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Urban Institute: Solving Complex Newsletter Needs with Marketing Cloud

Newsletter with Marketing Cloud

Solving Complex Newsletter Needs with Marketing Cloud

The Client

Urban Institute is the trusted source for research and insights to help solve our nation’s toughest problems. As the voice of expert information on public policy, best practices, and actionable strategies, Urban relies on effective email communications—with over two dozen email newsletters deploying on a regular basis and sends key emails as part of their external affairs program.

Email communications are key to getting Urban Intstitute’s good work into the world. Emails must be visually appealing and responsive across a wide range of devices. “Email newsletters are a primary way we send our messages and deliver insights. We absolutely had to have an email platform that would scale to meet our growth, allow better constituent insights, and deliver exactly the right message” noted David Connell, Senior Director of Digital Communications.


Prior to adopting Marketing Cloud, Urban Institute was challenged to find a marketing solution that fit their needs—working through three different email marketing automation tools within the prior year. Each presented shortcomings. The email systems weren’t able to deliver a true integration with Salesforce; neither Urban nor their constituents had a “360-view” of communications. Certain newsletters were mailed from one email platform, while others were sent from another. Gaining a clear picture of constituent engagement was difficult; managing opt-outs became a true challenge.

In addition to needing a unified marketing platform, Urban Institute needed a way to have very specific control over email design. Their marketing team had the deep knowledge to optimize email content, but other email tools didn’t provide direct access to the full HTML content.

The Solution

“We were looking for an implementation partner who could do more than just fire up Marketing Cloud. We needed someone who could understand our particular goals, and craft a solution to meet them. Working with Cloud for Good was an ideal fit—they were fantastic at providing resources and walking through what was implemented, why, and how,” said Connell.

A key goal was to improve information sharing within the organization, creating a ‘360-degree view’ of constituents. This included consolidating subscription data from multiple legacy email systems, while preserving subscriber history. Mobile optimization and granular control over content design was a must—and was made possible with Marketing Cloud’s Content Builder.

One unique requirement was the need to allow constituents to receive multiple newsletters at any number of email addresses—an option not possible with most email marketing tools. Using custom AMPscripting, custom Sales Cloud configuration, and automation, Cloud for Good provided solutions that allow subscribers to opt-in to up to 24 newsletters at as many email addresses as they prefer.


With 24 newsletters, custom subscription centers were a must. These tools allow Urban Institute’s subscribers the flexibility to opt-in and out of news. Mini-opt-in “widgets” provide flexibility in managing multiple digital properties, in a streamlined and user-friendly context. Cloud for Good built a custom Communication Preferences object in Salesforce, allowing users to opt in and out of communications, while capturing subscription history.

Send management has transformed from a disconnected set of marketing tools to a streamlined sending process. Constituent engagement information flows between the Sales and Marketing Clouds, offering insights into how each subscriber engages with Urban Institute. The team can send to individual Contacts straight from Salesforce, manage newsletter automations on a scheduled basis, and have granular control over email rendering across a multitude of devices.

In addition to newsletter sends, external affairs is a key engagement strategy for Urban Institute. While Marketing Cloud offers extensive and sophisticated features, it was important that they be configured in a way for an user to easily manage. The measure of success: Connell noted “To hear our team say the feel like ‘rockstars’ and that Cloud for Good ‘set them up for success’ was a fantastic win.”

Sender reputation was a must for Urban Institute. Cloud for Good supported Urban Institute in acquiring a private IP and subdomain as part of the Marketing Cloud Sender Authentication Package. These features allowed Urban to send on their own domain and establish their own trusted reputation as an email sender. Cloud for Good managed IP warming and advised Urban Institute in reputation monitoring. An indication of success is their ReturnPath Sender Score reputation measurement. A score of 80 or more indicates ‘a great sender reputation.’ Urban Institute’s Sender Score at one- and two-months-post-deployment remains at 99 out of 100—a nearly perfect score.

“’Nearly perfect’ is a good description of our implementation. Marketing Cloud is a highly sophisticated product, requiring expertise and care in implementation. Our complex needs required out-of-the-box thinking, and Cloud for Good delivered,” said Connell. Marketing Cloud is now delivering more emails than ever before, expanding Urban Institute’s reach and supporting their mission in new and improved ways.