Public Meetings + COVID-19: What to Say When Things Change
Across the country, public meetings are being affected by local, state, and federal guidelines and restrictions for mass gatherings. As a clerk or official, you need to get the word out about these changes effectively in order to prevent confusion and further disruptions.
To help you, we’ve compiled several examples of coronavirus-related public meeting communications as well as a few tips.
Examples of What to Say When Meetings Change
From cancelling a meeting to moving it online, here are examples of effective public meeting communications.
In Arlington County, Virginia, they proactively shared new guidances for public meetings with their community. The email links to the new guidelines while providing a preview of the major changes.
Notifying of Cancellations
In this email, the City of Redmond uses a subhead to draws the reader’s attention to cancelled city meetings and also includes a link to the full list of affected events.
Moving to Online or Phone Alternatives
In Memphis, Tennessee, they shared a meeting update with clear and simple instructions for participating by teleconference.
New Ways to Participate
In Marin County, California, officials shared an update with new options for participating in meetings. The community can live stream the meeting online or watch on the public access television channel. They are also welcoming public comments via email.
3 Tips for Communicating Public Meeting Updates
Make a List
Provide a full list of all public meetings (like the City of Redmond did above) and communicate which meetings will remain as scheduled and ones that will be cancelled. That way, visitors can see at a glance what’s changing.
Share the Guidelines
Be transparent about why certain meetings are cancelled. Offer the general guidelines for determining essential vs. non-essential meetings.
Provide Clear Directions for Online Options
If you have options for viewing meetings online (for example, if you’re set up to stream or broadcast meetings) or if you have options for participating in online meetings, provide clear directions for participating. And don’t be afraid of over-explaining, for some in your community this may be the first time they’ve participated online.
Bringing It All Together
Social distancing is affecting daily life. Public meetings are no exception. But by providing regular updates on status along with online alternatives for participation, local leaders can minimize the disruptions to critical civic processes.
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