Selecting the Right Communications Agency for Your Municipality
When selecting the right communications agency for your municipality and looking at how many agencies are out there, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, flustered, and frustrated. Marketing might seem like a field traditionally reserved for for-profit businesses. But, certain aspects of local government, such as city branding, definitely take marketing skills. These marketing skills are your most valuable asset when communicating initiatives, raising awareness, and encouraging participation.
We know it can be easier to stick with the same marketing and communication consultants for projects, but this can keep your community in the spiral of unrecognition and lost revenue opportunities. Plus, new, innovative agencies can bring a fresh perspective to your team that has not been thought of, developed, or implemented before. We will cover some factors to consider when selecting the right communications agency for your municipality.
Government Marketing and Communications: Why is it Important?
Municipalities are looked upon by their residents to advance their community development, health, education, recreation, and safety. They plan and pay for most roads, run public schools, and provide water. They organize police and fire services, establish zoning regulations and licensed professions. Perhaps most importantly, they arrange elections for their residents to help maintain peace, order, and good governance districts.
It’s not a far cry to assume that solid and transparent communications from your agency will create trust in your residents and hopefully inspire them to become more involved in their communities. As such, when this relationship solidifies over time, residents realize that their concerns matter. They are theoretically being listened to, after all. The more community engagement from both parties, the better informed your residents are on projects that affect their daily lives.
Realize Your Municipality Objectives
Municipalities often face unique challenges—most often a unique mix of businesses, services, and infrastructure to support the needs and wants of their residents and stakeholders. Therefore, a community’s strategic growth must be the combined result of both short-term and long-term goals. Considering these goals is an integral first step to selecting the right communications agency for your local government. These goals may or may not include the following:
- Improving community engagement and pride through community involvement, events, and volunteering
- Fostering business development through land use planning, supporting, and engaging developers’ efforts
- Enhancing tourism industry development through product development and promotion—both internal and external
- Enhancing and engaging in community service objectives
Now, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all goal list: in fact, complex municipalities rarely have the same problems or solutions for it. However, these involved municipalities have well-defined goals and objectives that pinpoint what action should be taken as far as marketing goes. More often than not, this is where your marketing agency comes in. They think and operate using business objectives when implementing a proposed plan. They understand the “why” and the “how” behind their actions and communicate this to internal and external stakeholders.
Consider Your Stakeholders: Your Bread and Butter
It can be challenging to engage with a general audience with more corporate clients than a specific one. One of the more unique challenges that municipalities face, however, is the fact that these governments have a large number of stakeholders that cover just about every resident in that area, a comprehensive spectrum: residents, business owners, the general workforce, tourists, elected officials, even your municipal staff. Sometimes, people who aren’t even residents of the area are essential stakeholders: influencers like real estate brokers and developers, community partners, educational organizations, advocacy groups, and more.
Identifying your key stakeholders is the second step in ensuring that your communications agency will target the people you want. In addition, it is often best that you base your choice on which communication agency you will go with, depending on your stakeholders’ wants or needs and your goals. A successful government marketing agency will work to deliver a memorable message that is unique, understandable, and sets your region apart from other communities. It would help if you had a good handle on what matters to your stakeholders so that you can best meet their needs.
Personify Your Municipality
Here, you should take an honest look at your region and ask yourself: what makes it unique in the market? What problems can your municipality solve, and why is your solution the most coherent? In time, you will find that your answer often becomes your municipalities’ most important proposition as the foundation for your marketing messaging. A good communications agency will help you establish an identifiable “brand” emblematic of your region, a “personality” that helps define a consistent voice to convey your value propositions.
Some of the more famous examples of this phenomenon include Disney’s adoption of “the magician” in their brand or Harley Davidson’s adoption of “the grizzled biker outlaw.” Either way, both adoptions contribute to these brands’ sense of identity, conveying a specific appearance that their communications reflect. These could affect logos and taglines through marketing materials, including websites, signage, residential communications, advertising, sponsorship materials, and even events.
Be Sure to Establish A Budget
The size of your budget is less important than your objectives and the different capabilities needed to meet and exceed your municipality’s goals.
Still, it is also important to exercise discipline when developing your budget and picking the right communications agency. Undoubtedly, the size of said agency also plays a role in determining one, but be sure not to fall into the rabbit hole of “big budgeting for a big agency and smaller budgeting for a smaller agency.”
Municipalities could also learn from the messaging tactics of businesses through a communications agency. Companies deliver messages to consumers in many ways, such as outdoor advertising, print, broadcast, and direct mail—and a communications agency, as it turns out, isn’t much different. Depending on the agency, they can do this in-house with either one employee, a small group, an entire marketing firm, or even outsource their branding tasks to on-call agencies. Some even do a particular combination of all four.
Regardless of which you pick, it is essential to realize that some tactics work better than others. For example, relying on an in-house marketing team increases the speed with which a city can respond and push out messaging during an emergency or crisis, as shown with the Zika virus in South Florida. With that in mind, team structures and partnerships are abundant, depending on each city’s branding and marketing needs. What works for one city might not work for another.
Ensure That You and Your Agency Are On the Same Page
Even more important when considering a specific communications agency is whether or not they “get” you. However, this doesn’t just cover this agency’s experience in your region or the industries within said region. Frequently, the best communications agencies can understand the problems you are having in the public sector. For example, suppose a stakeholder in your municipality has a problem with transportation or traffic congestion that extends their commute. In that case, a good communications agency should address the issue by giving updates to fix that issue. This way demonstrates genuine care for your stakeholders.
Review Your Results
Whichever agency you choose to hire, be sure to keep in mind the results of your efforts. Metrics are essential, especially in this day and age. Can the agency promote earned media coverage? Through ads to ensure stakeholders view, digest, and understand your municipality’s message, do they do so through ads? In the end, results are the most significant indicator of business success, just as much as government.
Revisit Your Long-Term Vision and Goals
Many businesses and organizations alike focus on quantifiable results and return on investment. These include factors like more clicks on a website, greater app use, a boost in event attendance, or greater recognition of a city’s logo and mission. Municipalities should also do the same to identify what did and did not work. Afterward, it’s essential to check up on your goals and your long-term vision with your municipality. Are you on the way to making that long-term vision a reality?
Are you running a municipality or some other form of governance? Have you found yourself stuck when it comes to marketing? Contact PivotPath today to schedule a free consultation to help improve your strategy. We’ll put you on the right path!