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, technology and 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; by streamlining and strengthening their communication processes and practices, they can develop a strong identity and unified message.
Every communications strategy should cater to the needs of its 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, interests 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 more people increasingly rely on their mobile devices, innovative companies have had to embrace mobile-first technology. The same is now true for digital strategies. To effectively track 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 about 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 Digital tools are nearly always more efficient and cost-effective than outdated manual processes.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, not an afterthought.
An added benefit of digital solutions for local governments is that they also offer openness and transparency.
Best practices for communications also create 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.
One emerging trend in local governments' digital strategies is storytelling, which 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 EffectivenessTechnology is a great enabler for local governments, school boards and special districts. Diligent Community 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 also 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 from 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.
Diligent 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 rendering 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 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 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 MediaYour constituents are connected to 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 seeking 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 issues are no worry with Community.
Your social media platforms are good channels for getting 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 when it comes to informing 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 must think mobile-first, digital-first, and a board management software solution like Community can help them do that.
Forward-Thinking Governments Embrace Inclusivity
Leaders of progressive governments across the US are working to serve their constituents by pioneering a purpose-driven approach. For more steps local government leaders can take to achieve community goals, look to our Leading With Purpose Workbook.