Ask Me! Communications Conversations With Claire

Posted on February 28, 2018

Ask Me! Communication Conversations with Claire is a new recurring blog series with Claire Bouchard, a seasoned local government communications professional located in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Send your local government communications questions to Claire via email and she’ll answer in a future blog post.

Hello! I’m Claire and I’m here to answer your local government communications questions. I have been practicing local government communications for more than 10 years.
Yes, practicing, because this is an ever-evolving field, and we can always be improving. If you have a communications or engagement question, send it over and we’ll improve together! 

Let’s get started!

Hear ye! Hear ye! What is your online tone saying?
You have a local government social media account (or multiple accounts) – congratulations! Do you ever wonder how your content is being received by your audience? Do you ever wince at a colleague’s post and try to think of a kind way to let them know they sound….offensive? Boring? Or goofy?
Social media is a different kind of communications beast and knowing how best to “say” your message will make a big difference in how your organization is perceived. Whether you are a community of 400 people or 4 million people, a local government offers a wide variety of services and specialties. Residents, businesses, and tourist rely on digital information to find their way in your community.
Your online voice is representing your organization, for sure, but it has to be human. Knock off the overly formal voice, and introduce friendly, approachable and understanding tone.
Not your favorite teen’s sassy voice, and not the TSA agent’s urgent direction in airport security lines. Are you located in the south? Do you all say “y’all”? Then you might consider using that colloquialism in your posts.
Like everything else in communications – know your audience. You aren’t posting because you are bored. You are sharing content to engage your community and build organizational credibility. Speak like them. Your online voice should blend the technical know-how of everything from sewer line replacements to a new budget to a golf tournament invitation, with that of a friend.
Check out these two examples for friendly, informative content. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on what others are doing in the industry – follow your own organization’s tone and monitor other posts for inspiration and improvement.

City of Boston

City of Austin

Do you have a process set up to train colleagues on the posts’ tone? This is all about good old-fashioned communications between the dedicated staff, documented policies, and regular social media check in’s or meetings.

I’ve seen great success when an organization’s social media “posters” share content prior to posting for quality control and “thumbs up” approval.

Maybe we should back up a bit…establishing tone is going to be an important part of any organizational social media policy. Chances are the tools, and even people administering them, will change over time. Creating baseline policies will help keep your social media activities streamlined and credible.

What Elements Should Go in a Social Media Policy?

Disclaimer alert: I am not an attorney, so my tips should be taken with a grain of salt and vetted properly in your organization. Okay, that feels better!
If you don’t have social media policies, you may consider including elements such as:

  • Who in the organization gets a social media account – just one central account, or individual departments
  • Rules of engagement – what to say, organization’s tone/voice, how to engage and respond to the public’s posts, and who is authorized to post/edit/respond
  • Disclaimer – grounds for post removal, and when to advance highly sensitive or negative activities to legal counsel

Last tip: put on your host or hostess hat when you are creating social media content. You are inviting strangers and acquaintances into your online home – greet them with a smile, treat them with respect, and make sure they have the right information to enjoy the visit!
To read more about social media best practices and tone, check out a few of my favorite resources:

Watch for future communications blogs, where we tackle your questions and concerns. Submit feedback or questions on topics you want us to cover. Email Claire with your questions!

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