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Local Government Leaders Face Opportunities and Challenges in Digital Communications

For the fourth year in a row, Granicus conducted a survey – What’s Next in Digital Communications for Local Government – to gauge the current state of digital communications and identify emerging trends. The results were eye-opening as we uncovered the predictions, expectations and opinions of more than 350 local government leaders.

In summary, four key themes emerged.

Government Leaders See Opportunity for their Websites to be a Communications Hub

For most local government agencies, their websites are central to their overall communications strategy, with 91% of respondents citing their website as either “extremely” or “very important”. Yet leaders also recognize that there’s plenty of room for improvement, with only 10% ranking their website as “outstanding” in the ability to serve their community’s needs and a staggering 41% saying their site is difficult to navigate.

To improve the website experience and solidify it as the core communications vehicle, agencies should consider pointing all other digital communications (email, social, text, etc.) back to the website for more information. Think of your website as the digital hub with all other communications channels functioning as spokes from that hub. It’s equally important to ensure the site is easy to use and features frequently updated and relevant content.

Citizen Engagement is a Top Priority in 2018

Last year, we saw that 86% of respondents cited citizen engagement as an area that is already having or will have an impact on local government by the end of the year. However, we also see that “limited citizen engagement” was and continues to be the top issue related to respondents’ websites.

With so many new and different channels emerging, it’s important for local government to be proactive and strategic in their communications efforts. Not surprisingly, improving engagement was cited as the top area for planned expansion and investment this year.

Interactivity is a Clear Priority for Digital Communications

Government websites are becoming more than just a source of static information. Government leaders recognize that their customers (or residents) expect a dynamic, interactive digital experience – and  ranked “website updates” as the number one area of investment for 2018, followed by social media and citizen engagement.

Social media has consistently ranked as one of the most effective communication channels for local government, and it’s predicted to remain in that top spot for the next five years. But we also see a steep increase in the effectiveness expected from the agency website and text messaging, indicating local government’s response to residents accessing information across different channels and devices.

We also see a growing trend toward interest in new technologies, further reinforcing the importance of interactivity and accessibility. For example, about one-third of respondents cited on-demand video and GIS services as digital investment priorities for 2018.

The Customer Experience Becomes a Top Trend

Over the past four surveys, we’ve seen a dramatic shift from an internal stakeholder focus to one that is centered on the customer experience. Despite this shift, local government leaders still see “limited citizen engagement” as a top issue related to their websites, and not surprisingly, cite improving engagement as a key area for planned expansion this year.

With so many new and different communication channels emerging, it’s important for local government to be proactive and strategic in their efforts to digitally engage with their customers. It’s up to them to prioritize  a seamless digital experience and ensure residents are able to easily access their content across all platforms, devices and at any time.

Download the complete study for a detailed look at this year’s survey findings.