Where You Communicate Matters in Local Affairs

A communications audit can steer a local government or a school district to the right communications channels where people will look for their messages.

A communications audit can steer a local government or a school district to the right communications channels where people will look for their messages.

How people get information about local politics continues to evolve. Surveys conducted by CFM for a variety of local governments found a larger percentage of the community relies on electronic communications, such as e-newsletters, websites and social media.

Community newspapers have a strong readership following. However, metropolitan daily newspapers are losing readership and people who rely on TV or radio news hovers in the low single digits. 

But this broad-brush analysis doesn’t provide the in-depth analysis that most communicators need to reach key demographic groups. 

One school district wanted to save $80,000 a year by dropping its printed newsletter mailed to the community. However, a community survey found doing so would have been a disaster. More than half of residents age 65 and older used that mailer as their primary source of information about local education activities.

On the other hand, digital communication was the most popular source of information among residents under age 65, especially parents of students. 

Use of traditional news media versus emerging communications tools differs nationally as well. A recent Pew Research analysis of research among Internet users found that Facebook was a primary news source among Millennials (ages 18 to 33 years) while TV news is the top source for news among Baby Boomers (ages 50 to 68 years). Gen Xers (ages 34 to 49 years) is the transition group, equally as likely to get news from Facebook as they are TV news. 

Finding the right mix of communication tools for effective communication can be a challenge. To maximize communication efforts consider: 

  • Surveying the community. Ask people to identify the most important sources of information to them personally. Use cross tabulation tables to segment the market. 
  • Conduct a communications audit. Review all ways your organization tries to inform a community by talking to key stakeholders in target audiences. 
  • Set up measurement tools. Use Google Analytics to assess web traffic. Track open and click through rates for e-newsletters. Track news articles for tone. 

Don’t forget to share findings and changes with key managers. Effective communication plans won’t change without the support of those who manage the purse strings.