Relying on in person communication and interactions were something that local government officials took for granted until Covid-19 came around. Antiquated workflows that required paper documentation, face to face interactions at the Clerks' Department window at City Hall, and meeting in person fell by the wayside as lockdowns left public workers with no choice but to work remotely, and close government buildings to the public.
Even as public officials move back into an in person routine, the critical need for innovation in government communications has become painfully evident as many bureaucratic processes became even slower than usual at the height of the pandemic.
Now, many local government leaders are considering ways to improve communications across the board. For valuable insights into mastering cross-departmental communications, local to Federal government communications, private sector relations, and constituent communications, follow along below.
What is Government Communications?
At a broad level, government communications is the process of public institutions (and therein public workers) sharing and conveying information in relation to government actions.
This communication of information includes intergovernmental correspondence (dialogue between local government departments, communications between local, state, and federal government entities,) working with private sector partners, as well as dialogue between government institutions and their constituents.
How to Improve Government Communications?
Modern government technology has drastically improved upon government communications in recent memory. Local governments are embracing government management software to automate processes and remove departmental silos that hinder government correspondence within your locality.
With cloud-based government technology, important documentation is uploaded to the cloud and is automatically accessible to the relevant government departments and officials. Automated processes alone can improve government communications exponentially by eliminating paper and relying on technology, not people, to unify data and pass documents to the right officials as soon as they’re submitted / processed.
Additionally, government officials are set up with a straight-forward platform to communicate with other workers within the local or county level government as needed.
How To Improve Government Communications With Other Departments?
Departments within local government communicate with each other every single day. A leaking water fountain at the courthouse means a public works employee is (hopefully) on his way to fix it. New computers for the clerks department means that the IT department will surely be setting them up, and probably fixing some bugs over the next few weeks. A pothole reported by a concerned resident, will need to be relayed to the DPW so a crew can fill it.
Communications workflows within your county or municipal government need to be excellent for employees to function at their very best.
Here are a few specific methods for improving your local government's communications across departments:
1. Have a ticketing system in place for government tech issues:
Until recently, the Atlantic City, New Jersey IT department used emails to receive, process, and address tech issues across the entirety of the municipality. Obviously, this setup led to some major complications. IT workers spent a huge percentage of their time just trying to organize new tasks hitting their inbox and determine which were priority, which were in progress, and which had been resolved. Pressing tech issues constantly slipped through the cracks and problems went unsolved.
Luckily, transitioning to IT ticketing software drastically reduced the stress level of the IT team and improved the performance of the department as a whole. Now, IT issue requests are automatically timestamped and stored in one easy-to-navigate module, meaning that IT workers can address the problem at hand and change its status to complete all in one place.
The result? 100% more efficiency in IT reporting, response times, and completion rates. Issues that formerly took days to resolve now take minutes.
2. Make cross-departmental data accessible in one digital location
Previously, communications silos meant that officials in one department couldn’t access pertinent data because another department had the physical documentation in their office or on a single-use software. Now, cloud-based technology means that any government official can access data at any time from any location.
3. Use the cloud to allow for cyber secure remote work
Provide your local government workers with secure government laptops to use in a remote or hybrid working capacity. Doing so will ensure that, even in an emergency situation like Covid-19, or a storm, government employees will be able to ensure the continuity of local public services.
Since relevant documents, records, and data are stored in the cloud and accessible for relevant workers via password, you can confidently ensure streamlined communications and data sharing from workers in various locations.
How To Improve Communications With State and Federal Government?
In a time of a crisis, your local government will need to work with your state government as well as the Federal government. As a result, you’ll need to have communications channels in place to work with government entities like your governor's office and FEMA before, during, and after a disaster situation and align with the relevant government officials to apply for grant funds from emergency legislation like the American Rescue Plan Act or CDBG-DR funding from HUD.
Here are some tips for mastering communications between your local government and state and Federal government officials:
1. Have designated communication channels and stick to them
Open communications from the local level to county to state and on to Federal government agencies are critical. Department heads and designated liaisons should ensure they know their counterparts locally, i.e in neighboring towns or counties should there be a need for mutual aid. The same people should understand and know how to reach those in similar departments or agencies at higher levels of government.
Whether a municipal Director of Economic Development applying to a grant at the state level or an Emergency Manager requesting assistance from neighboring municipalities - these pre-established relationships can pay dividends for local governments.
2. Keep your video conferencing platform
Even if you’re making a full return to the office, consider the fact that Federal and state officials will always be based in completely different locations. To save time and ensure that critical meetings with state and federal government officials take place, hold important intergovernmental meetings via Zoom or an alternative platform.
Video software will also be useful in allowing your own government workers to work remotely, and to hold public meetings which helps to boost your employee retention! Learn more in the guide to Local Government Employee Retention: How to Keep Government Workers.
How To Improve Communications With Your Constituents?
If you’re hoping to get re-elected and / or keep services and operations running smoothly, it is absolutely critical that all municipal departments have great communications with your constituents.
Here are some tips on the best local government communications strategies for constituent engagement:
1. If you’re not already on social media, get going! If you already are, time to get more active
Whether you like it or not, your constituents are active on social media and have grown accustomed to following public officials and departments for regular updates (see: @POTUS and @NJGov on Twitter.) Getting elected officials and the government departments active on social media is a great way to boost your reputation, promote positive things happening in your community, and inform constituents of important news like an emergency situation.
For more insight into running local government social media accounts on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and NextDoor, read on in the Local Government Social Media Strategy guide.
2. Make your website crystal clear for constituents to navigate:
Services like filing permits and licenses, court document requests, and registering businesses should all be easily accessible from your government website and ideally should be accessed via a fully digital form - NOT a fillable PDF. Regular updates related to local events or happenings should be promoted via your site.
Outside of electronic applications being available and easily found, it is critical that your website is intuitive for all constituents to use. ADA compliance standards for local governments make it clear that the developmentally disabled, elderly, and less savvy Internet users should have no challenge using your website. Beyond the regulations, a better website experience for all constituents will encourage more use and more engagement like non-emergency concern reporting, business registration, and commercial and residential construction, while significantly reducing disruptions like phone calls, walk-ins, and emails from constituents that your staff must take time to address.
3. Offer insightful emergency preparedness training:
Your local government has likely considered which natural disasters pose the greatest threat to your community. If you have an emergency preparedness plan (which if you don’t already - develop one!) you should have your community emergency response team volunteers hold regular training sessions in public spaces like schools and libraries. In doing so, you’ll not only prepare them on disaster mitigation techniques to implement at home, but will also directly provide resources on how to contact local officials in a time of crisis.
How to Improve Government Communications with Private Sector Partners?
Your local government cannot deliver on big promises to constituents without the support of goods and services from private businesses. An effective government communication strategy needs to consider vendors and procurement related to private sector partners.
As federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act and Infrastructure Bill reach your local government to be spent on digital and physical infrastructure, here are some tips to master communications related to local government procurement.
1. Track project timelines to ensure deadlines / objectives are being hit
Local government construction projects are constantly known to take longer and cost more than anticipated. Using government contract management software, government officials can monitor and record progress from private sector partners to make sure they live up to their word on timelines and performance.
Don't be afraid to set benchmarks for infrastructure projects and have contractors agree that their payment is contingent on meeting or exceeding those benchmarks. This will help your government avoid cost and timeline over runs.
Consider creating a Capital Improvement Plan, or CIP, for coordinating budgets, schedules, locations, and other logistic aspects for upcoming infrastructure projects in a community.
2. Use automated bidding software to attack more leads for projects
What better way for more organized government communications than to have a cloud-based list of every relevant private sector business on hand? With automated bidding software, local government officials can communicate with local contractors just by uploading an RFP (request for proposal) directly to your government website, which will send a notification to relevant vendors to encourage them to submit a bid online.
All relevant bidders’ information will be stored in the cloud for future reference and use.
3. Let asset management software track the status of expensive equipment
Be it managing your fleet of vehicles, government computer systems, an inventory of traffic lights, or any other purchase of equipment for use by your locality, it is critical to monitor the condition of relevant government assets, and schedule maintenance to ensure functionality and safety, and to align your budget with the potential replacement of rundown assets.
With asset management software, you can directly track government assets as soon as they are purchased, to monitor when they arrive and their current condition via the cloud, for government officials to access and to communicate to private sector partners when they can anticipate an order for new parts or products.
Local Political Communications - In Conclusion
Obviously, the above information is barely scratching the surface when it comes to ways to optimize your local government communications to improve workflows. In order to perform to the best of your locality’s capabilities, you’ll need to adopt digital workflows and coordinate the wisest communication channels for contacting other departments, state and federal government officials, private sector partners, and your constituents.
In automating tasks, storing documentation in the cloud, and allowing constituents and business to file paperwork online, your local government can leverage modern communications to break barriers in ways you never could’ve imagined. To learn more about how government software can help, schedule a free demo.
For the latest insights for your local government, read on:
- Government Digital Transformation: What it Means for Local Governments
- What the Infrastructure Bill Means for Your Local Government
- What the American Rescue Plan Act Means for Your Local Government
- Cloud Vs. In-House Server: Which is Best For Your Government
- How to Recruit Government Workers
- How to Train Government Workers on Cybersecurity
- How to Build a 15-Minute City
- How Municipalities Can Encourage Local Economic Development
- Best Court Management Software: What to Look For in Judicial Tech
- Building Inspections 101: How Municipalities Can Improve Public Safety
- Municipal Planning: Reclaiming Your City Streets
- What is Disaster Resilient Infrastructure?
- Disaster Preparedness: How Local Governments Build Resilient Communities
- Local Government Wildfire Mitigation & Disaster Plan
- Local Government Flood Mitigation & Disaster Plan
- Local Government Tornado Mitigation & Disaster Plan
- Florida House Bills 667 and 1059: Latest Permit and Inspection Laws
- NJ Electronic Construction Permit Law: What it Means for Local Governments
- Pedestrian Zones & Bike Lanes: Improving City's Car Free Zones
- How to Build Trust in Your Local Government
Government Communications FAQs
What is the Impact of Communication on Community Development?
Whether it’s constituents reporting communal issues via complaint management software, local government officials asking contractors to bid on an infrastructure project, or government departments coordinating with one another, mastering government communications is critical. Automating workflows, expediting bureaucratic processes, and improving the quality of life for constituents are a few of many examples of the importance of communication in your community.
How Should Governments Communicate With the Public?
Two words: the Internet! Social media and your government website are two easy ways to have direct correspondence with community members. With government software, you can also allow the public to file paperwork online, and respond to business owners directly via a remote location in regards to the status of their application?
How Should Governments Communicate With Each Other?
While there’s no set in stone means for local governments to communicate with Federal and state governments, the rule of thumb in public communications is to align as a community on one set in stone communication channel to stick to when reaching out to other government entities. In keeping things in one channel, communications will be well organized and your connections in other government departments will know where to find their contacts in your community.