Councils work hard to engage with their communities. And yet for any given issue, there’s a group of ‘invisible stakeholders’ who are missing the opportunity to be informed, and get involved. How is this possible, despite councils’ efforts?
A council can typically engage with people it knows about via their ratepayer address, or because the person has engaged with the council previously. But communities include many people that aren’t ratepayers, or haven’t had a reason to engage before. Furthermore, people can be stakeholders in places other than just where they live – consider a person’s place of work, their children’s school, a rental property, a relative’s house, and so on.
This means councils are missing opportunities to engage stakeholders in the community, and vice versa, because neither is aware of the other’s involvement or interest in various matters.
The social media effect
In the last decade, social media has been the go-to channel for attempting to reach communities. Its ubiquity makes it an attractive option, but it’s ubiquitous with content creators as well as content consumers.
Social media is a little like standing on a building with a megaphone. People might turn up to listen (i.e. follow your organisation), but in order to determine if something is relevant to them, they have to pay attention to everything said. And someone on the building beside you also has a megaphone, and is trying to get people’s attention – and on the next building, and the next. This has led to many people becoming more selective about what they pay attention to through social channels.
Increased expectations from digital interaction
People’s expectations for digital interaction have been raised by their experience with banks, airlines, online shopping and suchlike. People want to interact when it suits them, and they expect responsiveness, satisfactory outcomes, and an experience that is personalised and relevant to them.
“We get lots of feedback that people don’t want to go looking for information, they want it to come to them.”
Mandy Evans, Marlborough District Council
When a council connects more closely with its community, it can better understand the community’s behaviour, requirements, and pressures. This is particularly the case if use of technology helps expand the engaged audience. More community perspectives can be heard, which can lead to more representative decision-making. It can even move the nature of engagement further towards collaboration as a means for public participation.
Getting people involved in matters that are relevant to them, and at times when it is convenient for them to respond to, is likely to lead to greater future attention and more ongoing participation. And when people are involved, they’re more likely to be engaged; and when they’re engaged, they’re more likely to be satisfied.
Because fundamentally, councils act for the good of their communities – including the invisible stakeholders
To see how Datacom can help councils connect with their communities, visit customer engagement tools