Each year you’ll want to take a good look at your communication goals and refocus on how to best reach and engage your community members. We recommend five resolutions to help bring your communication goals up to speed. If you can’t do all five, then just pick one or two to tackle for now. We promise you’ll see great long-term results.
Get that civic website mobile-friendly and ADA-compliant.
More and more people are using their phones and mobile devices to access your town’s website. Is your municipal website responsive (mobile friendly)? 96% of Americans own a cellphone of some kind and 81% of them own smartphones. By not offering responsive, mobile-friendly access, helping them get to the information they need quickly and conveniently, you cause frustration and create some bad branding for your city or town. So, this year, make plans to get your municipal web design responsive and mobile-friendly. The best civic websites are responsive.
While you’re at it, make sure yours is also an ADA compliant website so that it is accessible to those with disabilities. Plus, you’ll avoid a costly mess when the Office of Civil Rights comes knocking on your door. You will also be doing a tremendous service by expanding your website to a much wider audience (since as many as 20% of individuals have some sort of disability that can affect how they access your website).
Implement marketing efforts into your municipal’s communication strategies.
Did you know that more than 36 million Americans move every year? With all that relocation, 34% will be moving to a different county or state. That means, whether you are managing a big city or a small-town government, you will see new residents. As more and more jobs allow workers to work remotely and living close to a job site is no longer a requirement, there will be even more population shifts. According to Move.org, some of the main reasons for relocation include:
- Move to a new or better home (16%)
- Establish their own household (11.5%)
- Other family reasons (11.3%)
- New job or job transfer (9.9%)
- Find cheaper housing (8.3%
Part of your civic duties is to attract contributing, quality residents and make your city an attractive and inviting place for families to live and work and for businesses to put down roots. This means your town must embrace marketing as an essential aspect of your communication efforts. This applies to your external audiences (business owners and community members, taxpayers) and your internal audiences (prospective staff, volunteers). If you don’t make the effort, serious efforts, to highlight your town’s strengths, tell your stories, and provide easy access to information, you are failing to market your town. If you fail to market, you fail to grow and to create a strong and respected brand. You can start small, and with consistent, strategic steps, you’ll soon see impressive results.
Businesses do it all the time and usually dedicate an entire page (or a space on every page) to customer comments. What better way to show prospective community members and businesses what a great city or town you have than to let them hear it from other residents and business owners? Hearing a testimonial from someone who has nothing to gain is always more credible than hearing it from an employee with a vested interest.
Make submitting testimonials easy:
- Have forms available in your office for residents and business owners to complete—with a checkbox to check and an agreement to sign allowing you to use their comments on the website, on social media, or in a brochure.
- Reach out to local business owners asking for testimonials about doing business in your town or city. Include a section for attracting businesses right on your municipal website.
- Add a feedback form right on the website to collect community member and business owner testimonials.
- When you have an event or program, get a testimonial from residents who participated or were involved. Include it with a news article on the website about the event or program.
Develop social media policies for your town.
If your town or city still does not have any official social media policies in place, it’s past time to get those underway. If you want to communicate with your primary audience (residents), then you need to go where they are, which is on social media. In 2019, Hootsuite reported that 69% of U.S. adults use at least one social media site. The average American internet user has 7.1 social media accounts! 40% of consumers use social networks to research new brands, which would certainly include towns and cities when someone is planning to relocate.
What better way to engage positively with residents than on the very platforms they are comfortable using? Establishing your town’s social media policies will not only outline how your town or city will engage on social media, but it should also guide staff as to what social media they can use and how they can use it—especially important for sharing good news. Then, create a social media calendar for your municipality to use, and put it in play this year!
Double-check your website for accurate contact information.
Make sure your town’s website home page is a helpful resource for important contact information. Your website stories should tell them why they should register; now make it easy for them to do so.
- Can they locate your city or town offices, including phone numbers, fax numbers, email addresses, and physical addresses from your home page?
- Have you linked all necessary forms on your website so residents can print and fill out them out without having to call your city offices or wade through some confusing phone tree to find the department they need?
- Or better yet, can you automate the process with online forms?
- Have you included pertinent information about your various departments and contact information so residents can get answers to their questions? Keep those department staff names current, and provide multiple methods for contact and the hours of staff availability.
- Have you outlined exactly what additional information residents need to provide for setting up services your town or city provides like service hook-ups, building permits, business registrations, and other information new residents need?
Making sure all this information is current and available for residents will save your staff time and energy and streamline the process for community members, which, of course, makes them happy by providing excellent customer service.
Whatever the year brings, the communication and technology options will no doubt continue to expand and grow, and your town must grow with it to stay relevant. Make it a goal to bring your civic communication strategies and outreach programs in line with resident expectations.
Need some help? Give us a call and let us know what your challenges are (888-750-4556). We can help. Ask for Jim and tell him you want to talk about our Civic Webmaster services!
Posted by Bonnie Leedy, CEO