Citizen Engagement: Post Pandemic Outlook
More than a year has passed since the pandemic started, and we are now seeing the shift of everyday life slowly return back to normal. While this is great to see, it is important to recognize that the trends we saw during the midst of the pandemic are here to stay. Citizens are now more aware of their local government’s online presence, and many of them will continue to utilize the online tools or resources that they adopted during the pandemic.
With this in mind, the outlook for the future of citizen engagement is bright. There are a variety of options available to better connect with your community and they all involve the digital space.
Here are some tips to help you stay engaged and better connected with your community:
1. Optimize Your Website
Having an efficient and effective online presence can greatly improve your ability to engage with your citizens. Optimizing your website for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and enhancing its ease of navigation are key components to improving engagement.
When was the last time you did an audit of your website? Does it show relevant and easily accessible info on personnel, services, events, and news?
Each of these elements are critical pieces of information that citizens look for on a regular basis. They can search for this information directly via your website, social media, or an online search engine such as Google. If citizens search for topics about your municipality through Google, pieces of that information will need to be strategically implemented in order for your site to show up as a higher ranking in search results. This process of improving search visibility on Google and other search engines is known as SEO.
Ultimately, you want to be certain you are effectively capturing traffic from all venues to keep your constituents engaged and informed. Local government service providers, like Edmunds GovTech, offer solutions such as website audits and web design services to help improve the overall online presence of municipalities. If your website is not engineered for the aforementioned, then it may be ideal to re-evaluate your digital strategy.
2. Provide Accessibility
Accessibility is a key factor for communication and engagement in every industry. In this sense, are your citizens able to access the data they need without jumping through multiple hoops?
Online web portals and online payments saw a huge spike in usage throughout the pandemic. Municipalities who provided an effective solution for non-contact payments and remote access to resources cultivated positive outcomes that literally and figuratively paid off. Based on communications with our clients, we suspect this online adoption trend of these resources will only continue. Cloud hosting, online bill pay, and mobile apps are all tools that can be implemented to appease the demand for digital services. They can provide 24/7 access to resources for both your citizens and employees.
3. Educate Your Residents
Implementing online tools and making them accessible is important but educating residents who will use them may be the most crucial aspect of the process. The only way to truly maximize your citizen engagement is to educate, promote, and empower the utilization of these tools.
Consider the following:
- Create an easy-to-find button on your homepage linking to online bill pay and other online options
- Post the link to online bill pay on your department pages, or across your entire site by using a side bar or header option
- Develop a direct mailer, newsletter, bill insert, or email follow-up to your bills that highlights the ability to pay online
- Include information about the online options on your phone system and your customer service e-mail signatures
- Use social media to make residents aware of any online options that are being offered and how they can use them
Each of these options can also be tailored to promote any big news or events that are on the horizon for your municipality.
Citizen engagement is one of the paramount functions that can often be overlooked by local governments. Hopefully, these tips can help bolster your efforts to connect with your citizens.