication to pinpoint what people received, what they read, what they did, and their changing interests. And instead of just adding people to lists, self-service puts control back into the hands of MSD’s stakeholders. 

“There’s a rising expectation about communication. People expect timely communication and more control over frequency and channels. When you’ve got stats and know what happened last time and what people did, it’s easier to meet the requirements of everyone. It’s the difference between one-to-one and one-to-many communication,” he said.

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