The only thing worse than an apathetic constituency is a governing body who is ignorant when it comes to knowing how to engage its citizens.
In order to have a functioning, thriving, and productive relationship between citizens and their local government, there needs to be some give and take from both sides. The government needs to make a concerted effort to encourage participation in local affairs by promoting events, providing updates on policy changes, and generally keeping everyone in the loop; while citizens need to engage with these efforts and work with the local government to determine how best to improve the engagement outreach overall.
This is where citizen engagement software comes it. This software can help make these efforts easier to manage and analyze the results to determine where improvements can be made. The right citizen engagement software includes a number of tools that can be used to facilitate communication with citizens via all their preferred channels – from email to SMS, or from fax to voice. The software should even be able to facilitate posting to social media to further increase engagement.
But, how exactly can citizen engagement software help improve engagement in an innovative way for everyday tasks?
Glad you asked. Here are three ways citizen engagement software can be used on an everyday basis.
While not technically an “everyday” task, many local governments send out a regular newsletter to subscribed members of the public. This newsletter can contain a variety of information in regard to the town happenings, decisions from the latest council meetings, and any upcoming events. Engagement software can help a local government soup up these newsletters to make them even more engaging for citizens by adding touches of personalization and customizing the newsletter to each individual subscriber (automatically!).
This can be done through the use of merge tags and conditional formatting. Merge tags are used as a placeholder in a block of text and when the newsletter is sent out to contacts, the merge tag will then pull each subscriber’s individual information and replace the merge tag. For example, if the government wanted to include the name of each subscriber at the top of the newsletter, they can add in %%NAME%% where they would like the name to be added within the text. When it’s time to send out the newsletter, the software will replace %%NAME%% with the contact information it pulls from the contact database.
Conditional formatting is a way to create rules to determine which subscriber receives which parts of the newsletter. For any content block in the newsletter, a filter can be created that will segment that block and only include it in the newsletter if the subscriber meets the set criteria. Those who do not meet the criteria will receive an automatically-generated newsletter without the conditional content block.
Local governments and their departments are often responsible for sending out alert notifications whenever a change occurs to the availability of a service, or if a seasonal service begins or ends (snow plows, for example). Engagement software can help make these notifications more efficient by enabling governments to create and store templates for each type of alert required and having the capability to send these alerts to each subscriber’s preferred method of communication.
Alert notifications are especially important to have in the case of an emergency. Local governments need to be sure they have a way to ensure all citizens are notified as soon as possible so they can ensure their safety and that of their loved ones as well. Having a system that can send out alerts via multiple communication channels at the same time can help make sure that citizens receive the information they need as soon as possible, as it increases the likelihood that the alert will be received.
Templating emergency (and non-emergency) alerts can save local governments valuable time they can spend on other matters while still being certain that all citizens are receiving timely and informative information. Rather than creating a new alert message every time a notification needs to go out, local government officials are able to select an appropriate template; fill it out with the relevant information; and send it to a pre-set list of contacts – often in under five minutes.
Another way local governments can take advantage of citizen engagement software to increase participation and interest is through the sending of polls to gather public opinion on a variety of municipal affairs – from event or festival ideas, policy changes, or even asking for post-event feedback.
Polls can easily be created in the software and sent to subscribers through their preferred communication method to gather this information. Once responses begin to come in, they can be monitored and analysed within the software reports. By encouraging citizens to share their opinions, it gives them the opportunity to feel involved in what’s going on in their municipality and therefore they will likely be more engaged as a whole.
Ready to try citizen engagement software?
If your local government is looking for a way to engage its citizens with flexible and easy-to-use software, why not check out SimplyCast’s all-in-one engagement automation platform? With tools that can help governments connect with citizens through multiple communication methods – such as email, SMS, voice, and fax – in everyday situations and emergencies, SimplyCast is the platform for you.
Contact us today to learn more about how SimplyCast can benefit your government!