Managing contacts

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Any consultation involving a large number of participants needs some way of managing all the contacts with them. First they need to know about the consultation, then brought in, kept informed and engaged during the process, and given feedback at the end.

There are two ways in which IT can help:

  1. CRM software to keep track of individual contacts.
  2. List management software to communicate with groups of contacts.

Citizen Relationship Management

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software should help. It is designed to keep track of many contracts in many organizations - both how to contact them and notes on each contact.

Unfortunately, much commercial CRM software has been designed to meet the needs of private sector sales campaigns, classifying customers as prospects, and conflating every contact in a company as the same relationship. Neither applies in public consultation, as NSEC discovered when they wanted to use CRM software to keep track of their separate contacts with administrators, teachers and students in schools. They ended up customising the open source Sugar CRM software to their needs.

An alternative is to purchase Citizen Relationship Management software designed for public sector use, as Belfast City Council has done.

Mailing List Management

At the beginning of each consultation, and from time to time throughout, consulters need to tell lots of people and organisations about the consultation, news of its progress, and interesting items that might encourage them to participate.

Now that so many have access to e-mail, they can sign up to e-mail lists run as newsletters.

  • Example: NSEC newsletter
  • Electronic newsletter software: PHPList, 1-2-ALL Broadcast E-mail Software, AdvoKit, e-Campaign, Interspire SendStudio and others.

There are also services and applications that manage sending out text message (SMS) alerts.