Maintaining local government relevancy in a social world

by Lee Hopkins on January 16, 2012

in strategy,tools

This communication world of ours is changing at a faster pace than ever before, principally brought about by the emergence of the social world. People can share ideas, philosophies, likes and hates at lightning speed, and most organisations are ill-resourced to be able to match the speed of information dissemination and discussion.

Local councils are not immune from the virus of change, either. Maintaining relevancy to one’s local constituents can be difficult when those constituents change how they prefer to be communicated with. Councils must adapt to maintain relevancy and authority; engagement with the social world is one key strategy many future-thinking councils are adopting to achieve this.

Whether it be a presence on Facebook, a profile on Twitter or space on YouTube, leading councils are actively working with their local communities to build web content of value, online content appreciated by consumers of the council’s services and employees of the council charged with disseminating information as widely and as effectively as possible.

But behind the use of Facebook, or Twitter, or Google Plus, or LinkedIn, or any number of other online communication platforms lies the need to develop a strategy for online engagement. Yes, these new social tools can be just ‘rolled out’ and live-tested; after all, just under half of Australia has a Facebook profile and contribute regularly so it is tempting to think that everyone knows how to behave online. But sensible councils are putting in place frameworks for engagement so that staff across the entire organisation know what is expected of them and how to respond when issues arise. Additionally, these councils are planning their communications outreach so that co-ordinated activity across the entire organisation occurs, whether just one person handles online communication or the entire organisation can engage in the relevant conversations.

The risks of not embracing this new world
The risks that councils face in not embracing these new communication tools are many, ranging from decreased relevance to their local community through to failure to effectively engage with their stakeholders. Alongside those two risks are others such as decreased employee engagement, decreased reputation amongst the local business and consumer communities, and increased staff turnover as employees vote about their employer’s diminishing reputation with their feet.

The benefits
Embracing the new communication tools in a sensible, strategic way can bring many benefits:

  • Enhanced reputation as a ‘leader’ within the local community;
  • Greater ‘Employer of Choice’ opportunities, allowing the council to attract and retain the brightest and best of their community’s young minds;
  • Greater reach of its messages;
  • Reduced cost of communication;
  • An opportunity to put its point of view across when turmoil and conflict arise in the social world;
  • Increased relevancy within the community; and
  • Greater ability to be able to influence and have a voice within the conversations that take place online about the council and the areas that the council reaches.

It’s no wonder that smart councils are working with communication experts to determine how best to enter into and maintain relevancy within the new online social world.

Will your council enter this new communication world with confidence or with trepidation? Because you will enter it at some stage, make no doubt. It makes sense to plan your entrance into the social world, doesn’t it?

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