Municipal Communication in Times of Crisis
Municipal governments communicate with their residents in a variety of ways: paper newsletters, social media channels, digital newsletters and website announcements. Sometimes it’s a coordinated effort and sometimes not.
The importance of a coordinated municipal communication plan becomes self evident during a crisis and unfortunately, this is also a time when municipal administrators are stretched to the limit.
Crisis updates from county, state and federal agencies are being sent to municipal employees with intense frequency while municipal departments that are essential still need to need to function normally. Municipal employees find themselves attempting to keep up with normal daily activities while managing a robust crisis communication plan.While assisting our clients with their communication efforts during the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, we’ve come up with some solutions that help make communication efforts both coordinated and more efficient. Here are some things we’ve found have worked as we navigate crisis communications:
- Keep your website updated. Update event cancellations, trash and recycling schedules and meeting cancellations.
- Set up a Coronavirus landing page or pages on your municipal website. This can be used as a repository for information as you receive it from local, county, state and federal government.
- The first page content should be general information about COVID-19 with links to more information from reliable government sources.
- The second page of your Coronavirus micro-site (the “Latest Updates” page) can store your news flash/alert RSS feed. When you receive government updates regarding the crisis, post to your news feed with a category (ex. coronavirus) and embed that category’s RSS feed on your updates page. This will enable you to post once and list twice on the website (on your news alert section and your coronavirus updates page). Most website developers would be able to help you with this.
- Post updates to social media often – now is a good time to subscribe to a social media posting software like Hootsuite. It will make your job easier.
- Link back to the information on your new Coronavirus micro-site or to the source site (county, state or federal).
- Pin posts to the top of your Facebook page if they are important announcements.
- Boost posts if you would like more people to see it. We suggest setting your audience at your municipality plus 10 miles for all ages and genders. You don’t need to spend more than $25 to $50 on a boosted post and we suggest running it for 2 to 5 days.
- Keep Digital or Paper Newsletters on schedule. If you have a newsletter, residents are accustomed to receiving it regularly. Even though the latest crisis news will probably take precedence, you can still include other news and event cancellations.
- Try not to over-email. Emailed News Alerts are a great tool but try not to overuse them. It’s important to keep your email lists intact. Over-emailing can cause opt out. Posting to the website and social media sites are the best tools for frequent communication.
We know from working with our clients that municipal employees and officials work hard every day and are working harder during this crisis. We also know that every single one of them serves to keep government running and for the good of their local residents. Please keep them in mind as we all weather the coronavirus crisis.