The One Tool to Help You Grow Citizen Trust

Written by Megan Asikainen

Honesty and transparency are the keys to building trust between local governments and citizens.

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Checklist: Don't Make These 9 Mistakes When Live Streaming Public Meetings

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What makes a person trustworthy? Behavioral science tells us that trustworthy people are honest. What makes a company trustworthy? Marketing expert Neil Patel says that to create a trustworthy brand, its leaders must open their doors and let the customer in. “Allow your customer to be part of your process…Take steps to give your customers the opportunity to see that your brand is honest and worthy of their trust.”

If honesty and transparency are the keys to trust among people and businesses, it should be no surprise to learn that they are also the keys to building trust between local governments and citizens.

At a time when many municipal office doors are still closed, and federal leaders are attempting to heal party divides, how can local governments let citizens into their process and showcase their genuine commitment to their community? The answer is as simple as turning on a camera.

Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, when communities had to shift to virtual meetings to meet their state and local open meeting requirements, they’ve been experiencing an unexpected advantage. Their open meetings are even more open.

A Matter of Trust

Virtual meetings provide better transparency, access, opportunities for citizen input, and equity. They eliminate many of the common barriers to in-person participation, such as schedules, commutes, and mobility issues, amplifying the number of concerned and engaged citizens who can attend. For those meetings with a public commenting component, greater participation means a greater diversity of opinion, allowing local leaders to prove their concern for every citizen’s ideas and suggestions. These personal interactions with local leaders help citizens see that their community leaders are genuine, honest, and trustworthy.

Participation and Transparency

Virtual meetings are also inherently transparent. Citizens have always known that they have access to attend public meetings, but the realities of the process have never before been front and center in their engagement content. Suddenly, citizens are now seeing recordings or live videos of public meetings appear in their Facebook streams—the same communication channel that many rely on for news and local information. Technology has made civic participation as easy as one-click on a push notification and has elevated local government transparency to an invaluable level.

A Strengthened Relationship Between Citizens and Local Government

Virtual meeting technology helps local governments show transparency, engage honestly, and build citizen trust at a critical time in our history. For the first time in many young citizens’ lives, they are looking to their local government daily for help, resources, and information. The ongoing pandemic means citizens want information from their local leaders on cases, local impact, business and social restrictions, the availability of COVID-19 testing centers, and most importantly, now, vaccine availability.

For citizens to watch their local leaders participating in the most democratic of processes—decision making—they feel a sense of trust in the essence of government and develop a new appreciation for what it means to be engaged in their community.

Leveraging Virtual Meeting Technology to Grow Citizen Trust

Click here to learn more about facilitating virtual council meetings and the kinds of technology capabilities you’ll need in your long-term solution. If you are concerned about the video recording process’s very technical aspects, click here for tips on producing professional-quality public meeting videos without hiring a professional videographer.

Our final piece of advice for clerks and local government difference-makers searching for opportunities to grow citizen trust is to show that your government is honest and open. Open your virtual doors and let citizens into your process. Don’t let fears of technology implementations and costs be a hurdle to leveraging the greatest tool available to help you grow citizen trust. If you need help implementing a custom meeting and video management solution for your local government, contact CivicPlus® and ask about our CivicClerk® and CivicPlus Media solutions today.