As a communication professional for over 25 years, I’ve seen how important a communication strategy is to a company. A city can also tap into tremendous potential to truly engage their citizens with an internal and external communication strategy.
I’ve been researching city communication strategies recently. I paid special attention to those cities that are two to four times the size of Rogers. Most of my previous assumptions about communication strategy were consistent with cities within that population range in industrialized nations around the globe. They were also consistent with the strategies designed for larger cities.
A 21st-century communication strategy is what the city of Rogers is missing. As much as I think our city is well-run, I have to call this one like I see it: complying with Freedom of Information Act requests and giving easy access to the media is not a communication strategy by today’s standards. This is even more true when the local newspaper articles are only available to subscribers (including online content) and the content is archived (and not easily accessible) in just a few weeks.
There are many benefits to having a well-planned communication strategy:
- Improve media coverage: The media can help the city if the city provides the media the information the way they need it.
- Market city programs: People inside and outside the city want to be involved but they need to know what is going on.
- Manage the city’s reputation and build trust: A good reputation doesn’t not happen by accident. Sharing information proves that the city leaders are transparent, progressive, responsive, and efficient.
- Gather feedback: Tools such as surveys and social media facilitate two-way communication.
- Quick release of info: When you have access to citizens and other stakeholders via e-mail, social media, or texting, you can alert them to sudden needs and emergencies. News media do the best they can but even their reach is limited.
A communication strategy is something a community-centric city employs. Citizens often don’t know what they don’t know. It’s easy to go to work and then come home and retreat from the world. Unless the media enters their living rooms and exposes them to issues that are happening in their city, they probably don’t realize those issues exist.
And friends, a city’s reputation and trust is too important to allow it to be shaped by what is communicated through the media. Please understand, I love the media and honor their profession. I still subscribe to the local newspaper and follow my favorite staff writers on Twitter. However, too many mistakes can happen and people interpret what they hear and read the wrong way. Even a well-meaning reporter may misinterpret what she hears or write it in a way that a reader may misinterpret.
The very best way to deliver a message to the citizens is to get the information directly from the city. It is time that Rogers has a communication strategy of its own.