Top 10 tips for effective community engagement in 2023
Author: Daniel Purchese, co-director at Breakthrough Communications
As local (parish and town) councils are the closest level of government to their communities, it is essential for them to communicate effectively and strategically. In 2023, with the increasing reliance on technology and social media and the fact that councils are providing more services than ever, effective communication is essential in supporting effective governance.
Here are Breakthrough Communications’ Top Ten Tips for local councils to improve their communication with their communities in 2023:
🗓️ Tip 1: Take a strategic approach to communications and have a clear plan in place. Council communications often reflect the ‘here and now’ of meetings, events and various topical issues but less often reflect the council's strategic priorities. It’s crucial that parish and town councils of all sizes take a strategic approach to communications and have a resource-appropriate plan that ties in with their council-wide aims and objectives.
💬 Tip 2: Consider your key audiences and key messages. What do you want the community to know and understand about the council? What are your council priorities, services and facilities and how can we communicate these effectively? Which audiences are you trying to communicate those messages to? These are essential questions to explore as you implement your council’s communications strategy.
🗣️ Tip 3: Evaluate your use of different communications channels. What communications channels are you currently using to communicate your key messages to different audiences? There are many ways to communicate and engage with our communities through digital and analogue communications channels. Consider how these platforms can be used as tools for effective and sustainable communication, whether it’s your website, press releases, social media, notice boards, e-newsletters, printed newsletters, or in-person or virtual meetings.
👂 Tip 4: Listen to your community. Lots of council communication is about ‘broadcasting’ information, but listening is also crucial. Ask questions in person, on social media or via council newsletters, for example. Gather feedback through surveys that reach and engage different parts of the community. Feed back what people said and explain what steps you’re taking as a result. This will help you understand the community's needs and concerns and demonstrate that you are a council that listens.
💻 Tip 5: Utilise social media more effectively. Social media platforms are an essential tool for local council communication in 2023. Local councils should use platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to build sustainable two-way conversations with their community. Social media platforms also provide an opportunity to engage with younger members of the community.
📧 Tip 6: Use email newsletters. Email newsletters, or e-newsletters, are an effective way for local councils of all sizes to keep the community informed about news, events and key council messages. These newsletters can be sent to subscribers regularly and, if set up correctly, can reduce administrative burdens for council officers. Get in touch if you need help setting one up and getting started.
📞 Tip 7: Provide easy access to council information. Your council website should be designed to provide easy access to information about council services, policies, and procedures. Providing access to information can help build trust in the community. Signpost to the website through all your other communications channels, including social media.
📝 Tip 8: Consider the use of language. Council communications should be clear and concise to avoid confusion. Use easy-to-understand language and avoid technical jargon or acronyms to ensure that the community understands the information being presented. Don’t assume prior knowledge in communications; if you have something important to say, don’t just say it once. The most effective communication should be repeated, repeated, repeated. Build a narrative and tell a story.
⁉️ Tip 9: What do we sound like in our communications? The tonality issue is an increasingly important factor when assessing the effectiveness of council communications. For example, digital channels such as social media can sometimes be ‘tone deaf’, and what people say can often be misinterpreted. Consider ways to overcome this problem by asking ourselves how we want to come across in our communications and whether we should differentiate our tone of voice in different communications channels. The use of video and other devices, such as emojis, can also be helpful. Emojis, when utilised appropriately, can help convey a particular tone of voice and make content stand out (look how we’ve used emojis in this blog post, for example 🥰).
🎨 Tip 10: Use video and multimedia. Incorporating a range of media into council communications can effectively explain complex subject matter, build trust and break down invisible barriers between councils and their communities. Videos, infographics, and images can make council information more accessible and interesting. Video, whether pre-recorded or live, whether long or short, can go a long way to communicate a message in an engaging way.
As we’ve stated, effective communication is critical for councils to build trust with the community and promote engagement. By having a communications strategy and plan in place, listening to the community, better utilising social media and email newsletters and other platforms, and ensuring we provide easy access to information and acknowledging feedback, councils can improve their communication with their communities in 2023.
If your council would like support to achieve this, you can book a free discovery call to explore how Breakthrough Communications can help your council create a communications and community engagement strategy in 2023.