In today’s frenetic, social media-driven environment, engaging with voters can be a balancing act – too much interaction and they might log you out or unsubscribe; too little civic engagement could cause them to disengage from messaging.
A survey conducted by American City & County (AC&C) quantifies in data how communities walk this delicate line, leveraging technology and more personal ways to connect with voters.
More than 75% of the nearly 100 public sector respondents said they use social media most often – among all other methods like a dedicated community liaison and online message boards – to maintain regular and open communication with their constituents.
This is not a surprise, considering the gradual rise of social media by local governments since the rise of the Internet in daily life.
“A major transformation has been underway for more than two decades in the way governments provide e-government services and information,” reads the summary published last month in the scientific journal Government Information. Quarterly “Two decades of e-government diffusion among local governments in the United States.” According to data collected by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), “from 2014 to 2019, the trend was clear: more cities were offering more e-government services in a more consistent way”.
E-government services include information, interactive, multimedia and financial services, as well as social media, used by local governments.
But while digital engagement has risen to the forefront of communication strategies within the public sector, face-to-face interactions still play a vital role. According to AC&C’s Civic Engagement Survey, the same percentage (about 75%) of respondents said they interacted frequently with constituents through regular meetings, and just over half said they counted a lot about newsletters.
Concerns from public administrators said they most often intended to focus on public safety, with 49% reporting constant or frequent engagement on the issue. Following this, 42% said they often or frequently heard concerns about the economy. And in a possible sign that communities are turning away from two years of pandemic-related hardship, concerns about COVID-19 restrictions were among the least-discussed issues facing communities, according to respondents.
In concrete terms, the findings highlight how communities across the United States are taking creative steps to informally engage with residents — from “coffee with a cop” to fundraisers for picnics with first responders and community gardens: 58% said they make it a point to dedicate public amenities; 56% of respondents said that they regularly organize open days; 53% organize charity events; and 48% held parades.
Given the friction that has grown in recent years between communities and law enforcement agencies,
Among the various ways in which public safety organizations specifically interact with the public informally (nearly 50% said their communities encourage such interactions), respondents listed community dog or bike programs, national outings , youth and safety programs, child car seat installation and corporate drop off. , among others.
To this end, less than half of the cities represented in the survey have a dedicated community liaison officer (39%). Organizations that do not have one have assigned responsibility to the mayor or city administrator, the selection committee, a contracted public relations firm, or department heads.