One of the main responsibilities municipalties have is to provide clear, direct messaging for their residents. However, in a crisis, the standard protocols for communication can get blurry. How much information is too much? Too little? How quickly should it be disseminated?
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has reinforced this point. In an effort to educate and prepare residents, local agencies sometimes feel the pressure to be first to release an official statement. Before doing so, take a moment to identify relevant content and utilize the messaging funnel.
Let’s break down the levels of the messaging funnel:
- Top level: Awareness
It is important to rely on official sources of information to alleviate confusion and pandemonium. Choose what your first-hand sources will be and continue to cite them to maintain consistency. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Florida Department of Health, the Florida Governor’s Office, and Broward County have released official statements on symptoms, preventative measures, closures, etc. in relation to COVID-19. Instead of creating a new statement, share their information in a format tailored for your city’s brand and audience.
- Middle levels: Interest and Commitment
Once you have selected your sources, decide which channels you will use to reach residents and hold their interest. Will you need a completely new web page or just an alert button? Are enough residents signed up for your email newsletters to make that an effective mode of communication? Do you need social media ads to reach certain segments of your community? Not every channel is applicable to every municipality. Take stock of your options, and assess which ones will help you reach the most people.
Now that you have determined your sources and channels, you can start to build your own messaging. Stay in line with what the high-level organizations are saying, but apply it to your own community. Publicize specific measures, such as Emergency Orders, that your municipality is taking to protect residents. Consider creating short Youtube videos of your thought leaders demonstrating best practices. Share relevant community resources like restaurants still open for delivery or special shopping hours for seniors.
- Bottom Level: Action
By avoiding confusion from the start, your residents will receive the critical information they need to take appropriate actions. Monitor web and social analytics to see how engaged people are with the content you shared from a national or state level, as well as the content you created on a local level. Make sure to check on your email efforts to track your bounce, open, and click-through rates.
The ultimate goal is to make sure your residents are informed first and then actively engage with your efforts. By taking a comprehensive approach to disseminating content you avoid panic, simplify the message, and remain a trusted source of information.