The amount of COVID-19 news and information available from media entities, brands, and social media connections is staggeringly overwhelming. While most are comfortable turning to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) for official, national and global virus progression updates, the essential information that most people want is the kind that answers the burning questions how does this affect me, what is the impact in my community, and am I at risk? For that, citizens are turning to their local governments.
If up until this point, your news, information, and updates have also been disjointed and disparate, your citizens may not feel confident that they know all the latest updates, restrictions, and government mandates. There may also be a more significant disconnect between your administration and your citizens. In your efforts to push out critical news and instructions at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic, with your doors closed, how much information have you taken in from your citizens? If your social distancing efforts have created barriers to your typically open dialog with your citizens, then you not only need a centralized portal for pushing updates out, but that resource needs mechanisms to pull sentiments, questions, concerns, and feedback back into your administration.
To help you break free from COVID-19 communication complexities and archetype a single portal to serve as a central hub of digital information-sharing and dialog with your citizens, follow these best practices.
Set Up a Dedicated Information Hub
Create a single, mobile-optimized page to consolidate all your COVID-19 news, guidance, education, and resources. If possible, add the page temporarily to your website’s top-level navigation. Use a succinct and straightforward page title such as “City Name COVID-19” that will help citizens easily find your information when using a search engine like Google or Bing.
Keep Content Relevant
Add only relevant, hyper-local content to your resources page. For national trends, resources, and statistics, point citizens to national resources such as the WHO and the CDC. Examples of critical local information that citizens are seeking now include:
- Isolation mandates that apply to your municipality
- Changes to local business hours or clarification as to what businesses are considered essential at this time
- Real-time data, such as the number of active COVID-19 cases in your community, how many patients have recovered, and how many have died
- Where and how to obtain a COVID-19 test, and who is eligible
- How to donate to or support local health care entities
- How to file for unemployment or apply for stimulus funding
Include Dynamic Content
To improve readability and engagement, make your page dynamic by adding maps, relevant images that are not frightening or likely to increase feelings of fear, and videos. Valuable video content includes footage from the latest press release from your mayor or county executive, updating citizens on the current situation.
Incorporate Engagement Mechanisms
In the same space that you offer your citizens information, ask them for their feedback in return. Embed a relevant survey or engagement mechanism into your portal so that citizens can feel connected to their local leaders and empowered to ask questions. Such modalities may include surveys, moderated citizen forums, or open feedback submission forms.
For local governments that want to ensure social distancing does not create artificial barriers between leaders and citizens, we offer access to the Civil Space public consultation platform. Civil Space’s unique engagement and collaboration solution enables local governments to efficiently and effectively educate citizens on current issues, and gauge public interest, sentiments, concerns, and excitement for the topics that will most impact their community from annual budgeting to development projects and everything in between. Click here to learn more information.
Link to Your Portal Page from Your Municipal Website’s Homepage
Local governments saw their website traffic peak the past few weeks as citizens started seeking out local information and updates. Make it as simple as possible for your citizens to find your dedicated page by adding a banner, hello bar, pop-up, or primary image directly on your homepage that directs those looking for COVID-19 content to your single resource.
For more information about how to communicate with your citizens effectively during your pandemic response, download our Crisis Management and Communications Planning Template.