Public Outreach Hurdles Facing Local Governments
If you’re part of a local government body, no matter how small or large, you already know that your government must remain in close connection with its citizens to effectively run the city, town, or municipality that you oversee. As such, public outreach is an essential component of effective government management. It goes beyond merely offering generic statements and bland information to the public — feedback and mutual communication are crucial.
That being said, what is a public outreach program? In most cases, an effective government public outreach program requires active, two-way communication between the government and the citizens of your local area. Government workers must take an active role in reaching out to the public through a diverse range of avenues, gathering feedback, listening to concerns, and effectively explaining your government’s positions on a range of relevant local issues.
This kind of comprehensive public outreach will provide you and your government with essential data on the views and preferences of your citizens and improve the trust and support between citizens and their local government.
However, many local governments find themselves facing hurdles to their public outreach programs, which limits how well they can build trust with — and acquire meaningful information from — their citizens. Read on to learn about some of the main issues that prevent local governments from building effective public outreach programs.
Limited Marketing or Public Outreach Budgets
As you can probably attest, budget constraints are usually the biggest problem for anything government-related. This also applies to public outreach programs.
It’s a good idea to detail the numerous benefits of public outreach programs for your local governmental budget. Doing so will justify setting aside a larger share of public funds for this purpose. Effective public relations partners, such as GoldStreet Designs, can also help you put together excellent media to raise awareness with a limited budget. There are also options like contacting a fundraising agency or raising money locally to help ensure a good pay return.
Lack of Resources or Expertise
Government public outreach programs can also suffer due to a more general lack of necessary resources or expertise. Most offices in local governments aren’t staffed by people with specific expertise in the field of public relations and public outreach. So even if your local government fully understands the importance of public outreach programs, it may still struggle to implement an effective program since the people involved don’t have the skills and know-how.
Outdated Campaign Ideas
Another issue that often comes up with attempts at governmental public outreach is an outdated understanding of your local constituency and the public relations solutions that would work best for them. If your local government is working with ideas about public reception and/or public relations that are no longer accurate, it will have a hard time implementing effective outreach programs. This is especially true when trying to create programs that reach out to younger people in your community.
Boring or Unengaging Public Outreach
This issue cuts to the heart of the matter. Quite frankly, local government can often be boring and unengaging, and thus public outreach efforts from local governments often suffer from this as well. If your government’s public outreach doesn’t attract and retain the attention of your citizens, you’re unlikely to build a strong and lasting relationship with the community at large. Ask for internal employee reviews on the projected success of a campaign to make sure it’s actually engaging.
Failure to Employ Targeted Advertisements
In many ways, public outreach by local governments has similar requirements to ad campaigns by major companies. It isn’t enough to just know who you’re trying to reach — you also need to know how to target your outreach efforts to best connect with them. Even if you understand the baseline composition of your local citizenry, a public outreach program will likely fall flat if you’re unable to reach them through targeted ads.
Inadequate Investment in Social Media
Social media has recently emerged as a major player in public outreach efforts. While traditional outreach avenues like television advertisements and in-person public forums still have their place, an effective public outreach program needs to take advantage of social media to maximize its opportunities to reach new and diverse groups. It also takes time to get PR program sign-ups from social media ads. Government public outreach managers may give up on a social media campaign before it’s time.
Limited or Inconsistent Public Engagement on the Part of Public Officials
Public officials are usually taxed for time. But given the importance of public outreach programs, it’s a good idea to dedicate a more significant amount of your time and resources towards public engagement to build better relationships with the public and acquire more valuable information on public opinions. While few government officials have the job title ‘public outreach manager,’ there are still ways that government employees can assist in developing helpful PR programs.
Failure to Engage in Comprehensive Cross-sections of Residents
All local government constituencies are diverse, no matter how large or small the population. As such, they will offer a wide range of different perspectives and values. Public outreach efforts by local governments can suffer in light of the limited range of citizens that tend to be most vocal.
Local governments should proactively reach larger cross-sections of the citizenry and engage with all relevant viewpoints to get a more comprehensive view of where constituents lie in regard to key issues.
Misunderstanding the “Baseline” of a Particular Issue
Unfortunately, many local governments don’t know where their citizens stand on key issues at all. Do citizens care about implementing standard work-life balance programs, upping local job security, or face-to-face politician meetings? If you wish to implement an effective public outreach program, you should work towards getting a clear initial picture of what your citizens expect from their government and where there’s possible room to move both closer to each other.
Questions That Don’t Lead to Useful Data
Finally, if you want to get meaningful data by engaging your citizens effectively, you need to ask the right questions. After all, even the best-funded and most enthusiastic public outreach programs won’t be particularly effective if they ask the wrong questions. Public outreach professionals are an excellent resource for getting the best questions for your citizens, getting the best data, and building the best relationships between citizens and government.
Goldstreet Designs for Your Public Outreach Needs
When dealing with these and other issues, public relations professionals are an invaluable asset. Goldstreet Designs is a national leader in providing public outreach solutions for local governments, having successfully worked with 480 local governmental agencies to craft public outreach programs that meet the needs of both governments and citizens. If you’re a local government official in need of excellent public outreach programs, get in touch with Goldstreet Designs today.