Top 2017 Communication Trends for Public Information Officers

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 2017. 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 hot topics in 2017 but you should also prepare for 2017 to be all about live video, transparency, security, and emergency preparedness.

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.

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In 2017 we expect to see a big trend in more communities experimenting with live video streaming services, such as Facebook Live and Periscope. 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.

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Transparency

While local governments have been required for decades to ensure citizen access to open data, this concept has exploded over the past several years due to advances in technology and the expectations of citizens for information to be easily accessible via the Internet. After a year that saw repeated leaks of classified documents, and reports revealing dipping levels of confidence in government leadership, the ripples of such events are bound to trickle down to local government.

In 2017, we predict that public information officers (PIOs) will be more frequently challenged by citizens to ensure convenient and immediate access to such government transparency documents as financial reports, meeting minutes, and council meeting agendas. To keep up with citizen expectations without burdening your administrative staff, ensure you have a solution in place that will allow citizens to self-service the majority of their requests for transparency documents.

For example, the Village of Kenilworth, IL offers citizens intuitive, and well-organized lists of recent transparency documents, including financial information, annual reports, audit reports, fee schedules, permit information, committee meeting minutes, and agendas via its civic website. Such ease of document access facilitates a sense of confidence and trust among citizens for their local leaders, while mitigating instances of phone calls and walks-in requests for reports that are not even easily accessible by internal staff.

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Does your current website enable convenient and intuitive access to documents and other important informance? Request a free third-party website performance evaluation report to see how your current website measures in categories such as missing links, readability, and mobility.

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A Greater Focus on Website Security

2016 has felt like the year of the cyberattack. Mega-corporations, hospitals, police departments, and local governments have all made headlines for having their website security, and private data, threatened by hackers looking to make a profit or a political statement. A growing form of cyber invasion has seen cyber-age extortionists using ransomware software to hijack computer systems, holding them hostage while demanding a ransom payment. These hackers are increasingly preying upon local governments, hospitals, and even police departments, while forcing officials to decide whether to meet demands or risk losing their data. 

In 2017, plan to check-in with your Information Technology Department or third party security solution partner to validate the security of the digital solutions that you use regularly. Any government content management solution (CMS) that houses citizen data, or that you use to communicate externally on a mass level, could be at risk for hackers. This could include, for example, your website CMS, email newsletter or notification solution, third party data form provider, social media networks, or ePayment solution provider.To ensure your community and your citizen’s personal information is protected against the growing threat of cyber invasion, plan to make the security of your communication tools a priority in 2017. Read our previous blog to learn more about protecting your local government website from being held hostage by hackers.

Emergency Preparedness

2016 saw too many breaking news alerts recounting tragic and terrifying events of terrorism, mass shootings, and individual acts of aggression. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), active shooter events are on the rise and, frighteningly, are more prevalent now than in any period within the last 16 years of our nation’s history. According to the FBI, 2014 and 2015 each saw 20 active shooter incidents in the United States, representing nearly six times as many as the period between 2000 and 2001. The perception of sheer randomness, and the unpredictability of those unstable individuals who conduct public rampages has left citizens feeling unsafe and unprotected in even their own home communities. 

Now more than ever, local government public information officers and emergency communication managers are being tasked with communicating emergency preparedness strategies with citizens, in advance of even the threat of a local incidents. Such communications reassure citizens that if any type of event were to occur in their community, that they are armed with the information they need to act.

In 2017 we predict local governments will spend more time and effort investing in tools, solutions, plans, and strategies to best equip their communities in the event of an emergency.

To determine if your citizen communication strategy is prepared, specifically for an active shooter event, read our previous blog.

What other communication trends do you predict will be of greatest impact to you and your community in 2017? Tell us in the comments below.

Author
Jessica Marabella

Jessica Marabella

Jessica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Rochester, and a Master of Arts degree in Advertising from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She has over ten years of experience in communications with a focus on writing in the digital marketing space.