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Communication and Government Sector.

by Ferry Bhatia
(Amritsar, India)

Strong communication in local government helps increase citizen trust. Building that trust will in turn help inspire citizens to become more engaged and more involved in their communities. As the relationship builds between governments and citizens, over time, community members will come to realize that their concerns matter.

Community engagement keeps citizens informed on the projects that affect their taxes and their lives. Citizens gain assurance that their local government is well-prepared to handle emergencies. Engagement also helps to inform voters about their choices at the polls.

While there are a multitude of ways for local governments to communicate — print, television, radio, online media, social media, text, and e-mail —, when considering channels, it’s also important to be consistent and create a ‘single source of truth’ for trust.

Remember the basics of good communication? Communication has three parts: the sender, the message and the receiver. Messages can easily be distorted or changed when noise interferes with the flow of the message between sender and receiver. The challenge for local governments is how to cut through the noise and get clear, effective messages across to the community.

In light of technology, good practices for communication are still evolving. As they continue to take shape, citizens want communication that's available, honest, responsive and genuine.

Communication through social media -

Social media outlets like Facebook can help get out important news like school closures, road detours, emergency power outages, floods, fires and other vital information.

Social media is often the first place citizens turn to when events and incidents occur. Unfortunately, this can also lead to rumors and inaccuracies, requiring local governments to post rebuttals about important issues.

In the event of a crisis or emergency, communication is vitally important. This is where your public website acts as a critical channel to get the truth out to the community, helping to keep rumors at bay and also avoid unnecessary panics.

By using your website as your single source of truth, this also helps to create trust between local governments and its citizens. The public will seek out your website in the future when they need information again.

Social media does also offer an opportunity for local governments to tap into communication with their citizens when something unexpected happens. We saw this in action when the Police Department Lip Sync Challenge went viral. Within weeks, police departments which were often joined by fire departments and other local government staff, who choreographed and taped videos to popular songs. The original idea was to show the general public that their first responders are just ordinary people who work at extraordinary jobs.

This is the kind of situation where local governments have an opportunity to be innovative and draw more attention to their local government websites. Local governments need to ask themselves: If this type of opportunity should present itself again, how can they use it to attract citizens to the other areas of the local government's work? How can they use this type of good public relations to reach their objectives?

Other channels local government can use for communication Just as technology is opening up new outlets for communication, one of the long-time communication channels, the local newspaper, is shutting down in many places. News is now highly accessible by electronic means, and hard copies of newspapers aren't as popular. Many local newspapers can no longer sustain themselves because of low sales.

Some local governments have dabbled in allowing citizens to serve as bloggers for their communities through the local government website. Other communities rely on a residents’ newsletter. For these types of initiatives to be successful, staff needs to share updated information so that writers can turn that into meaningful content for readers.

It’s also important to remember that communication is a two-way street, and local government entities must also listen to their constituents and create channels to allow feedback from them. Input from citizens is part of the diversity that helps local government councils make good decisions.

Training on Communications -

To make communications strong between the local government and its citizens, staff members need training on how to be effective with their communications. They must also know what the expectations are for managing social media and other types of communications. Communication today has moved away from writing a byline for the local paper or sending out a press release.

New communication channels such as newsletters, blogs and social media outlets also bring a measure of accuracy and accountability with them.

Using board management software for communication
Board management software can play a significant role in helping local councils communicate more effectively with citizens by providing a streamlined and transparent communication channel. Here's how:

Enhanced accessibility: Board management software typically offers a user-friendly interface accessible via the internet. This allows citizens to access important council information, documents, and updates from anywhere, improving accessibility for all residents, including those with mobility challenges.

Public portal: Many board management platforms like Diligent Community include a public portal where citizens can find meeting agendas, minutes, policies, and other pertinent information. This transparent access promotes open governance and allows citizens to stay informed.

Real-time updates: Citizens can receive real-time notifications and updates on council meetings, decisions, and developments through the software. This keeps residents informed about important matters as they unfold.

Online comment and feedback: Board management software will often allow citizens to submit comments, feedback, and questions related to council meetings and agendas. This promotes engagement and enables citizens to voice their concerns or ideas easily.

Meeting streaming: Some platforms offer the capability to livestream council meetings or provide recordings for citizens who cannot attend in person. This increases accessibility and allows citizens to participate remotely.

Agenda notifications: Citizens can subscribe to receive notifications about upcoming council meetings and agendas, ensuring that they are aware of important topics and can plan their participation accordingly.

Search and archive functionality: With search and archive functions, citizens can easily find specific information or past records, fostering transparency and accountability.

Data security: Board management software ensures the security and integrity of citizen data and communications, giving residents confidence that their information is protected.

Board management software provides local councils with a powerful platform to improve communication with citizens, enhance transparency, and foster greater civic engagement.

By offering user-friendly, accessible, and real-time tools, councils can connect with their communities more effectively and efficiently, ultimately building trust and strengthening the relationship between the council and its residents.

Learn more about Diligent Community and how it can help support your local government communications.


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