Today’s digitally-minded citizens are putting down newspapers and turning off cable, while picking-up smart phones and turning on tablets. Your local government website is a critical tool to providing citizens with the information they want and need about what’s going on in their community. That’s why, when it comes to your civic website, content is king. Read on to learn the important role that your website plays in your citizen engagement strategy, and how to fully leverage its potential.
Content Establishes Your Digital Credibility
Even though your citizens already consider their civic leaders to be local experts, you’ll want them to consider your civic website as a reliable, civic resource. The more content you publish to your website, the better it will rank with search engines. As a result, citizens searching for local news, information, events, and resources, will be more likely to navigate to it for the answers they want. Continually publishing content to your civic website allows you produce content that targets citizens and informs them about everything your community has to offer. Click here to read how James City County, VA refreshed its image with a website redesign,
Civic Tip: Make sure your website’s content includes the mission and vision of your community, any short or long-term strategic plans you have in place, the history of your community, and any other cultural information that makes your community unique. This type of hyper-local content is always engaging and relevant.
Content Increases Website Visits
Your website engagement strategy should be two-fold. First, encourage all citizens to visit your municipal website, and second, encourage all citizens to visit your municipal website multiple times. The best way to not only increase your total visitors, but increase the frequency of their visits, is to constantly add content, which gives citizens a reason to keep returning. Click here to read how Durham, NC increased traffic with an informed website redesign strategy.
Use Content to Set the Tone
Your community has a personality and a vibe all its own. It’s truly its own brand, so add content to your website that establishes the character of your community. Make sure that no matter how many administrators are adding content to your website, that all copy is written in the same tone, or brand voice, to ensure a consistent experience for citizen.
A key piece of information your citizens are going to expect to find on your local government website are transparency documents. Make sure meeting minutes, agendas, financial records, budgets, and other documents are easy to find. Also, make sure that past months and years’ documents are equally easy to find and access.
You shouldn’t feel that adding content to your website means constantly writing articles. Adding dynamic, visual content is just as important when it comes to creating an engaging civic experience. Remember to use high-quality, authentic images on every relevant page. Create photo galleries of photos from local events, such as the County Fair, or the annual town school supply drive. Click here for tips on choosing the most engaging photos for your website.
Civic Tip: Promote citizen submitted photography. Some of the best photos of your community are likely being taken by your citizens. Encourage them to submit photos and share them throughout your local government website.
Even more engaging than photos, is video. Add recorded videos of local events and meetings so that citizens unable to attend in person can still feel like they were able to experience them. One of the biggest trends in digital communications is the use of live video. A great way to engage citizens and increase (remote) participation, is to incorporate live videos of meetings and events and display them right on your civic website.
For example, using CP Media, clients can easily incorporate recorded and live videos anywhere on their websites—no advanced technical knowledge required. For example, Shelby County, Tennessee produces Mayor’s videos and posts them to its civic website. It’s both a personal and engaging way to connect with citizens.
Civic Tip: If you’re worried that with limited resources, you won’t be able to produce as much content as you’d like to make your website as engaging as possible, consider partnering with other local organizations to produce content together. Work with your chamber of commerce, school district, county library, or zoo and ask them to write blogs, submit photos, and send you press releases to share on your civic website.
Aggregate and Distribute Content
To maximize the visibility of the content you produce, distribute a monthly, subscription-based newsletter to citizens. Include your most important and engaging content, such as the month’s mayor’s blog, updates on the recent development project, photos of the town Christmas Tree lighting, and information about the upcoming town hall meeting. Click here to read how Athens-Clarke County, GA is keeping citizens informed with targeted newsletters.
With proper tools, you don’t need to outsource the design of your monthly e-newsletter. CivicEngage® Send is the powerful CivicEngage communication creation and distribution module that allows local governments to create and send newsletters and other communications to subscribed citizens. It saves time and streamlines communication management processes, helping busy government leaders produce e-newsletters quickly and easily using pre-defined templates.
Don’t Forget to Share on Social Media
Another way to give your communications extra reach is to share them on social media. Blogs, videos,
photo galleries, and links to the latest meeting minutes, are all pieces of content your social media followers will want to see. Always make sure to include photos with your posts to make sure they stand out in cluttered social media streams, and be sure to link back to your civic website where your citizens can learn more information.
CivicEngage® Send, the powerful CivicEngage® communication creation and distribution module, can help you manage your social media, and other citizen messages. CivicEngage Send allows you to send multi-channel communications from one easy-to-use platform.
How to Get Started with a New Website
If you’re in the process of building a new website, or redesigning your current website, and are worried you don’t have enough content right now to get noticed by search engines, don’t worry. Simply develop a strategy to develop content over time using a planned content calendar. Also, if you are a communications team of one, or only a few, you may be able to lean on your government website designer for assistance.