The Hottest Communication Trends Public Information Officers Need to Know

Written by Jessica Marabella

From live video to 311 and citizen request management, these communication trends are changing how local governments engage with their citizens.
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If your local government communication goals involve leveraging the latest tools and technology to keep up with current trends, then we have everything you need to start planning for 2018. The past decade has seen a significant paradigm shift in the ways that local governments communicate with citizens thanks to the proliferation of mobile technology and the widespread adoption of social media. You can expect mobile and social to continue to be necessary underlying channels in 2018 but you should also prepare for 2018 to be all about live video, transparency in citizen requests, internally developed news content, and enterprise mobility.

Live Video

Video has been one of the most effective tools for engaging citizens for the past several years. Communities like Hardeeville South Carolina have been using video sharing services such as Vimeo to share recorded videos of council meetings, while other communities, such as James City County, VA, are creating their own video news segments on topics that impact their communities, and are sharing them via YouTube.


James_City_County_YouTube_in_Frame.pngIn 2018 we expect to see a big trend in more communities experimenting with live video streaming services, such as Facebook Live and Periscope, as well as solutions that allow the embedding of live video directly within civic websites.These tools allow you to live broadcast community events as they happen to social media followers. Consider the benefits of live sharing council meetings, holiday parades, community sporting events, and concerts. Such immediate and powerful engagement tools will help citizens feel that they are a part of their community, no matter how busy their schedules.

Immediacy and Transparency of Citizen Requests

Thanks to the immediacy of social media, the proliferation of mobile technology, and the convenience of wi-fi, today’s citizens have a desire and an expectation for immediate access to information and resources. Serving citizens at a high level has always been a foremost priority for local government, but what’s changing is the visibility and immediacy expected of such transactions. For today’s citizens, it’s no longer enough to make a request by phone and wait for a resolution. Thanks to big brands such as Dominoes and Amazon that provide total visibility into the product delivery process, today’s citizens want a level of transparency and follow-up that typically has only ever been seen in the B2C space.



This is why we’re seeing an increasing number of communities relying on citizen request management tools to provide greater visibility and transparency into citizen requests and help administrations ensure the timeliness of resolutions.

If you’re not familiar with citizen request management, it’s an online reporting tool that gathers, organizes, and distributes citizen requests and issues—opening the lines of communication between citizens and their government. From an administrative perspective, such solutions offer civic leaders an automated, integrated, and intuitive system to manage citizen requests, which reduces phone calls and walk-ins. From a citizen’s perspective, they prove that civic leaders are responsive to their needs while providing a level of transparency and visibility that today’s citizens expect.

For example, the City of Anaheim, CA uses a very robust and specific citizen request management system they have made available on desktop and mobile. In Anaheim, citizens can add the area of concern to a map, take a photo, and most importantly they can follow the resolution through to completion.


Internally Developed News Content

The next trend comes in direct response to the declining trend of traditional media. Since 2008, newsroom staff numbers have hit a double-digit decline, which means local governments aren’t getting the same amount of coverage they used to when sending press releases to local and regional traditional media publications.

What we’ve started to see, and what we’re expecting to see more of in 2018, are more communities creating their own PR and leveraging social media, email, and their own civic websites to serve as their distribution channels.

If your community isn’t getting the level of coverage it used to from traditional media outlets, it’s time to create your own. For example, create video news segments by investing in a camera and getting out in the community. You can even use a smartphone and an intern if budget is a concern; the most important thing is to share with your community members the news and information that will impact them in meaningful ways. Consider news stories on topics that range from local event coverage to community safety tips.

For example, the city of Hallandale Beach, FL has been highly successful in creating its own news and educational content, sharing it via YouTube, and embedding recent videos right on their homepage.


Hallandale_Beach_Safety_YouTube_in_Frame.pngAs another example of creating your own news and distribution channels, Athens Clarke-County, GA is using a series of weekly and monthly opt-in, geo-targeted emails and text messages to keep citizens informed about development projects that impact their neighborhood. The emails include links to more in-depth information on its website, such as calendars, maps, photos, and meeting agendas. Click to learn more about Athens-Clarke County’s Neighborhood Notification Initiative program.

Enterprise Mobility

Since 2014, mobile digital media time has surpassed time spent on a desktop computer. While it’s no surprise that the most popular app used on a mobile device is Facebook, it should also be no surprise that Americans use their smartphones and tablets for more than personal correspondence and social networking.

Consider these enterprise mobility statistics:

  • According to TopRank Marketing, 64% of decision-makers read their e-mail on a mobile device.
  • According to Fliplet, 60% of workers use apps for work-related activity
  • 53% of those who work on a mobile device say it helps them do their job better
  • 25% of workers use department-specific apps for such business activities as:
    • Event support
    • Marketing campaigns
    • Financial reporting
    • Training
    • Creating proposals
    • Product management
    • Project management

The reason we’re expecting a surge in enterprise mobility, or ubiquitous computing specifically for local government in 2018, is due to the fact that we’re seeing a tipping point in advancements in mobile device technology and enterprise applications. A greater number of software solutions are developing accompanying apps that allow workers in both the private and public sector to seamlessly utilize a system, work on a project, or collaborate with a team, from anywhere, on any device.

Ubiquitous access to work applications and projects is especially beneficial for those public sector managers and workers whose positions require mobility.

Municipal communication managers, for example, rarely spend full days in their offices. They are at community events, in meetings, and being interviewed by the media. That’s why they need access to files and systems throughout the day, no matter where they are.

Today, a public information officer for a community can start creating a press release on a desktop computer in the afternoon, finish the same document on a tablet while waiting for a meeting to start in a building across town, and edit the same document later that night while riding the commuter train home.

Using mobile applications that allow access to a website content management system (CMS), communication managers can post photos and videos of events to social media as they happen, share immediate breaking news, post blogs during town hall meetings, keep voters informed on election day, and even update their website’s content management system from anywhere, and on any device.