Cerkl Broadcast
Cerkl Broadcast

Building Bridges: A Guide to Local Government Communications

Are local government communications different from company comms? A vital difference is that local governments can use comms to build bridges! Here’s how.
Written by: Penny Swift
Local Government Communications
Published: June 12, 2024
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Local government faces a dynamic environment, and strong internal communication isn’t optional — it’s essential. A diverse workforce, intricate projects, and constantly evolving priorities demand a well-informed, engaged team aligned with an overall vision. 

While crucial, achieving this effective communication can be challenging. Local governments juggle a multitude of tasks, from managing public policies and programs to keeping residents informed. 

Of course, national or federal governments also have challenges. But their focus is completely different. And there are a heck of a lot more local governments than there are federal or national. In the U.S. alone, there are at least 18,000 cities, towns, and villages that are represented by local governments, versus just one federal government. 

Muhammad Farhan Aslam tells it like it is. A senior communication, marketing, and engagement consultant in the UK, he talks about the “unique hurdles” local government faces in internal communication. In an article published on LInkedIn in May 2024, Building Bridges Within: Developing a Successful Internal Communications Strategy for Local Government, he points out that to build the bridge, it is essential to follow a multi-pronged approach. 

“A well-crafted internal communications strategy empowers local government employees, fosters collaboration, and drives organizational success. By understanding the context, tailoring messages, and embracing best practices, local authorities can create a cohesive and informed workforce. This, in turn, leads to better services for the citizens they serve.”

Muhammad Farhan Aslam

In our post, we are focusing on local governments. Our aim is to provide a comprehensive roadmap for effective communication, both internally within the local government workforce and externally with the public each local government serves.

Whether you’re a seasoned local government communicator or just starting out, this guide will equip you with the tools and knowledge to bridge communication gaps and empower your team.

Local government communications

What is Local Government Communications?

Local government communications is the process by which cities, towns, and counties share information with their workforce and the general public. This encompasses a two-way street:

  1. disseminating important updates and initiatives 
  2. fostering dialogue and feedback from residents and businesses

Key aspects include keeping the public informed, engaging with residents, building trust, and internal communications

Informing the Public

A local government uses communication to share essential information with residents. This may include a wide range of issues including upcoming events, changes in policies, road closures, emergency alerts, public health updates, and announcements about community projects.

Engaging with Residents

Communication goes beyond just informing people. A local government uses various channels to encourage resident participation. This can involve soliciting feedback through surveys, hosting town hall meetings, or using social media to answer questions and address concerns.

Building Trust 

Effective communication helps build trust between a local government and its constituents. By being transparent and accessible, local governments can demonstrate their responsiveness to the needs of the community. Of course, effective communication also helps to build trust within a local government, with stakeholders and employees. 

Internal Communication

It’s not just about external communication and external audiences. Strong communication within a local government itself is crucial for efficient operations. This includes information flow between departments, keeping employees informed about policies and goals, and promoting collaboration on projects.

Local government communications

What Do We Mean by “Building Bridges”? 

In the context of local government, building bridges refers to the process of establishing and maintaining strong relationships between local government and its stakeholders. This includes citizens, businesses, and community organizations, and the aim is to foster trust, understanding, and collaboration. By building bridges, local governments can create a sense of community, address community needs, and promote economic development and social cohesion.

The Importance of Effective Communication in Local Government

Strong communication builds trust and transparency between a local government and the people it serves, both internally and externally. 

Effective communication also leads to greater citizen and employee engagement. When residents and staff feel informed and valued, they’re more likely to participate in public meetings, volunteer their time, and hold their elected officials accountable. This collaborative approach fosters a stronger sense of community and empowers residents and employees to be active participants in shaping their local government.

Building Your Local Government Communications Strategy

For those who are building a local government communications strategy or local government communications plan, here are a few steps to consider. 

Defining Your Goals: What Do You Want to Achieve?

The first step in establishing a successful communication strategy is to identify your goals

Do you want to increase public awareness of a new recycling program? Should you improve internal communication and employee morale? 

You can be sure that clearly defined goals will provide a roadmap for crafting your messaging and choosing the most effective communication channels. So, define them sooner rather than later. 

Identifying Your Audiences: Internal and External Stakeholders

Local governments serve a diverse range of audiences

Internally, your workforce needs clear and consistent information about policies, procedures, and upcoming changes. Externally, you’ll communicate with residents, businesses, the media, and other government agencies. 

Tailoring your messaging and choosing appropriate channels for each audience is key to successful communication.

Crafting Clear and Consistent Messaging

Effective communication hinges on clear, concise messaging. Use plain language, avoid jargon, and focus on the “why” behind every initiative you launch. Consistency is also crucial. Develop a style guide to ensure messaging remains consistent across all platforms, fostering brand recognition and trust.

How to Develop a Local Government Communications Plan

Effective communication is the backbone of local government. It enables officials to engage with citizens, stakeholders, and the media to share information, build trust, and promote transparency. A well-crafted communications plan is essential for local governments to effectively convey their message, respond to public inquiries, and demonstrate accountability. 

Let’s explore a few steps you can use to develop a comprehensive local government communications plan.

Choosing the Right Channels for Your Message

The way you communicate with your audience depends on who you’re trying to reach and what information you’re sharing. Traditional methods like press releases and public meetings remain important. However, the rise of digital communication has opened up new, much more effective avenues. Utilize your website, social media platforms, and email newsletters to share updates and engage with residents.

Leveraging Technology with Local Government Communications Software

In today’s digital age, leveraging technology is crucial for local governments to streamline their communications and enhance citizen engagement. By adopting specialized communications software, a local government can automate and optimize its communication processes, improve transparency, and enhance the overall citizen experience.

Benefits of Using Communication Software

Local government communications software streamlines communication efforts, improves efficiency, and allows for targeted messaging. These platforms offer features like content management systems, automated scheduling, and analytics dashboards that help track engagement and measure the success of your campaigns.

Key Features to Look For

When choosing a local government communications software, consider features like:

  • Ease of Use: The platform should be user-friendly for both experienced communicators and non-technical staff.
  • Security: It’s vital to ensure that the software meets industry security standards to protect sensitive data.
  • Customization: The ability to tailor content and workflows to your specific needs is crucial. Make certain the platform you choose allows customization. 
  • Integration: Look for software that integrates with existing tools used by your government, like CRMs and content management systems.

Creating a Content Calendar and Schedule

Developing a content calendar helps ensure a steady flow of information and keeps your audience engaged. Plan your messages in advance, scheduling posts and updates to coincide with relevant events or initiatives.

Local government communications

Best Practices for Engaging Your Workforce and Stakeholders

Effective engagement is critical for local governments to build trust, foster collaboration, and drive results. By implementing best practices, a local government can unlock the full potential of its employees and partners. Here are some tips. 

Foster Two-Way Communication to Build Trust and Understanding

Open and honest communication is essential for building trust with your workforce and the public. Encourage feedback through surveys, town hall meetings, and social media engagement. Actively listen to concerns and address them in a timely manner.

Utilize Internal Communication Channels Effectively

A well-informed workforce is a more productive and engaged workforce. Utilize internal communication channels like email newsletters, staff meetings, and employee portals to keep your team up-to-date on important news, deadlines, and upcoming events. Recognize employee achievements and foster a sense of community within your organization.

Engage with External Stakeholders

External stakeholders include residents, businesses, and the local media. Make sure you engage with them all. Proactive communication with residents and other stakeholders builds trust and fosters a sense of community. 

Provide clear and accessible information about government services, upcoming projects, and public safety alerts. Utilize a mix of communication channels, including social media, public forums, and local media outlets, to reach residents and other stakeholders where they are.

Local government communications

Evaluating Your Communications Efforts

Evaluating the effectiveness of local government communication efforts is crucial. It is what you need to identify areas of success and opportunities for improvement. It’s also vital to allow for data-driven decisions and strategic adjustments to optimize outcomes. 

By regularly assessing and refining communications strategy, local governments can ensure that their efforts are aligned with their goals and priorities. Ultimately, this means they will be able to make a meaningful impact on their community.

Measuring Success by Tracking Metrics and KPIs

Tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) is crucial for measuring the success of all communication efforts. Depending on your goals, relevant metrics might include website traffic, social media engagement, resident survey results, and attendance at public meetings. Regularly analyzing this data will give you insights into what’s working and what needs improvement for the local government you represent.

Adapting Your Strategy Based on Results

Communication is an ongoing process. By tracking your KPIs and analyzing feedback, you can identify areas for improvement and adapt your strategy accordingly. This iterative approach will ensure your communication efforts remain relevant and effective in a constantly evolving landscape.

How Cerkl Broadcast Can Help Local Governments

We know that cities and townships are increasingly recognizing the value of using communication platforms to facilitate internal collaboration and external engagement with residents. This is reflected in their high rate of use case expansion, which refers to the growing adoption of these platforms across various departments and teams within the organization.

“We find that cities and townships have a very high rate of use case expansion,” says Maddy Rieman, Head of Customer Success at Cerkl. “They see value in using us both internally and externally with their residents and other parties.” 

Internal Benefits

Internally, local governments are using communication platforms to improve communication and collaboration among employees, departments, and teams. They find them extremely effective for enhancing transparency and accountability because they can provide a centralized hub for information and updates. A well-designed, omnichannel platform like Broadcast streamlines workflows and processes, reducing errors and increasing efficiency. It also helps to foster a culture of open communication and collaboration.

External Benefits

Externally, local governments are using communication platforms to engage with residents and stakeholders through social media, email newsletters, and other digital channels. They use them to provide timely updates and information about municipal services, projects, and initiatives. They can encourage resident participation and feedback through surveys, comment sections, and other interactive tools. Ultimately, Broadcast can help a local government build trust and credibility by being transparent and responsive to resident concerns and inquiries via its communication platform.   

The Benefits of Cerkl Broadcast 

The Broadcast platform serves as a centralized hub for all communication assets and can be used for both internal and external comms. Its omnichannel capability is particularly effective because employees and members of the public can access communications wherever they are. 

Broadcast’s Email Blasts will enable a local government to streamline time-sensitive communications. News Digests offers the opportunity to send personalized news to employees and residents, keeping them up-to-date with what’s important. 

The platform offers great content scheduling features and enables personalized content delivery at scale. You can segment your audience based on criteria including department, role, or location. This facilitates precise targeting in communication planning across the board.

Broadcast’s feedback and analytics tools will get any local government entity, department, or team the data they need in real time.  

This is just a taste of what the platform offers. We’d love to tell you more and see what we can do for your local government communications. 

What’s Next?

Our advice to a local government is essentially the same as it is for any organization, be it a national healthcare institution or a corporate banking group. You need to realize just how important communications are. 

Our free audit will enable you to assess your options and improve your way forward absolutely free.   

FAQ

What is the role of government communications?

The role of government communications is to effectively convey information to the public, stakeholders, and employees about the policies, programs, and services of the government. The aim is to help to build trust, transparency, and accountability. Effective government communications can also help to promote civic engagement, foster community involvement, and support the overall mission of the local government.

How do local governments communicate?

Local governments typically communicate internally through a variety of channels. These include email, intranet, departmental meetings, town hall meetings, and collaboration software. They communicate publicly via social media, websites, newsletters, public meetings, and community events. Many local governments also use traditional media outlets such as newspapers and local television stations. Additionally, they may also use targeted outreach efforts, such as door-to-door canvassing, or targeted mailings, to reach specific segments of the community.

Why is strong communication important in local government?

Strong communication is important in local government because it helps to build trust and credibility with the public. This is essential for effective governance and community engagement. By providing clear and timely information, local governments can help to address concerns, alleviate fears, and promote understanding, ultimately leading to more informed and engaged citizens who are better equipped to participate in democratic processes.

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