Councillors, officers and members of the public took part in an informal poll over the last week in a bid to establish which digital communication channels are the most effective during special and specific situations e.g. school and road closures due to snow.
The exact question was;
It’s November and the weather is miserable. Icy roads, closed schools and uncollected bins tend to dominate local government over the coming months. Residents will rush to council websites seeking to report problems and find information. Increasingly, there is an expectation for this data to be real time.
So what should councils be doing?
Imagine you a council officer with responsibility for updating residents, media, voluntary organisations and private sector companies during these special situations. Which tools do you think are most effective?
The nature of “effective” was left deliberately undefined. Some people may have judged a tool in terms of simple numbers of receivers, speed of update and/or cost.
The results are in the graph below. The scores are out of 10 on a scale of ‘no use at all’ (0) to very effective (10).
– updating the ‘news’ section of the council’s website remains the most effective choice – the 2011 results are here.
– ‘offer residents an email subscription service’ that sends updates has gone from 5th to 2nd. Despite so much chatter being about Facebook and Twitter, this option has grown in favourability more than any others. You can read why this may be here.
– more than in 2011 councils seems to be adopting a bit of everything; building special sections in their website for snow related information, linking this with twitter and live maps
– putting messages on hyperlocal / community sites gained slightly more support, up from 6.68 to 6.95. I expect this number to continue growing over coming years
– This year I added in the option of building a dedicated app; though this was not a popular option. I would have thought it might score higher – with the rapid growth in smartphones people are increasingly wanting to access information on the go.
– Twitter (7.65) scored much higher than Facebook (6.41)
These results are rather unscientific – but they are revealing none the less. If nothing else, it further proves that there is no one-size-fits-all model to local government communications.
Communication strategies must be controlled yes, but have a ‘chaotic’ element too that allows for quick and accurate distribution of information in special and specific situations.
They must also reflect the local digital ecosystem of the area – as one participant in the survey said “there’s no point building an app because the 3G is rubbish around here!“