6 Methods For Increasing Local Government Communication Efforts

Navigating marketing and communication in local government doesn’t have to be as tricky as everyone makes it seem.

So you’ve figured out what you want to market. Whether that’s an event, a class, a bill increase, or a newsletter – you’ve done the first step!

At this point, you’ve also determined the frequency of your communication or how often you want to get the message out. To help get provide value to the people you’re reaching out to, you’ve determined “why” you’re doing the outreach, and you’ve (ideally) found the right people that you’re wanting to target. Now you’re wondering how you should approach this information – which method you want to take in order to get the message across. That’s what this article is for. It’ll highlight:

  • Email communication
  • Social media tactics
  • Creating community forums
  • Holding events
  • Building a newsletter
  • Hosting a podcast

1. Email communication in local government

Over 4 billion people in the world use email. The ROI with email is better than any other source, sitting around $40 earned for every $1 spent. 60% of consumers say they’ve made decisions via emails they’ve received. 61% of consumers say that they like consistent promotional emails. With a small budget, emails are the most effective way to get information to your residents.

One of the best parts of email communications is being able to differentiate personas in the area’s demographics and create segments to tailor content more effectively. Being able to identify your audience is the most important part of sending emails. If your audience is young and active, they’re not going to want to hear information on social security and retirement. If you’ve segmented based on location, the residents on the east side of the area aren’t going to want to know “Things to do” on the west side. It’s important to break up the messaging in order to keep people engaged.

To piggyback off of the segmentation benefits, sending the right content to folks is crucial. Content that belongs in emails is short and to the point. You can add an attachment to your email, or link to an additional resource, just make sure it looks nice and the user experience is on point. Make sure the headline grabs attention and isn’t too long. Make sure to consider what you put in the “from” section in your email; oftentimes there’s a higher open rate if the email comes from a person (like the city manager) rather than a large entity.

There are plenty of tools to help with the content creation, segmentation, and automation of your emails. These tools have been designed to take time out of tedious or monotonous tasks like a weekly newsletter or sending a monthly bill. Tools like Hubspot and Mailchimp can be used for smaller agencies with not too much automation. However, tools like Marketo have robust capabilities and can assist with many points in the email communication process.

With every campaign that’s performed in the Marketing and Communications department, it’s important to have reports so you know what’s working and not working. Another way to figure out if people are engaging with your emails is to ask for feedback, whether that’s in person, in a survey, or through another platform. Make sure to always be learning how to improve your email communications if this is the route that you take.

Read more from Hubspot and Constant Contact.

2. Communication through social media in local government

Nearly 60% of the population in the world uses social media and around 80% of the population in North America does. On top of that, the average daily usage is around 2.5 hours! Do with this information as you will, but we suggest that you optimize your social media outreach.

Facebook’s reign on the social media world is still in full force. If you want to engage the most people, make your content centered around Facebook. Nearly 3 billion people worldwide are on the site, which probably means the majority of your residents have an account. YouTube is another social media platform that we believe is underutilized in local government. Organizing city council meetings or any other type of information video on the platform for residents to view on-demand is a great way to increase engagement. Some socials that don’t have as many users (but don’t discredit them) are Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Reddit.

The content that you want to put on these social platforms is even shorter than what you would want to put in an email. Think about what you want to see when you’re scrolling through social media. Are you looking for long posts with lots of information, or are you looking for headlines or a small statistic that will grab your attention? The way to approach social media is attempting to redirect residents and viewers to the website; Become a fun and engaging presence on social media in order to do this.

Just like with email communication, there are platforms, tools, and software to help organize and publish your content. These tools aren’t always necessary, but if you plan on increasing your social media efforts significantly, it might be a good idea to look into a tool that will help post on time. A couple of tools that you might want to look into are Hootsuite and Buffer. Both of them have similar capabilities, but make sure you pick the right tools for your goals.

As always, it’s important to get feedback from residents and make sure you follow up with them. Asking questions on social media like, “What type of content would you like to see” or ” How can we improve your engagement with our social media account” are straight to the point and will garner valuable information.

Check out more social media statistics with Smart Insights.

3. Communication in local government Community Forums

Real, authentic data and feedback are what you want in the results of your campaign efforts. Community forums are filled with real, authentic people. Being able to essentially talk one-on-one with some of the residents will provide better feedback than 100 poll results. Having deeper conversations and creating the transparency that people respect are just two main reasons to communicate with your residents through community and forums.

There are a couple of things you can do in order to build your forum. One thing that you can do is find sites that already make it easy to gather residents and have the dashboards in place for communication. Some sites include Facebook and Nextdoor; each providing longer keywords to play off of. Another thing that you can do is build your own community forum. WordPress has plugins and themes that allow you to build a platform for residents to create a profile, add posts, and enter conversations with fellow members of the public.

Creating a forum or community is one thing, but bringing people together for meaningful conversation is another. Encouraging people to participate in the community forum is the challenging part of building it, but if you’re able to provide specific and engaging content as mentioned in the Email Communication paragraph, you’ll gain and maintain the attention. Relevancy is what will hold a forum together because with the freedom of conversation, comes redirecting topics. Make sure your community director is able to keep everyone on track.

On top of relevant topics and engaging content, what makes a good community forum is the consistency behind it. When residents know that a conversation is happening on a specific day of the week or month, they’re more likely to tune in. Make sure there’s consistency around the content being produced as well. Because you’ve done such a good job at segmenting the audience, you should be able to have some keywords to consistently cater content around.

4. Communication through local government events

Whether you’re wanting to hold in-person events or virtual events, you’ll be able to hone in on the brand and voice that your municipality is strengthening. Events are exciting! The experience of an event is nothing that can be taken from an email, forum, social media, or any other method of your communication. The introduction of virtual events has broadened the capacity of municipal capabilities.

Virtual events have blossomed significantly since the beginning of the pandemic, which has allowed marketers and people who communicate to reach wider audiences. The key with virtual events is to keep the content engaging with quizzes, polls, or other interactive pauses in informational material. There are also in-person events that can be held. In-person events require much more detail in planning, but if executed correctly, will provide attendees with a better experience than they can get elsewhere. It’s all about the ROI in this case.

When organizing virtual events, you need to have a platform to have it on such as Zoom or GoToMeeting. You’ll need to coordinate with any speakers you have and make sure they’re able to make it. Once that’s completed, you’ll build the emails and landing pages for residents to sign up. Create templates for your structure and think carefully about the presentation of your content.

When organizing in-person events, a lot of things are similar such as coordinating speakers, but this time you’ll need to find a venue instead of a platform. You’ll still need to create emails that spread awareness of the event, but you don’t need to have landing pages for people to sign up. Organizing is different on both sides, so make sure you’re diligent in figuring out which type of event is good for you.

There’s no point in having an event if you don’t track and report the progress. Make sure you have tools like Marketo or Eventbrite to help track the progress. This way you’ll know which events your residents enjoy participating in.

5. Communication through a local government newsletter

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 81% of marketers use email newsletters as their most used form of content marketing and there’s a reason behind this. Nurturing residents is a great way to keep them engaged but not give them the burden of making any quick decisions. Newsletters are a channel to get residents lots of information without overwhelming them with an unnecessary amount of emails.

what makes a good newsletter – good content, consistency, design, interaction/links

The newsletter can’t just be filled with lots of information though. A good newsletter starts with good content, a captivating design, interactive links, and consistency. Refer back to the idea of relevancy when it comes to putting content in your newsletter – if summer is coming up, don’t put winter events in the newsletter. There are plenty of tools that will help you create a nice design for your website; many newsletter platforms have built-in templates for you to use. If you provide interactive links that cite your sources, you’ll gain more trust and have more people engage with your emails. And one of the most important parts of making a good newsletter is consistency. Residents are expecting you to deliver the newsletter when you say it, so whether it’s once a day, week, month, or year, make sure it’s on time and consistent.

A newsletter can be as long as you want it to be, just make sure you don’t fluff it up with unnecessary words. The type of content that usually goes into a local government newsletter is the promotion of events, highlighting awards, community initiatives, projects, open board/municipal positions, etc. Add some polls and surveys to get feedback from your residents – asking questions that will make your newsletters better in the future.

One of the more prominent tools in marketing is a tool to help send emails and newsletters. Platforms like Mailchimp, ConvertKit, Constant Contact, and Marketo provide templates to make the creation of your local government newsletter easier. On top of that, these tools will help you automate sending the newsletter to keep yourself consistent. Check out the article on tools and tech stacks to learn more about those.

(A couple of great local government newsletters to get ideas from are GovTech, CivicWell, and Governing)

6. Increasing communication on a local government podcast

Why is a podcast good?

Podcasts allow flexibility. When you’re driving, going for a jog, about to fall asleep, writing your next blog article, finishing up some paperwork, or literally anything else except for watching a tv show, you’re able to play a podcast. Give your residents the flexibility to listen to your news, interviews with employees or other residents, or local bands through a podcast. Nearly half of the US population listens to podcasts monthly, and that number is going to grow. Tap into that market with a podcast from your municipality.

Planning a podcast might be one of the simplest ways to get information out. Line up your topics in a way that flows and makes sense to the listener, and as always, add captivating content at the beginning to reel your audience in. Organizing guests on the podcast will provide different points of view and show some diversity. There’s no reason for your podcast to go over 30 min; ideally, it’s between 10-15 minutes.

(A couple of good local government podcasts to listen to are GovLove and Local Government Insights.)

Enhancing your local government communication efforts

Once you’ve found what you want to market, pick your outlet. Email, social media, community forums, events, newsletters, and podcasts are a couple to choose from! On top of that, make sure you’ve picked the right tech stack for your agency!

Find out what others are doing to communicate with their residents in your state’s community!

communication and marketing in local government