The way governments and councils communicate with their residents is changing rapidly – thanks, in large part, to the enormous developments in technology that have taken place over the last two decades. With citizen engagement trends evolving so fast, we’ve taken a look at some of the most interesting trends coming through right now, to offer inspiration for those trying to remain ahead of the curve.
The majority of individuals now have some form of smartphone. In Canada, for example, smartphone penetration has hit 60%, and experts believe that the figure could be as high as 80% in the US. With such sophisticated technology at the fingertips of your residents, it’s easy to turn your residents into assets for your community, by engaging them in the reporting process.
Using smartphones and the internet, residents can now report crimes, flag up potholes on their roads or otherwise notify the authorities about something which needs to be addressed. They can use their built-in cameras to record accompanying video or take still images of the scene, as well as leveraging GPS technology to pinpoint the exact location of the problem. This exciting trend gives the public more power in their community, and helps speed up the process of service requests.
Citizens as customers
Think of the immense customer experience that individuals receive today, from big brands like GrubHub, Uber, Amazon, Apple and Costco. These businesses have a streamlined user experience that can make government processes seem slow and sluggish in comparison. If only changing your address was as easy as ordering an Uber directly to your door!
With such pressure from the private sector, councils and governments are adopting a new approach: treating their citizens like customers. In a sense, residents can be seen as customers anyway, having paid their taxes, which are put towards certain services. This means striving to satisfy them and providing the type of customer experience that they might aim for if they were working for a firm like Apple or Amazon.
Leveraging open data
Put simply, if you’re not giving your citizens access to open data, you’re at risk of falling seriously behind competitors. Open data is described as ‘data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone’, and it has two key benefits for citizen engagement. The first is that it promotes transparency. Transparency helps citizens understand their government, and it also reduces the number of Freedom of Information requests the government has to deal with.
The second benefit of leveraging open data is that it gives technologically-minded individuals and entrepreneurs the ability to turn the data into something useful. Whether it’s creating an app with a map of the nearest public broadband points, or developing a system which delivers bus and train arrival times directly to your smartphone, those with an entrepreneurial mindset can take the masses of raw data and turn it into something useful for the local community.
Attracting the finest talent to your city can offer a welcome boost for the entire region – especially in the highly competitive digital age. But how can you remain ahead of the curve and prove that your city is the place to be? How can you attract the brightest sparks from a range of industries and convince them to set up shop in your town?
Take a look at these innovative ideas for attracting major talent from across the globe:
It’s not all about jobs
Jobs and career progression might be the key reason why most talented individuals move to a new city – but it’ll never be the reason that they stay. Amenities are essential, and you must endeavor to promote the kind of lifestyle that talented millennials seek. Focus on the things that your city does well. If your city is renowned for its museum culture, make that a focal point of your talent attraction campaign. If your city has a thriving café culture, or great nightlife, be sure to put these key points across when you’re promoting the city as a great place for bright sparks to be.
Celebrate entrepreneurship and ambition
Make sure that you’re celebrating, promoting and encouraging entrepreneurship at every turn. That might include investing in affordable co-working spaces for new start-ups, or offering grants for new businesses in certain fields. Perhaps you’ll add a ‘New Business of the Month’ feature to your municipal website, giving one lucky start-up additional exposure for nothing. It’s important to show that your city will be the ideal environment for a fledgling business to grow and expand.
Engage with young adults
In order to make your town a welcoming, appealing place for global talent, you need to engage with the kind of young adults you’re trying to attract. Carry out surveys of talented individuals who have already chosen to move to your city, and use their responses to feed your future marketing endeavors. Try to keep in touch with former residents – you can gain important feedback on why they left and what it was that attracted them to another destination. Their thoughts and opinions on your city can be vital.
When you’re considering development plans that affect this community, you should also engage them as often as possible in the planning process. Find out what they think of the plans, and what they want to see from the development. By engaging them in this important process, you’re also helping instill a sense of loyalty and involvement.
Promoting your city is essential to attracting talent – they’ll never find it if they don’t know you’re there! Marketing your city in the right way will help it become that hub of millennial activity.
Telling stories is key to marketing, and you can leverage existing small business owners or successful professionals in your campaign, asking them to offer advice, tips and words of wisdom to new individuals thinking of moving to your city.
Ensuring that your economic development website is competitive is no easy task in this day and age. Perhaps you’ve notice dips in your traffic, or you’re having trouble grabbing and retaining your visitors’ attention. So what’s the missing link? What is your site missing that could help boost engagement and increase your traffic?
Accurate data and practical content are critical of course, but beyond that, there are many simple changes that can make a big difference!
We’ve put together a quick “must have” list of things your economic website needs in order to remain competitive in 2016 and beyond. Use these items as a handy checklist when you’re auditing your site – you might be surprised at the change once you implement these simple suggestions!
Responsive, mobile-friendly sites are a must
In 2015, mobile traffic began to exceed 50% of the world’s top websites. That’s an astonishing figure when you consider that internet has only really become available and accessible on mobile devices within the last ten years.
As mobile looks to comprehensively overtake static computers and laptops as they key platform for browsing the web, it’s never been more essential for you to have a mobile-friendly, responsive site. Visitors no longer want to pinch-zoom to navigate your site, nor do they want to scroll endlessly back and forth to read simple paragraph. To make your site competitive, you need to ensure mobile users can read the site just as easily as web users.
Is the site updated with the latest news?
Your site simply must be updated as regularly as possible – or users will start to look elsewhere for essential updates and news items. No announcement is too small for an economic development website. If your visitors head to your site and see that the news or blog section hasn’t been updated in the last three months, what reason do they have to stay?
A fresh, contemporary design
Website design in 2016 and beyond is all about flat design, a minimalist genre that doesn’t need bells and whistles to make a statement. The over-embellished websites of years gone by are out – now users want stripped-back, simple websites with high-quality ‘hero’ images, bold colour schemes and engaging text. Dress up your site accordingly to ensure you remain competitive as web design develops further.
Put contact information front and center
Prospective investors don’t want to have to delve into the deepest corners of your sitemap simply to find some accurate contact information for your economic development team. Why would you want to make it difficult for potential investors to get in touch anyway? Make sure your contact details are available in the footer on every single page, and devote a page of your site to your team, with biographies, social media links and other appropriate contact information. Transparency is important, and your site will be more competitive if your users feel they aren’t being kept in the dark.
Try the ‘1-2 clicks’ method
Here’s a little test that you can try out on your economic development website: can your users reach everything they might need within 1-2 clicks from the homepage? If not, it’s likely that you need to give your navigation bar an overhaul. The faster your users can find what they need on your site, the better their user experience will be, and the more impressed they’ll be with your website in general. Happy visitors make happy investors!
Municipal websites are an essential resource in this digital age – they provide vital information for local communities, not only when it comes to events and updates, but also in times of emergency. If you’re trying to put together a municipal website, here are five tips to make yours engaging, functional and practical.
Ask citizens what they want from their municipal website
A municipal website is built to serve the community – so it stands to reason that you should ask the local community for their input when creating the site itself. Invite residents to come and join a discussion about their community, and talk about the kind of information that they believe will be most useful to this. Ask residents whether they’d benefit from being able to pay transactions online, or whether they still prefer to do this in person. Ask whether residents would appreciate a town history section, or an area where they can explore local leisure activities. Solicit opinions and use them when you’re mapping out your content plan.
Don’t overcomplicate things
Remember: we might live in a digital age, but not everyone has reached the level of online familiarity as others. Some still find using the internet a challenge, and you don’t want to throw more obstacles in their way by creating a complex and intricate website. Keep it simple – the content of the website is the most important thing when it comes to municipal sites. Make it easy to add and update content, and ensure that above all, it’s compatible and responsive for use on different devices.
Plan for the future
It’s no use building the website and leaving it at that. You need to have a plan in place for the upkeep and maintenance of the site. A website manager should be in place, and there should be an allocated budget for the website to ensure it remains online. Every person working on the site should know their roles and responsibilities, and there should be a distinct approval process in place so that nothing appears on the site without being confirmed by the manager. You don’t necessarily need to staff the website with technological whiz-kids – but ensure that all of those who will be manning the site understand how to use it and how to address problems if things go awry.
Transparency is important
Many municipal websites have a section where residents can read the meeting minutes from council and committee meetings which have taken place. This creates a sense of transparency, and only boosts engagement among citizens. Consider building a section like this for your own site.
We live in a world driven by data – and if you’re not leveraging data to make improvements, you’re missing out! By setting up some analytics features and tools on your municipal site, you can generate further feedback and information about how residents are using your site. Perhaps, six months down the line, you discover that a certain section has hardly been visited, or you find that residents aren’t staying on certain pages for very long before they hit ‘back’. This arms you with the information you need to make changes and improvements – your citizens will surely thank you for it.
When it comes to web data, we are in the midst of a second major transition: one that is significantly impacting the ability of economic developers to identify targeted leads using their websites.
The first transition happened a decade or so ago when location searches moved online and economic developers shifted to move their data and lifestyle information to the web as well. It quickly became apparent that the quality of a community’s investment attraction website was the top differentiating factor in the first phase of a site selector’s search.
This is the second transformation – unmasking, understanding and recognizing the value of the traffic you are working so hard to drive to your website, and then translating this new data into real leads.
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