The business end of local government has changed substantially in recent years. At the same time, there’s been an unprecedented rise in citizen expectations. Both issues have created a demand for better communication between citizens and local governments. The challenge is steep, but not insurmountable. Local governments can do better by using best practices for government communications, using technology, and taking advantage of social media. Communication effectiveness goes a long way toward developing trust between local governments and the people they serve.
What Are Best Practices in Government Communications?
It’s easy for comments about local governments to be taken out of context or misconstrued. Local governments should speak with one voice. Local governments can develop a strong identity and message by streamlining and strengthening their communications processes and practices.
Every communications strategy must consider the needs of its audience and cater their materials to that audience. Today’s citizens expect to have a user-driven experience with their local government’s website, much like they’d have with any other type of business. By providing a search engine box on your local government website, citizens won’t need to fish around various departments to find the information they need.
Traditional roles in communications teams are also evolving. Local governments that are large enough to have more than one person in communications are evolving into a “trading floor” model. This model favors assigning people to duties based upon their skills, interest, and initiatives rather than what their actual position is. The idea behind this strategy is to promote reverse mentoring, develop talent more quickly, and put everyone’s unique capabilities into force.
As mobile devices have become the norm, innovative companies have had to embrace mobile-first technology. The same is now true for digital strategies. To be effective at tracking communications, local governments need to have a “digital-first” mindset. Rather than follow longstanding practices and procedures, local government employees need to start thinking outside the box to how digital solutions can solve problems and streamline antiquated processes. Digital tools are nearly always more efficient and cost-effective than outdated manual processes. Considering digital tools first should be the first course of action, rather than an afterthought.
An added benefit of digital solutions for local governments is that they also offer the advantage of openness and transparency.
Best practices for communications also accounts for creating meaningful two-way communications and engagement. Social media and other advancements in communication are clearly shifting in favor of gaining feedback and this is a great way to build trust through engagement.
There is a new trend in digital strategies for local governments with storytelling which is a content strategy that other businesses use as well. Storytelling creates meaning for constituents. This strategy involves identifying priority themes and narratives to help bring local government issues to life.
Role of Technology in Tracking Communication Effectiveness
Technology is a great enabler for local gov, school boards, and special districts. Community by Diligent provides a digital solution that enables modern governance, which gives local governments and other entities a strategic advantage.
Community works by seamlessly attaching a civic web portal that has the same look and feel as your existing local government website. It provides a means for local governments to track and store council meeting agendas, meeting minutes, council communications, and other important documents.
Community by Diligent makes meeting processes efficient, transparent, accountable, and secure—all the things that you’d hope for in a local government software program.
One of the greatest benefits of Community is that it saves local governments on having to hire external cybersecurity expertise, which can be unaffordable for smaller municipalities. This is a highly important consideration since local governments are increasingly being targeted for cyberattacks.
Community was designed to be responsive and mobile-first, which is also a top priority since it’s common for citizens to use mobile devices for all their inquiries and transactions. The platform enables boards and councils to drive workflows in a predictable and transparent manner, encouraging engagement and making the decision-making process more effective. For constituents, this means that not only are all current and past meeting documents available anytime from anywhere, but it’s also possible for them to participate via video or teleconference. Diligent has also incorporated enhancements into the program which include an improved platform built for speed, stability, and a greatly improved user experience.
Community by Diligent was built on Diligent Corporation’s deep experience in offering digital governance solutions to corporate boards. The platform was designed to be tailored to the specific needs of councils and school boards. It frees city clerks and other local government staff up from manually tending to Freedom of Information Act requests because it enables citizens to get that information online themselves. Citizens can also use the system to view meeting materials, watch videos of council meetings in real-time, and take advantage of mobile device accessibility.
Tracking Communication Effectiveness with Social Media
Your constituents are switched onto the internet all day long. Social media platforms are a good way to track the effectiveness of your communications. That’s also why it’s important for local governments to have a digital-first mindset.
In today’s world, constituents are less likely to come into your office looking or asking for information or copies of documents. They expect to be able to get information online at their convenience. With your current system, will your citizens be able to find the information they’re seeking? Will they be able to contact you during the off-hours to get a message to you? Can they expect that you’ll receive their message and that someone will follow through and contact them back? These things are no worry with Community.
Your social media platforms are good ways to get important or critical news out to the public in times of emergencies or crises. Social media offers a great way to announce events, promote issues, and get valuable feedback. It can be a life-saver to inform your constituents about power outages, school closings, and road closures.
Local governments need to evolve with the world around them. In considering communication effectiveness, local governments need to think mobile-first, digital-first, and use a board management software solution like Community.